So a while back, I read an article called “Are Rich Black Men turning their backs on White Women?” on the 18 Karat Reggae website. It was intriguing in its perspective, but very opinion based, so of course some people took issue with some of what was said, as did I. However, I also thought there was quite a bit of merit to the article. I have wanted to release something on the topic in response to the article or at least on the subject for quite some time now, because I have been pondering this issue for years as a young black woman, and I think I have figured out exactly why many successful black men tend to date white women. So without further ado, here is a more sociological explanation as to why successful black men date white women.
The first reason successful black men may be inclined to date white women is because America is a patriarchy, essentially meaning that men are in charge. Black men have been taught that they are supposed to be leaders and providers in their households and in their communities, but their blackness, historically speaking, overrides their maleness in many ways. For instance, one of the ways used to keep black men down was the idea of their perpetual boyhood. In the Jim Crow south, a 16 year old white kid could see a 56 year old black man and say, “boy what are you doin in my neighborhood,” and the older black gentleman had to answer as respectfully as possible (assuming he didn’t want to be lynched or otherwise punished). What this creates is a race of men who feel constantly emasculated. James Baldwin gets at this in his piece, “Notes of a Native Son,” paying homage to “Native Son” by Richard Wright; however, a really good and more widespread character that illustrates this is Walter Younger in A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. I hated Walter because of his erratic behavior—particularly the way he talks to his mother—but Lorraine Hansberry had to craft him that way to show how desperate he was and how stifled he felt by society. Walter was being eaten alive inside because he felt like he could be doing so much more for himself and his family, if only he were granted an opportunity. He has this vision of what a man is supposed to be, and because of that vision he is slowly being driven mad by the fact that he cannot be that man the way he wants to be. This is important because while we are past the Civil Rights Era, this has not completely gone away.
The second important reason is gender conditioning, specifically hegemonic masculinity, more or less meaning dominance over women. We raise our men to be a very specific way. They are supposed to be tough, not back down from challenges, not sissies, and a whole host of other things, but here’s the kicker: hegemonic masculinity was never meant for black men. If you are not a young, wealthy, white man, then hegemonic masculinity is not for you, in theory or practice. However, our men don’t know that. So they are being actively taught and subscribing to hegemonic masculinity when hegemonic masculinity was never meant for them. Hegemonic masculinity is designed to craft a particular kind of man, and after all, a black man is just a boy under the patriarchy. Right?
So the Patriarchy + Hegemonic masculinity = Black men trying to be a particular kind of man, aspiring to very specific goals that are all covered in hegemonic masculinity. Many do not ever make it to those goals, but some actually do. Despite all the odds stacked against them, they get the money, the cars, the house, the success. Now all they need is a woman. Which leads to the third reason—how femininity is constructed in America.
Femininity in a nutshell is crafted to be complementary, but not equal to masculinity. This is illustrated by two terms: trophy wife and used goods. Women are like the money, the cars, the clothes, the house: something to be acquired to show off status and that masculine power. No “real” man wants anyone’s secondhand anything. Not only do they want the first pick, but they want the best. So just so we’re clear, a black person is three fifths of a white person and a woman is three fifths of a man.
So let’s combine these three societal conditions to come to a conclusion. When the patriarchy and hegemonic masculinity combine we get emasculated black men. Even the ones who make it still have to deal with these issues, they just have more money and status to cushion the blow. However, they do have the money and status, so now they are looking for a lady to match. Ideally, they want the secretary to their boss; they want the greet at the door with their slippers, alcohol, and dinner on the table chick; they do not want a black chick. They want Cinderella.
Cinderella is supposed to be the princess to end all princesses. She is beautiful, exactly the way our society defines beauty, she does her chores, and she is obedient. Girls have been taught to aspire to be her, and guys have been taught to seek her or someone like her. But black women can’t be Cinderella. We have our own set of issues to deal with, one of which is we can’t afford to be seen and not heard. We have no choice but to demand what is ours and to speak up on our own behalf; because, we are not typically seen as the ideal woman or ideal person deserving of anything; we have to work. We are not seen as something to work for like other women.
So, ultimately we can’t be Cinderella. We don’t match the profile and we couldn’t if we wanted to. But it doesn’t matter, because, men weren’t taught to value an equal partner by society. They weren’t taught to value someone who’s going to offer constructive criticism, and be the partner that’s going to take them to the next level. And they weren’t necessarily taught how to be that person either. This version of gender roles particularly appeals to the emasculated black man who subscribes to hegemonic masculinity; because, if in society you can’t be a man, but you have the status to choose to be the man at home, and you’ve been taught to seek a very particular kind of woman, who are you going to choose? They choose to be with the woman who makes them feel the most empowered, the most in control, and, if nothing else, they choose the most “beautiful.”
She has the look and the characteristics men have been taught to value, and there might be an added satisfaction with the racial difference. On the gender hierarchy men are on top but in the racial hierarchy white people are on top. When the two are put together, it goes white men, white women, and so on down the list, by skin color and then gender. I am not asserting that all black men who date white women are like, “Yes! I have dominion over a white woman. Free at last!” But the Patriarchy and hegemonic masculinity do amount to men feeling the need to dominate women. So I am simply stating that may be a factor.
In short, the reason many successful black men opt to date and marry white women is because they were raised in a patriarchal society that constantly emasculates them, yet they still subscribe to said society’s ideals. So when given the opportunity to achieve those goals, that is exactly what they do, from their car to their woman. Ultimately, white women are just another trophy in the case of their success.