Under white supremacy, black women can be lots of things — but they aren’t seen as dateable. Guess what? White people who believe this are racist.
One of the timeless — but no less relevant and humanistic — cliches we issue to ourselves and others about dating and intimate companionship is that a person’s character, not their racial makeup, is (or should be) the only criteria that matters when deciding whether or not to pursue a relationship.
This is, at least, what we tell ourselves, and how we would like to believe we navigate our way through the oftentimes treacherous terrain of the modern dating scene.
Sounds pretty basic, right? Assuming we measure up to this adage. For it’s a fact that most of us tend to spout nonsense, contradict and doublethink our asses off when we open up about our dating lives.
True, everyone has certain preferences that they actively or unconsciously look for. And, when it comes to finding someone who possesses those preferences, someone who meets that criteria, however unrealistic or fantastical they are, many of them can be extremely short-sighted and superficial. For example, judging whether or not a person is suitable to have a meal and share your bed with based solely on their height, weight, eye shape, hair texture, skin color, etc.
But, it’s those deeper psychological, emotional, and intellectual qualities that we believe should matter, ultimately. At least, that’s the ideal.
However, it’s worth asking, repeatedly, if we meet this ideal; if we actually center this value, IRL, when we make our dating choices. Judging by what I’m reading, we’re far from it.
According to professional matchmaker Emma Tessler, who authored a stinging report on her client’s dating habits for The Establishment, an overwhelming majority of the folks she interviewed admitted to having racialized dating preferences.
Reports Tessler, “90% of my clients report having racial preferences,” adding, several sentences later, that “of the 90% of the reported racial preferences, 89.9% are preferences for white people.”
Eighty-nine percent. That’s abysmal.
Online dating service OkCupid, considered by some wonks to possess the most progressive and sophisticated algorithm among today’s dating apps, reached a similar conclusion. Tessler documents the results drawn from the stats reported on OkC’s blog:
“White women prefer white men to the exclusion of everyone else — and Asian and Hispanic women prefer them even more exclusively.”
Authoring an article in 2016 that was published in Elite Daily.com, Nikki McGloster agrees with Tessler that black people face formidable “road blocks” in the dating world. And for black women, she highlights, it’s worse.
“It’s an established fact,” McGloster observes, “that dating for black women is terrible,” going on to note that dating apps are harbingers of undisguised prejudice.
Terrible, indeed. “Men don’t write black women back,” notes Tessler.
What’s clear from Tessler’s data, and the personal testimony of McGloster, is that a person’s race in the 21st century — whether we’re referring to the heterosexual or homosexual dating landscape — factors significantly into how people choose to pair up. In other words, the mark of blackness or halo of whiteness continues to determine who’s eligible to be “bae.”
Now, if we accept the assumption that digital dating is an extension and replica of offline dating patterns, this suggests that IRL, (white) people predominantly date within their race or pursue relationships with white men and women. Even more problematic is that a dater’s decision to do so is viewed as a private matter, just another expression, as I stated earlier, of their “preference” or taste.
Uh huh. Yeah, sure.
What does this mean? It means that a lot of people dating today still tap into the seemingly bottomless wellspring of race searching for a conceptual shortcut into the details of a person’s psyche — tying their heart and imagination and mediocre intellectual faculties to a racial fantasy of black Americans that never was, never has and never will be true. It means that many white people continue to ascribe to blacks a set of inferior traits that they, and they alone, are deemed to possess, to the exclusion of white bodies, on a theological, scientific or economic basis. It means that there are still individuals, across race lines, that buy, wholesale, into the European beauty standard.
As the last in line to be approached by non-black men, even if they reach out to them, black women attempting to date while black are especially vulnerable to be swallowed by, as one writer puts it, “a black hole of negativity.”
Black women can be mammies, healers and jezebels. They can be eye-rollers and teeth-suckers. They can even be a temporary fetish. But, if white supremacy is to function without problem and interruption, they can never be dateable or marriageable.
Which is to say, they can never be seen as embodiments of the same desires and complexity as any other race of women.
Guess what? White people who do this are racist. White and black people (via internalized oppression) who do this feed the legacy of white supremacy. There’s really no other way that I can put it. And, aside from another rejoinder about “preferences,” I doubt that there’s a different, less offensive way that you could put it, as well.
Our “preferences,” our standards of beauty and attraction and character development, are not shaped in a vacuum. Long-standing, cross-generational human institutions form and frame them. Entrenched cultural assumptions dictate “tastes.” And the assumptions of white culture about the quality of black bodies has always been, to phrase it rather mildly, nowhere near stellar. Or, for that matter, honest.
But, they are integral to preserving a majority white demographic — and that demographic, built on a de facto eugenicist agenda, is crucial to racial power imbalance characteristic of U.S. society, politics and culture.
That ideal about dating we’re striving toward — of a world where men and women pursue love based on the content of someone’s character — is still worth our investment. However, we won’t gain any miles toward this destination by ignoring the racial environment we’re in right now.