Single Black Women Being Urged to Date Outside Race
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 25, 2010
So many black women are single, she says, because they are stuck in the groove of a one-track song: sitting alone, waiting for that one “good” black man to come along and sweep them off their feet. Waiting. Talking to girlfriends. Waiting. Going out alone. Waiting. Going to work. Waiting. Waiting for a “good” black man, with the same education level to marry them. Waiting. Even when they know the odds are stacked against them. Single black women with college degrees outnumber single black men with college degrees almost 3 to 1 in major urban areas such as Washington, according to a 2008 population survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. Given those numbers, any economist would advise them to start looking elsewhere.
It’s Econ 101 for the single, educated black woman. “Black women are in market failure,” says writer Karyn Langhorne Folan. “The solution is to find a new market for your commodity. And in this case, we are the commodity and the new market is men of other races.” Folan is the author of “Don’t Bring Home a White Boy: And Other Notions That Keep Black Women From Dating Out,” published this month by Karen Hunter, an imprint of Pocket Books. In encouraging black women to date and marry interracially, the book has joined a broadening debate in recent years fueled by the blogosphere, the entertainment industry and comments by prominent African Americans.
Tyler Perry cast a Latin man as the great love interest of black actress Taraji P. Henson in his recent movie, “I Can Do Bad All by Myself”; in “The Princess and the Frog” featuring Disney’s first black princess, the prince’s indeterminate racial origins inspired commentary; and there was the 2006 movie “Something New,” in which characters played by Simon Baker, who is white, and Sanaa Lathan, who is black, fall in love. Whoopi Goldberg has talked about interracial dating on “The View,” saying you date whom you are around. Oprah Winfrey has encouraged black women to explore “what is out there.” While the discussion includes men of all races and ethnicities, the focus is primarily on overcoming taboos against dating white men. By promoting interracial love for some black women, Folan explains that she is not suggesting that there aren’t any good, single black men out there, or that every educated single black woman will not find an educated black mate. She is not bashing all black men or implying that all black women are aiming for the altar. The writer, mom and Harvard-educated lawyer says that she is just offering a reasonable solution to the shortage of available black men.
“Consider your options,” she says. Expand your horizons. Stop listening to your girlfriends. Forget about the brothers calling you a sellout. Get over those old images of slavery and stop blaming every white man for sins perpetrated by others. “In short,” Folan says, “some black women choose to demonize all white men rather than look objectively at the facts of our modern times, which are these: Some men, whatever their race, are bad for us. And the converse is true as well.
Some men, whatever their race, are good for us.”
Lisa Vazquez agrees emphatically. “Divestment is an imperative of our self-preservation as black women,” says Vazquez, who writes at blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com, one of many blogs opining on the subject. Others include BlackFemaleInterracialMarriage.com and Dateawhiteguy.blogspot.com. “There are some women who believe that racial loyalty should have precedence over self-preservation,” Vazquez says. “Where did that teaching come from? . . . Too many of us claim that we are God’s women, but our mentality reveals that we place racial validation above any and everything.” There’s evidence, both empirical and anecdotal, that an increasing number of black women are playing the entire field.
According to the 2008 population survey, interracial marriages have doubled in the past decade. About 73 percent of black/white marriages are between black men and white women, according to the survey. The decision to marry a white man sometimes brings strife. Lorraine Spencer of Arlington says that despite living happily with the white man she married in 1995, she still gets grief from friends and relatives. Spencer, 44, calls herself pro-black. She has traced her ancestry and is proud of her heritage, she says. And yet, “from my own personal experience, people tend to treat you as though you have lost your right to speak on black issues or you are not taken as seriously because somehow you don’t have the same experience if you have decided to marry transracially,” she says. “I’ve been called a sellout or white-acting, so to speak, or a person who hates black people by co-workers and family.”
Folan says such judgmental attitudes are rooted in “the myth of one voice,” as though all black people think the same, talk the same, want the same thing when, in reality, diversity is great within the race. “Black people are not a monolith, and one voice is a myth, and yet some black folks still seem certain that they know who has ‘stayed black’ and who has ‘sold out,’ ” Folan says. Being perceived by other blacks as a sellout is No. 8 on the list of nine “notions” preventing black women from dating and marrying interracially that Folan outlines and rebuts in her book. Those notions also include: (1) “After slavery, I would never, ever date a white man”; (4) “I don’t find white men attractive”; (5) “White men don’t find black women attractive unless they look like Beyoncé”; and (9) “We’d be too different.”
Folan says she was prompted to write the book two years ago after an opinion piece on interracial marriage she wrote for The Washington Post generated an overwhelming response. “Obviously, it touched a nerve,” she says. “The writer in me said, ‘There is a book in this.’ ” As quiet as it is kept, the scene from the movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” plays out just as strongly in black households as others — but in reverse, Folan says. Many black daughters are told: “Whatever you do, don’t bring home a white boy,” she says. “I think it is partially generational. It is a stronger mantra the older you are. [But] I heard from young women in their twenties whose parents were still having trouble with that.” Folan’s message seems urgent and unapologetic. She is a missionary wiping a window pane so the people she is seeking to help can see things more clearly.
“I have something to say to black women in particular,” she says, sitting in a purple winged-back chair in her living room in Germantown. “I just want to keep encouraging all black women to celebrate themselves. We are beautiful, resilient, strong, capable. We deserve men who will love us, no matter the skin color.”