Are BW and WM relationships starting to mainstream themselves? This article is a good indication, but then again too, this article is being released in the UK, where race relations are way different than in the US.
Why black women are doing the white thing
BY Janelle Oswald
MIXED BLESSINGS: Black women and white men are the changing face of relationships
Frustrated with the ‘shortage’ of ‘good’ black men, black women are expanding their horizons and are dating outside of their race.
Statistics show that more black women are dating white men worldwide, and black female/white male marriages have increased by fifty per cent.
Some argue that this increase in relationships between black women and white men may be attributed to educational attainment.
"Some black men will look at you a certain way. They know that you have a lot going on and that they can't play games. Sometimes it's harder to attract black guys when you have a lot going for yourself," says Renea D. Nichols-Nash, author of Coping With Interracial Dating.
Oscar-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg, who dates white men, found this to be the case. Black men, she says, have a hard time dealing with a black woman with power.
Now, rather than sitting around dreaming about the perfect black man, black women are considering the possibility that ‘Mr. Right’ could be white.
Casting aside reservations about interracial relationships – for some, due to the atrocities committed during slavery – they are beginning to look past race when choosing a potential mate.
"I'm not saying that white men are the answer to all our problems," 35-year-old Chantelle Perry says. "I'm just saying that they offer a different solution."
Many black women, who are becoming increasingly frustrated as the field of marriageable black men narrows, share Perry’s view.
Black men are nearly seven times more likely to be incarcerated than white men, and more than twice as likely to be unemployed.
Another arguable reason for black women opting for white men is social environment.
Race doesn’t matter to Paul Kennedy and Michelle Clarke. Best friends since primary school, they are now in a relationship together. Kennedy is white and Clarke is black.
”People are finding people with common interests and common perspectives and are putting race aside,” says Clarke, 26, a Middlesex University graduate who works at Barclay’s Bank.
Clarke and her friends are among the new generation of black females that are opting to date outside of their race due to their social environment.
Like Clarke, the majority of young people have friends or acquaintances of different races and nationalities, and are seen as more tolerant and open-minded than previous generations.
Unlike their parents and grandparents, today’s teens and twenty-somethings have grown up hearing the buzzwords ‘diversity,’ ‘multicultural’ and ‘inclusion’, and are used to seeing interracial friendship and romance portrayed in films and on TV – especially in soap operas and adverts.
“I don’t see colour as an issue,” states Clarke. “We have been very happy together and apart from a few isolated incidents, we have not experienced any open hostility towards our relationship.”
Admitting that at first her parents disapproved – she was told while growing up never to come home with a white man – Clarke explains that her parents have come to accept her relationship decision because she would not back down, and Kennedy has proved his commitment to her and, most importantly, her family.
“I come from a stereotypical Caribbean black family and I am the first Clarke to date a white person,” she says.
“At first my parents were dead against my relationship with Paul, but our commitment towards one another has outshined any doubts.”
Clarke, who lives with her parents, says that her three-year relationship with her present partner is no different to previous ones with black men.
“I don’t believe being with Paul is any different from any of my past relationships. Being with Paul feels so natural because we have known each other for years, and I do believe that one of the secrets to a successful relationship is friendship.”
Asked whether sex is different, Clarke says: “No! Why should it be?”
However, 25 year-old Simone Thomas from south west London found it difficult to enjoy an intimate relationship with dates of a different race from her own.
“Believe it or not I have tried to have a physical relationship with several white men, but when it came down to the bedroom action I could not see it through.”
“I know it sounds crazy saying it out loud. Trust me, I’m an educated woman, but whenever I saw their private parts I was totally put off sleeping with them.”
Asked if it had anything to do with size, Thomas responds: “No, not really. It was just the colour, and all the black men I have dated have been circumcised and the white men were not.”
Cultural differences and religious beliefs are some of the reasons why numerous black women are reluctant to date outside their race.
“Life is hard enough without having to add any unnecessary stress. I just want a man that I can relate to,” declares Charlene Clifford from north London.
“A man that will know and understand me, and vice versa. Dating a white man would just be too complicated.”
Historically within the black community, people are more used to seeing black men dating white women. Black men as a group are three times more likely to date and marry white women. But black women are now exercising their options like their brothers.
“Race is becoming less of a deal in dating. People want to explore their choices,” says Adam White, author of The Interracial Dating Book for Black Women Who Want to Date White Men and The White Man's Guide To Dating Black Women.
“As scary as this may sound, there are more black women than there are black men, which means there are a lot fewer black men available for relationships,” White adds.
“This is mainly due to early deaths, prolonged incarceration, homosexuality, unemployment and marriage to white women or other races. It is a common refrain to hear black women complain that there are ‘no good Black men’ in their social universes.
“Black women are fed up of waiting for a black Mr. Right to come along and now want to explore dating outside their racial box. Black women are now thinking ‘what’s good for the goose is good for the gander’, and like black men they are exploring their options.”
Events manager and mother of two Kerry Jones, views herself as a ‘new age black woman’, who decided to marry a white man because she felt that she could not find somebody compatible for her to date within her own race.
“Let’s be real, if you are a successful black woman you only have two choices: date outside of your race or date other successful black women. And because I’m not a lesbian, I went for the first option,” says Jones, who lives in Surrey.
The 35-year-old adds: ”I love black men. My father is black, I have dated black men all my life, and if I have a male child he will be part black, but many black men my age are just not suitable for marriage.
“Black men over the years have become less and less of value to black women like me, because while us black women have progressed on to higher levels they have stayed the same. Not all, but most.”
Married to her white husband for six years, Jones says: “A black man in my position wouldn't do it, so why should I? My husband and I will raise our mixed race boys together so hopefully he will be a worthy choice for worthy black women. Not the only choice, or ‘there's nothing better out there so I'll settle for this’ choice.
“When you are successful you want the best. The best food, clothes, places to live etc. I want the best man also.”
Angered by statements that black men are failures, Jamilla Staples from south London says: “All races have good or bad and I get really annoyed when black women rubbish black men. Yes, I’m married to a white man, but not because I look down on black men but because I fell in love.”
Staples has been married for fourteen years to her husband Sam, and together they are coming to terms with being parents of mixed race children.
“When I met Sam at work it was instant attraction for both of us. I’m not one of these women that hate on black men just because I’m with a white guy. Sam in one word is ‘great’ and both of our families have gone out of their way to make us both feel comfortable when we are around.”
Staples says that initially her parents wondered if she knew what she was doing – they sat her down and gave her a speech. But, seeing how happy she was led them to eventually accept the relationship.
“I’m still very much black and keep in touch with my blackness. I don’t need to apologise for my ethnicity because that is what Sam loves – I’m a black woman,” Staples says.
“Sam and I have two children and after the birth of each of our kids I decided to save my hair, which is part of ancient African female custom after childbirth. Keeping true to my blackness is vital because I have kids and it is important for them to know who they are.
“Of course there are some differences, but not enough for our relationship not to work. We both listen to the same music and enjoy the same food. In fact, Sam cooks better jerk chicken then I do!”
She adds: “We have gone past the stares and the looks from people in the streets, I think, because we really just look like a relaxed couple.
“In the beginning, a lot of black men used to question my relationship. But over the years more and more couples like myself have become a part of the English norm.”
Published: 28 January 2008