The Jill Thing.

By now you’ve probably read Jill Scott‘s comments in Essence on the ‘wince’ she feels when she sees black men married to white women. She didn’t say anything most of us hadn’t heard before, and the conversation went the way these things tend to go.

But I wanted to point to some of the reactions that popped up in the wake of the whole thing. Here’s TNC:

I’m a black dude hooked up with a black woman–but I don’t sleep with “black people.” “Black people” don’t pay half of my rent. “Black people” didn’t take my son to tennis lessons this week. “Black people” didn’t support me while I was trying to make it a writer. An individual, with her own specific hopes, dreams and problems, did those things. Now it’s true that she’s black. But the qualities that allowed her to do those things–compassion, commitment, vision–are not “black” qualities. …

Writing about this has helped me get clearer and clearer on this. To be blunt–I think people who spend their time stressing about the DNA admixture in other people’s relationship need to give some thought to boundaries. When we bemoan Reggie Bush’s relationship, we overstate our knowledge, understate our ignorance, highlight our lack of a serious life, and low-ball our own worth. It’s petty gossip masquerading as social commentary, and unbecoming of a “welcoming and open-minded” people.


Emphasis mine. This spate of news stories about the constellation of woes black women regularly face has the veneer of topicality, of political urgency. You’ve got race. You’ve got sex. And you have stats for the appearance of sobriety and rigor. But the end result tends to be Steve HarveySteve Harvey — on Nightline, in his new, fairly ridiculous role as an ostensible relationship expert, lecturing to a bunch of Atlanta-area women he’s never met about what they’re doing wrong or how black men have failed them.  It’s The Michael Baisden Show with ABC News’s imprimatur.

But I digress. The much-missed hilzoy made an appearance in TNC’s comment thread, and offered up one of her typically thoughtful elucidations in service of Jill’s P.O.V.:

It’s perfectly reasonable for TNC to say: look, I’m not involved with “black people”, I’m involved with the particular individual who is the mother of my child. Some other black guy who is involved with a white woman might not be involved with “white people”, but with this one very specific white woman whom he loves. That would be perfectly reasonable as well. It’s just not the only form that relationships take.

But I think it’s also perfectly reasonable for black women who have experienced various unflattering assumptions about themselves to wonder, in a given case: might something else be going on here? — I mean, consider the analog in employment discrimination: sometimes when someone white is hired over someone black, it’s completely legitimate: the white candidate was better. Sometimes, on the other hand, it’s racism. In the first case, an employer might say: look, I didn’t hire “white people”, or refuse to hire “black people”; I hired this particular person, as opposed to that one. That might be completely reasonable. But it would also be completely reasonable for the black candidate to wonder, or to feel a twinge. S/he doesn’t necessarily know whether this is one of the ‘you were, in fact, the less qualified candidate, as sometimes happens to all of us’ cases, or one of the racist cases. The existence of widespread employment discrimination makes her twinge reasonable.

To which TNC insightfully responds:

I think this is true, but let me push you on that point. People don’t necessarily share the same experiences, or process them the same way. I’ve had my share of racist things happen to me as an adult, but my reaction is very different than my partners. Part of that is because she’s been dealing with this sort of thing since she was six, whereas I encountered almost no direct racism as a child. Another part is that we’re different people.

I could very easily see a black woman rejected because of her race, literally laughing and moving on. I think the differences in how we process these things have to do with who we are. I wish I’d read more in that piece about who Jill Scott, the individual, is and how that interacts with her collective sense.

That’s what I don’t see in these pieces, no sense of difference. There’s an assumed proprietorship that hasn’t really been earned. Yes you can speak to how a macro force like racism shaped your life. But can you really assume that it shaped other black people’s lives in the same way?

Some semi-related thoughts: It’s worth pointing out again that it remains arguable how much impact “dating out” has on black marriage trends. In the most recent census data, 93% of married black men were married to black women, and that as of ’07, only 4.7 percent of all married blacks were married to white people. (pdf)

I was having a conversation with  Carole Bell last night in which she made the point that when you consider the age skew, the numbers look a little different, and the dating out phenomenon is more pronounced on college campuses, where black men are already underrepresented. She said her research and interviews with black women on college campuses suggested real and deep anxieties. Her point is well-taken, though I wonder how much of this is what two black friends who attended selective colleges called (in completely independent conversations within a week of each other) the B.S.U. phenomenon. In both cases, they pointed to two extremely sought-after dudes on campus (in one case, the tall, charismatic dreadlocked dude who quoted Fanon; in the other, the academic standout  who was N.F.L.-bound) scandalized the black women on campus by having white girlfriends. They said there were heated meetings  and student group-led discussions about these revelations — ah, college — which I’d guess  amplified the awareness of such pairings and made them seem overrepresentative.

Update: Comments on this thread are now closed. PostBourgie is, among other things, a feminist/ally site, and the tone of the conversation is not in keeping with that aim.

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Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs about race and ethnicity for National Public Radio. He is a native of South Philly and reads and writes and runs and rants. You can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to him on Facebook.

88 comments to The Jill Thing.

  • Scipio Africanus

    #1 – I like that they’ve been using this particularly-stunning picture of Jill in all these blog posts about her the last few days. That’s what I call mid-day hotness.

    #2 – I would be willing to be that even minus the age skew, that 93% figure probably doesn’t get a whole lot lower than that. That is to say, the vast majority of married black men, even the ones with degrees and incomes above a certain level, and under a certain age, are merrying black women. Why this cultural freak-out over such a small percentage?

    #3 – The point TNC made that resonated most with me is in calling out this Men Are Borg – Men Are All The Same – Each Man Has To Be Accountable For The Actions Of Every Other Man (specifically with issues that contain a large gender element) thing that I’ve noticed lately. It goes especially for men of color, but seems to get applied to all men. It’s whack, and it should stop. Monoliths are so not sexy.

    • I would be willing to be that even minus the age skew, that 93% figure probably doesn’t get a whole lot lower than that. That is to say, the vast majority of married black men, even the ones with degrees and incomes above a certain level, and under a certain age, are merrying black women. Why this cultural freak-out over such a small percentage?

      I imagine there’s a huge geographic component to this as well, and much more common in places where there are lots of people of different ethnic backgrounds in sustained contact with each other. (Like college campuses.) It’s also probably less scandalous here in NYC than it might be in, say, Atlanta, which is less diverse and also has a pretty pronounced disparity between the number of black women to black men. (No heterosexist-o.) This is just a guess, tho.

  • Lisa

    I’m betting Jill Scott is wishing she had just not written a thing. She seems to be getting lots of flack on this one. I feel for the sister. She was just being honest.

  • RtG

    “That’s what I don’t see in these pieces, no sense of difference. There’s an assumed proprietorship that hasn’t really been earned. Yes you can speak to how a macro force like racism shaped your life. But can you really assume that it shaped other black people’s lives in the same way?”

    The above statement is true. But I wince sometimes, too. And all my close girlfriends wince sometimes. And their girlfriends wince sometimes…and on and on. We’re not living our lives in the exact same way, but the similarities we share when it comes to dating black men are striking. That’s a big reason Steve Harvey sells books.

  • shani-o

    But that 93% figure is almost meaningless, since half of black men have never been married. What I mean to say is that it doesn’t really tell you much about dating trends, or long-term relationship trends among black men.

    It could be possible that the half of black men who get married are just more likely to marry black.

    • shani-o

      Not to say I have any fundamental disagreement with the post, but you keep tossing out that number GD and I think it doesn’t say as much as it seems to.

      • ah, but that’s not really the same conversation; you’re talking about falling rates of black marriage. i never said the stat says what you’re suggesting i said it said.

        • shani-o

          well, you’re putting forward the 93% stat as a sign that IRs aren’t having the impact that people think they are, right? but we’re not just talking about marriage here — that would be pointless because of falling marriage rates — we’re talking about IRs at large.

          i’m saying using that stat for that purpose is almost meaningless. To talk about a majority of married black men is to talk about less than half of black men over 18.

          • So you’re suggesting that the high percentage of non-married black men are not married because they’re in LTRs with nonblack women?

            I’m assuming you have some sort of evidence to back that up.

            • shani-o

              I said it “could be possible that the half of black men who get married are just more likely to marry black,” and that, more importantly, 90% of 50% simply isn’t a representative sample of any population.

              • and that doesn’t answer anything i said/asked.

                • shani-o

                  if we are talking solely about marriage, then of course the stat is valid. i thought we were talking about IRs at large. since we’re not, I’ll let it go.

                  • well, no. you’re clearly suggesting that it affects all the stuff that happens before Couple X gets to the altar. I’m curious as to why you think that is.

    • Scipio Africanus

      Things is, the marriage number for women is 96%, or 4% the other way. Yes, it’s basically twice the number (4% vs. 7%), but those two numbers are comparable, to my reading.

      If the marriage numbers are comparable, why not guess (or test to see) that the dating/ltr numbers are comparable too?

      I can’t see a way where there’s huge disparity between the sexes regarding interracial dating among blacks, that suddenly narrows up tremendously when marriage is the focus. I doubt it’s much different.

  • atune

    Got agree with Shani-O on this one. Stats are always troublesome. If only half of your population is married well than that does make a bit of a difference when 97 percent only refers to 50 percent of said population. What’s going on with the other 50 something percent is where all the confusion lies. Just saying…

    • And as I said to shani, that’s also a different conversation. Black marriage rates are falling because a large percentage of black men aren’t marrying anyone, not because they’re marrying white women.

      • Robyn

        I think including any discussion of failing marriage rates (black or otherwise) does a disservice to Shani’s point. I *think* the point she’s making is that the 93% stat doesn’t at all account for those who are in LTRs, actively dating, or who have dated white women. The marriage stat is far less meaningful if only half of black men are actually married…

        • to piggyback off Scipio’s point above: is there evidence for this suggestion that the number of non-married black men are more likely to be in relationships with nonblack women?

          • Robyn

            What? I’m in no way suggesting that they are ‘more likely.’ Not even close. I’m only trying to elucidate Shani’s point which is — because only half of this demographic is actually married, that stat falls short of telling the whole story.

            • Fine. Let’s lose the ‘more likely’, then. Is there any reason to think there would be much variance among non-married black men in relationships?

              And i should reiterate here that my post was about Jill’s essay, which was specifically about marriage.

            • Scipio Africanus

              We’re saying that the marriage half of the story is probably not real far off from the dating/ltr half.

        • Scipio Africanus

          Like I said above, if the interracial marriage numbers are comparable between black men and black women, why not guess that the dating/ltr numbers are comparable too, though?

          What are we basing this idea on that black men are dating outside their race in such large numbers, in the aggregate, in spite of the fact research keeps telling us something different?

      • Scipio Africanus

        This is another point that’s shown up but hasn’t been focused on in the Black Women Just Kill Yourselves Now articles that have been coming out lately – that the never-been-married rate for black men is actually a few percentage points *higher* than it is for black women. If y’all want I can try to find the sources, but I’ve seen it in a few places.

        This idea that black men are mostly in relationship bliss while black women all suffer alone is wrong, and it’s wrong.

  • I agree with RtG. Given the fact that many black women still deal with issues of colorism, I don’t understand why it seems so unreasonable that we still feel a “wince” when seeing a black man with a white woman. We are so rarely made to feel like prized (I make that distinction, b/c while video girls are desired they are not cherished) objects of desire that it’s kind of a knee jerk reaction.

    The whole point of Jill’s column is to articulate the innermost thoughts of a black woman. And while Jill, or I, or any other black woman for that matter may experience the wince, that doesn’t mean that we are demanding brothers be loyal to only us, or see interracial relationships as worthless, abnormal or something to be frowned upon.

  • I have so many issues with the original peice and the CNN/Racilious stuff that followed that I shared and left over at TNC’s joint.

    But after thinking about it more I think what I really want is for my creative idols; singers, musicians and actors alike to stay focused on the day job and stop with the social commentary.

  • I don’t know who the guy in dreadlocks is who quotes Fanon, but that’s a dreamy guy in any color.

    • Scipio Africanus

      That’s basically Shazaa from A DifferenT World (the Gary Dourdan of 20 years ago, not Gary Dourdan As Bubbles, of now.)

  • R.A.B.

    I think that if black men chasing white women frustrates one’s dating standards/romantic desires, one should confess that as a romantic frustration. I think it’s insincere in many cases, though, to couch it in terms of guilting black men into loving black men with history lessons.

    I think many black women can attest to the internalization of their perceived role as the third wheel of black men/black women/white women as a very real feeling, but these grievances drive to a point where they feel like they’re a bit…much. I think I’m just really sour on the idea of policing or otherwise holding people accountable for their respective tastes in potential mates, even if the underlying influences on and resulting social circumstances of their tastes are indeed unfortunate.

  • R.A.B.

    *guilting black men into loving black women

  • (See, this is why I love you guys.)

    “To be blunt–I think people who spend their time stressing about the DNA admixture in other people’s relationship need to give some thought to boundaries.”

    Yes. This. Exactly.

  • R.A.B.

    Also, for what it’s worth, I think the idea of white men being or not being attracted to black women generally is a separate question; as long as we’re talking about black men and black women, the anecdotal observation seems to be that black men abandon the standard of dating with the race in higher numbers and long before black women do.

    Are black women frustrated at (1) the disparity per se and (2) how that disparity plays out for them romantically? In any case, you own the standard (if you choose to subscribe to it). How am I accountable for your standard? I don’t see how the wince is about anything other than seeing other people who have abandoned the standard and thinking, you’re off with this white chick and here I am with this bizarre ass standard, ostensibly looking for a negro like you.

    So maybe the problem is the standard?

    • DVE

      I think it’s worth noting here that a “wince” is generally not something you do out of an intent to police somebody, it’s something you do out of pain. And I don’t think that pain is simply romantic frustration– there is a widespread cultural rejection of black women as romantic partners, particularly as romantic partners in any long term sense.
      While we’re throwing stats around, here are some: http://cdn.okcimg.com/blog/race_affects/Reply-By-Race-Female.png
      Hardly conclusive, but this idea of being unwanted/undesireable is not all in black women’s heads.
      I’m as frustrated as the next person when I see the eight millionth article that’s all “Black Women! You Will Die Alone! Even Your Cats Will Abandon You!” but mostly because they always have the conversation in a stupid way instead of a smart way. Black women are in fact much more likely to remain single– whether or not they want to– than any other group of women. All of these articles seem to take for granted the more important external crises– black men will always go to jail in larger numbers than they go to college, black women will always be the least desirable of all women, ergo, unles you want to be alone forever ladies, get thee to the gym and the kitchen every day and hold fast to the first man who wants you because it might not happen again. And yeah, I’m much more interested in spending my time working for a world where black men aren’t uneligable for marriage in such large numbers, and black women aren’t undervalued, because if I “win” a marriage and family wherein my son is expected to fail and my daughter is made to feel worthless I haven’t won much.
      But being able to intellectualize that sense of worthlessness doesn’t mean it’s not a real thing. It doesn’t change that when I got into graduate school, the first thing my housemate said was “shit, you’ll never get married,” which was obviously not my priority in life, but as I get closer to just accepting it might not happen I realize it hurts a little. It doesn’t change the practical implications of singleness– less income, less buying power, less cushion in the form of being able to, say, be on a partner’s health insurance while you’re breaking into a profession. It doesn’t change that almost all of the women I know who are with some dude who is just waaaay not on their level are black women. I think the wince is less about who black men are and aren’t marrying and more about what white women as a group have or are perceived to have in comparison to black women. Dismissing all that comes from a place of privilege.

      • R.A.B.

        “I think it’s worth noting here that a “wince” is generally not something you do out of an intent to police somebody, it’s something you do out of pain. And I don’t think that pain is simply romantic frustration– there is a widespread cultural rejection of black women as romantic partners, particularly as romantic partners in any long term sense.”

        …conflates shared experience with the idea of collective experience…

        No one is wincing when they see black men with white women because they’re thinking of Harriet Tubman and everyone’s black mother. Like, they just aren’t. I’m sorry, but now.

        I get if it’s that these sightings relate to a common insecurity that relates to a real-but-personal anxiety. I’m not saying that the wince needs to be rational or something; I’m saying that when Jill Scott winces, I have an easier time buying that said knee-jerk is in response to (a) her own romantic position/circumstances/desires/progress, which many black female individuals apparently share in this particular sense, or to (b) “what white women as a group have or are perceived to have in comparison to black women”, than I do believing that it’s (c) some immediate flash of consideration of/solidarity with the black women around her who aren’t dating given black dude either.

        • R.A.B.

          To expand on my intro point: I get that we’re not talking about “the wince” as an argument or conscious statement; I just think it’s odd to seize the width of the problem as an exposition of how deeply *individuals* experience it.

        • DVE

          How is pointing out the statistical reality that black women are less likely to be in stable relationships conflating shared experience and collective experience? I recognize a distinction between the black female and black male experience– in this particular context, black men are privileged vis a vis black women because most black men with anything going for them could get married tomorrow, if they wanted to. (I’m not buying into marriage as the golden standard here– frankly I am of the opinion that many married people would be better off single, at least until they got themselves together and were entering a relationship out of something other than fear of being alone– but the fact remains it is valued, and it comes with practical advantages. I’ve never lost sleep over being single, but damn if I didn’t lose sleep when I was trying to buy a house as a single woman.)

          I do think it’s dismissive of you to keep writing off as “frustration” and “insecurity,” the actual documentable experience of rejection. It’s kind of like, as the opening post hints, claiming racism is all in your head or not that big a deal. It’s not a personal anxiety either, it’s a structural anxiety– less dual incomes== less safety net= less owned property= less time/energy/money for child care= living in the neighborhood you can afford on one income instead of living in the neighborhood you could afford on two. I’d be interested in seeing a society that looked at other ways to create collective living situations to combat that, instead of beating black women up over not being married, but in the one we live in it’s not hard to see marriage as the easiest path to some of that, and a path that every other demographic group has an easier time following.

          I’m an interacial person who, depending on how you code certain kinds of “other,” has probably dated more white men than black men, and has at times felt rejected by black men because they wanted white women, but has more often felt rejected by black men because I’m an agnostic vegan with a white grandma and a mother who culturally codes puerto rican as often as she codes black and we just didn’t have all that much in common, so I’m not buying into the idea that all black people must marry other black people because we inherently understand eachother. But I am saying that loneliness is a real thing, a personal reality that turns into a structural reality, and I am also saying that there are a number of white women I have wanted to pull of of various friends and relatives, because their whiteness manifested itself in the form of a kind of clueless and offensive ignorance of race, and when you conflate that experience with the reality that white women do have more (stuff, relationship options, advantages) than black women, that knee jerk reaction comes with a context that’s more than petty jealousy and resentment. Is it fair to project that onto every interracial couple? Of course not. But I think it’s fair to examine the desire to do so.

          • R.A.B.

            I’m not saying that the internalization isn’t real or that it doesn’t hurt or whatever; I’m saying that, much as heterosexuals resenting gay marriage doesn’t really redeem heterosexual relationships in any meaningful way, resenting the fact that black men are apparently more willing to opt out of a cultural allegiance is an unproductive response. And people respond to things unproductively all the time, but here we’re apparently talking about black women individuals who continue X, Y, maybe Z years into their lives, forgoing income and time and life planning etc., pledged to a romantic/cultural allegiance that doesn’t necessarily exist, like black men tricked them into it or something.

            You’re talking about *consequences* of the phenomenon now, but I never claimed be talking about anything after-the-fact of the thing itself, the wince. I’m talking about causes.

            • DVE

              But those causes are not “insecurity and lack of confidence appearing out of the ether,” those causes are racism and the particular way it’s gendered. So yeah, for some people that might involve contemplating Harriet Tubman’s mama or whatever. The idea that black women are worthless, or at least worth *less* than other woman didn’t originate internally.

              • DVE

                And also this conversation keeps coming back to black men and their alliegiances, when I think the real focal point of the hostility is often white women. Black men are just incidental.

                • R.A.B.

                  Also, the idea that black men are simply incidental is silly. If it were purely an internalization of how American culture, and so men generally, devalue black women as romantic actors, then what we’d have is black women wincing at any couple of any man and a non-black woman, suspecting that man X is dating a non-black woman for reasons broader that personal chemistry. But that’s not what we have; we’re talking about the grievance of black women against black men who date white women.

                  • DVE

                    No, that’s what *you’re* talking about. I’m talking about why black women might be troubled by interracial couples, which was the overarching question Scott’s original article asked. There is a perception among many black women that black men are the only men in this country who were ever socialized to find us attractive. You bring up the idea of the white man who’s sitting around pining after black women who are too busy waiting for black men, but the idea that this is happening on a mass scale is a mythological as the garbage man with the heart of gold that Steve Harvey et al keep accusing black women of rejecting. It’s a generalized resentement that is activated in a specific context because many black women have already written themselves out of the other contexts. If I percieve, with some evidence, white women as being able to date various men of any race, and myself and being primarily able to date black men, then some of that resentment could easily manifest itself as: You could have anything. Why do you want the one thing I have a shot at?

                • R.A.B.

                  ALSO:

                  “I think the wince is less about who black men are and aren’t marrying and more about what white women as a group have or are perceived to have in comparison to black women. Dismissing all that comes from a place of privilege.”

                  Look, if you want to think being shamed from like, childhood into thinking something is wrong with you and that you’re destined to betray the race is a privilege, then think it. Do I get the anxiety that black women, particularly educated, driven black women from college on out, deal with in chasing black men? I do. But I also get that, generationally, black women and black *people* have often done their best to draft alternative anxieties to combat the focal anxiety of this discussion: “You act too white.” “How can you not love your mother.” That.is.some.bull.shit, fam.

                  It’s just plain insincere to pretend that black men are, on the other hand, making their dating decision in a pasture of cultural autonomy, free from guilt and history and family and social pressures and other such baggage. Insincere, or just very self-centered.

                  • DVE

                    Isn’t resenting being made to feel guilty about demonstrably having more options one of the definitions of privilege? I’m not claiming black men make their choices in a vacuum, or that they are single handedly responsible for black women’s lack of options. I am simply claiming that they have more romantic options, and that discussions of black women’s romantic behavior should admit that.

                    Again, this is not about the difficulty of “chasing black men,” it’s about the difficulty of “living and dying alone in a culture that doesn’t value you and tells you on the regular that you are ugly.”

                    • R.A.B.

                      The problem is that black parents who impart this resentment to their black boys, when they do so, generally aren’t making these explicit arguments about supply and demand and options and the eventual hardships that their black sisters will face, which would at least be honest. Rather, interracial relationship shaming looks/reads/sounds like raw tribalism and pride and guilt and history lessons and “you just don’t do it!”

                    • Scipio Africanus

                      “The problem is that black parents who impart this resentment to their black boys, when they do so, generally aren’t making these explicit arguments about supply and demand and options and the eventual hardships that their black sisters will face, which would at least be honest. Rather, interracial relationship shaming looks/reads/sounds like raw tribalism and pride and guilt and history lessons and “you just don’t do it!””

                      Well said.

                    • Scipio Africanus

                      “Isn’t resenting being made to feel guilty about demonstrably having more options one of the definitions of privilege?”

                      Not to me, no. First, I seriously question that black men really have more options than black women. I think what’s behind that is the nature of gender roles in the sense that men are trained to pursue the women they want, and men are notorious for being inetersted in any woman who is first beautiful, then cool, then has her life together, etc. There are women like who fit that bill of all races, and with the gains of the civil rights movement, men don’t feel as shackled as they once were. Women seem to get a different message about dating – they’re not trained to be hunters and constantly on the prowl. As a result, they tend to let opportunities pass them by with guys they may have been happy with. That’s another problem and another huge post.

                      This isn’t privilege, though. Privilege is weaker than a right, but has the power of some third party behind it, unlike an advantage. No one is prohibiting black women from dating white men, and walking around the streets of New York in the last 5 years, that message has clearly gotten out.

                    • Isn’t resenting being made to feel guilty about demonstrably having more options one of the definitions of privilege? I’m not claiming black men make their choices in a vacuum, or that they are single handedly responsible for black women’s lack of options. I am simply claiming that they have more romantic options, and that discussions of black women’s romantic behavior should admit that.

                      This is a great point.

                  • okay, fam. you really need to pump your brakes.

                    at the risk of sounding like i’m playing Oppression Olympics, you’re really arguing here that black men don’t wield more privilege than black women? Word?

                    I really think you need to read what DVE’s saying.

                    • Scipio Africanus

                      I think you were replying to R.A.B, based on how this reply hangs in the thread, but I’ll jump in here anyway.

                      I’ve noticed that privilege is discussed alot, especially on the internet, but that the definition is kind of hazy and varies from person to person. I get the sense that some people really just mean “advantage” when they say privilege, some people mean something more solid. That’s why I tried to go into how I see privilege as contrasted with righst and with advantages.

                      Another problem with these discussions is that some things get taken to be axiomatic from jump, as I think you just showed by saying “you’re really arguing here that black men don’t wield more privilege than black women? Word?”. You’re implying that this is somehow self-evident and beyond discussion. Lots of things in this world are, but this ain’t one of ‘em.

                    • R.A.B.

                      I’m not very confident in Scipio’s point about romantic programming or whatever. On my tip, though: I don’t believe “that black men don’t wield more privilege than black women,” but I do think that the dating habits of black men is bizarre jumpoff point — like, of all manifestations? really? — to that conversation, which no doubt is a conversation worth having.

                    • R.A.B.

                      Manifestations of privilege, I mean. In other context, we could talk about what we think the privileged group should be doing to help correct the inequality, or at least the attitudes around it, but this conversation isn’t really allowing for that, and maybe the context doesn’t allow for that: what does me “doing my part” look like?

              • R.A.B.

                “White women as a group have or are perceived to have” many cultural and structural advantages “in comparison to black women” across many contexts. Yet we recognize “the wince” as a particular distaste for a single, particular manifestation of those advantages. No one here is confused as to whether “the wince” is about, say, black women seeing white women run for political office rather than what we’re all actually talking about here: black women seeing black men with white women.

                • DVE

                  But here’s where class matters. I don’t wince at white women for being at the top of their career game, because real talk, I feel like I am doing better, careerwise, than the vast majority of women my age of any race, and that where there are women who are outperforming me it’s because I made the choice not to pursue particular kinds of career paths that didn’t appeal to me. Do I recognize my options as coming from privileges that black women en masse don’t have? Of course, but it’s not *personal* to me, so I don’t have to unpack some emotional reaction to seeing a white woman achieve professional success, or run for office ,unless she’s Sarah Palin and running for office on a platform of race bating and being “hot,” because I have time to think about the situation, and to analyze from a distance the way that race and gender are working for and against her. I don’t see those paths as being closed off to me. Friends who have faced discrimination in their careers do feel a wince sometimes when they hear white women talk about their professional successes, because they have to seperate the personal reaction (I would have that kind of success, but for discrimination, and you have it so easy) from the intellectual reaction (you personally are not the reason I was passed over, and may be damn good at what you do.)

                  For some black women who are at the top of their game professionally and financially, a functional relationship with a true partner feels like the one thing they can’t have that white women can. And partly this is not a uniquely “black” problem, as high achieving white women face it too, but not in the same numbers. And of course you can’t (and shouldn’t, even if you could) legislate attraction, so it doesn’t have any obvious structural remedy in the way career discrimination does, but the lack of a structural remedy doesn’t mean it’s not a structural problem, or that beauty standards and attraction are somehow inherently apolitical.

          • Scipio Africanus

            “men are privileged vis a vis black women because most black men with anything going for them could get married tomorrow, if they wanted to.”

            This is another meme I hope catches the bubonic plague and dies, already. The underlying idea to this is that every black women is marriage material/a Good Black Woman until proven otherwise. That’s simply not true.

            The whack black men are either in jail or caught up in teh system, and largely unemployed/underemployed, and some of the whack black men actuall aren’t caught up in the system and have decent jobs. The whack black women largely aren’t in jail, but many of them are unemployted or underemployed, or maybe neither. Point being, there’s probably as many whack black women as black men in this country, and few of them are marriage material – of either gender.

      • Scipio Africanus

        ” there is a widespread cultural rejection of black women as romantic partners, particularly as romantic partners in any long term sense.
        While we’re throwing stats around, here are some: http://cdn.okcimg.com/blog/race_affects/Reply-By-Race-Female.png

        I straight reject the first point. Outright. Almost all of the appealing (not just attractrive, but appealing in the full sense of what that word means) black women I know, grew up with, went to high school and college with, are in serious relationships (we’er mostly in our late 20′s and early 30′s), or engaged or married. The women who fit that category adn are single are either taking a break, or have some other reason for being single that doesn’t ivolve getting rejected.

        Further, those OK Cupid numbers have been picked apart and, to my mind, debunked already. OK Cupid is a free site that doesn’t attract that many black people to it. Many of the non-whites on that site are looking to date interracially in the first place. Granted, not many white guys there want to date black women, but many of the black men go there to meet women of other races. Black men who are looking to date black women will go to Blackpeoplemeet, or Yahoo Personals or Match – the more mainstream or the black-specific sites.

        • DVE

          Well, I’m in about the same demographic, and in my circle of friends I know not one black woman who is currently either married or engaged, and that includes some who would like to be. The only black women I know who have been in long term relationships have been in those relationships with men who were un and underemployed. I’m counting both my high school friends, from a diverse lower middle class community, and my college and graduate school friends, from elite less diverse schools, in the demographic. All these women are employed and lacking obvious red flags (unless you count single motherhood, after the person they were in a relationship with left, as a red flag). The white women in my circle of firends are married or engaged at mich higher rates. Obviously neither of our anecdotes is in and of itself conclusive, but since there is evidence that as a demographic, more black women are single, unless there’s qualitative or quantitative evidence that black women stay single more than other groups of women because they want to be single, the broader evidence seems to ring closer to my experience.

          • Scipio Africanus

            “there is evidence that as a demographic, more black women are single”

            I think yesterday I mentioned somewhere above that the never-been-married rate for black men is actually a few points higher than it is for black women, at this point. As I said yesterday, I can try to fish it out, if folks want.

            I accept that balck women are single at higher rates than white women, but I don’t see that as being particularly meaningful, if black men are single at higher rates than black women are. (I’m using marriage as a proxy for “taken” because that makes sense to me.)

  • R.A.B.

    *I’m sorry, but no.

  • I really did not want to get into this but here goes nothing:

    Let me start with myself. When I was around 11 years old, I watched some latin movie where a latino dude and a white girl ended up together, and I had this gnawing discomfort at watching the whole thing unfold. I do not know whether I felt more uncomfortable with the fact that some white girl was taking our men or that some latino was taking our women (I am both, though my loyalties lay with neither). In short, I felt a wince. In the subsequent years, yeah I felt winces, but I also realized the racism, stupidity, and denial of humanity that underlay such feelings. I was ashamed, as well I should have been. Furthermore, I never told people that it was acceptable.

    It is the last statement wherein the problem lies. Behind Jill Scott, Racialicious, and TNC’s brief defense of her not backing down, is the belief that at some level, this is acceptable. It grants intellectual cover to VERY pernicious feelings. To racist feelings. Now, if Jill Scott said she should not feel that way, then I would have no problem, because that would be an admission that such feelings, such winces, should have no place in her psyche. Instead, she closes her Essence piece with the following:

    “Our [African] minds do understand that people of all races find genuine love in many places. We dig that the world is full of amazing options. But underneath, there is a bite, no matter the ointment, that has yet to stop burning. Some may find these thoughts to be hurtful. That is not my intent. I’m just sayin’”.

    When I read this, I do not feel sympathy for Scott. I do not see a black woman struggling under the double-bind of race and gender. I see “I’m not a racist, but…”. I see “I do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but x people…”. I see the right-wing race-talk two-step. They are the same intellectual maneuver: say stupid crap and dance around it.

    More to the point, I see an intellectual tradition that people SHOULD see. I see a destitute Weimar Republic German blaming the Jews. I see Hutu frustration with Tutsi colonial supremacy. I see Israeli belief in past oppression granting them the moral right to settle in East Jerusalem.

    To TNC, and his appreciation of how she represents (http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2010/03/jill-scott-cont/38173/), dude, wtf? I suppose we should start respecting Dick Cheney for standing tall in his beliefs? A stupid feeling is one thing, we are all stupid at times. It’s the defense of the position that drives me nuts. To be wrong is one thing, but to be obstinate about it is the issue.

    On to Jill, in her own words defending the piece:

    “If we don’t talk we don’t heal” The hell? So talking equals having a half-cocked idea published in a magazine? That’s healthy? That improves the situation? No, that sounds like somebody got caught staying stupid crap and, instead of owning up to it, they fibbed that it was all part of a plan to start a ‘dialogue’.

    “I believe we should hold on to our cultures and share our cultures with each other. I don’t, I don’t like the whole uhh… the concept of being Westernized and everybody is just one thing, I think culture, and uhh creativity, and all the things that we have are important to to us, we should hold on to those things.” That is the sort of hard-multiculturalism that to a lot of people is not a big deal, even accepted in many circles. Personally I find such views abhorrent (because of my own knowledge of history, culture, and transition of knowledge, the idea of stable and fixed cultural identities is asinine at best and dangerous at worst, but I am not going to belabor the point here). So Scott said something that a lot of people have no problems with, and will not have problems with. However, in the context of ‘the wince’, the betrayal, and the fact that she is ‘just sayin’, this adds up to something far more sinister. She has no problem with peoples and cultures, she just has issues with them mixing, because cultures should be held onto. This is not an innocent statement, but rather a philosophy, however conceived, that believes a) race exists (coded as culture) and b) interaction amongst races is fine so long as nothing interrupts their difference (such interracial marriage). I also personally love the irony of such a statement coming from Scott: a Westernized American woman who plays a Botswanan on television speaking of the need to preserve culture. (Rant on!) She essentially has no problem stealing another’s identity in the name of art, but at the same time trying to serve as an authentic voice of Black womanhood in America. Fuck you Jill for taking somebody else’s livelihood. Mma Ramotswe should have been Botswanan, and the lack of outrage on that issue alone makes her defenders suspect to me (Latoya Peterson’s piece on it made me ban her for life). (Rant off!

    So she explains her feelings, does not apologize for them, and that is ok? A poorly-thought out piece on Racialicious (there is a reason why I do not link to it on my blog) http://www.racialicious.com/2010/03/30/social-capital-and-denying-the-pain-of-black-women/ opens with “Neo-soul singer and actress Jill Scott is taking some undeserved heat (IMHO)…” Jill Scott, for voicing her feelings, it taking underserved heat. Her statements are not wrong, other people are wrong for their interpretation. Indeed, the author finds a wonderful way of flipping it around:

    “I am not surprised that many non-black folks hearing about Scott’s essay don’t understand. We do not have the same history and we do not occupy the same space in the realm of heterosexual dating. The black woman’s social situation has few parallels among other races, although Asian men have similar (low) capital. This is not the same as John Mayer talking about his “white supremacist dick.” Through his comments, Mayer was upholding the sexual hierarchy that Jill Scott is lamenting. In other words, in a world of white supremacist male members, it can get pretty, fucking lonely for a sister.
    Jill Scott did not say that interracial relationships are bad. In her essay, she attempts to explain what it feels like to be the recipient of hundreds of years of sexism and racism; hundreds of years of “less than” messages from within and without our communities.
    We may, intellectually, believe in a love unbounded by the chains of race, but that doesn’t stop the pain.”

    Except that Jill Scott IS upholding a sexual hierarchy, because a hierarchy is based not just on supremacy but difference. And if the author can’t see that, she is blind. John Mayer is at fault, but Jill is not? Jill Scott did not say that interracial relationships are bad, she just said that it hurt her when she saw them. I wonder if Tami will be so quick to defend when Kim Kardashian’s mom says that she winces every time Reggie Bush is holding her daughter.

    I get Jill Scott’s pain. But anything besides an ‘I understand, but she is wrong’ is acceptance, tacit or otherwise. I see the glares I get when I walk in Chengdu with my wife. I see the belief that I should not have been born because my parents were not respecting their cultures by marrying the other. And as much joy I received when John Stewart explained to William Kristol the hypocrisy of the latter’s belief that government-run health care is bad while the U.S. military’s healthcare is great, the lack of condemnation of Jill Scott’s statements shows me that my side can be just as hypocritical too. I suppose I am naïve for expecting better.

  • R.A.B.

    “I was just exploding at everything.”

    I’m all about that, tho.

    • As much as I enjoy it, its wrong. I took an undeserved swipe at TNC (and probably Jill Scott, who I am sure is a wonderful person). Its complicated, yeah, but if we are so good at parsing meaning behind language and image, we should be able to turn our critical faculties against Jill. And I see a very scary worldview, though that might be because its so personal to me.

    • PS RAB i cosign on everything you have said here.

  • distance88

    Love + Race = Comment Generating Machine

    I think it is rare to see so many valid points on both sides of an argument, so I’ll happily remain sitting on the fence for this one. The differences in opinion seem to stem from how much weight a person puts on structural/systemic influence versus individual freedom of choice. Both of which are very important.

    And obviously, this issue reinforces the notion that sweeping generalizations (as usual) are impossible to make.

  • ChiChi

    Interesting comments here. I have a couple things to say – and rather than reply all over I’ll just put them here.

    First, I think too much effort is being spent trying to argue one position or another as opposed to focusing on the couple of different explanations that are all equally valid. It’s not such a dichotomous thing, IMHO.

    I believe that multiple realities exist in different contexts. Some black women may wince when they see a black man with a white woman out of jealously – maybe they want a black man, aren’t open to dating men of other races – and are simply jealous that a white girl got a man that she wants since white women are sometimes the source of negative energy by black women. How many times have you (black women) seen a tall, thin, good looking and well dressed white woman, alone, and winced a bit? I have. I think it comes from many things, society of course, but I acknowledge that in many ways it is simple and petty jealousy. When I started feeling good about how I looked and had some money in the bank seeing those women just didn’t do anything to me.

    In other cases maybe there really are some black men who are dating white woman as trophies. I personally know some black men who, once they made it, saw white woman as a status symbol, and as someone who in some ways was easier to be in a relationship with than the black women in our circle.

    And, I know I’m biases here, but I’m a bit skeptical about this highly-educated-successful and yet undesirable black woman. I have a very successful group of female friends, all highly educated and with various degrees of success when compared to people in our circle, but amongst the general population I think these women would all be considered wildly successful (all went to top or Ivy leagues grad schools, all have serious professional careers, make a good living, etc.) Some are single, some are married or in LTRs. But to be really honest, the single ones, all of which want to be with someone, also all have some flaws that I can understand would turned off a lot of men.

    I’m not saying that it is fair, I wish all these women happiness, but I’ve just never met a good looking, cool, socially competent, educated and successful woman (of any color) who has had a hard time meeting men when she has wanted to. I’m very skeptical that these women actually exist. I have however met many women who think they are all of these things, and yet aren’t.

    Now, if you are a black woman who only dates black men, and you move in certain circles, that could be a prob. And that sucks. But if you’ve ever been to a popular bar near a grad school campus you’ll notice the lack of color, and if you only think of the 3 or 4 black men in that place as potential partners than the numbers are against you. But if you are open, I think your chances are as good as any – just don’t assume that because you have a good degree and a good job that you are suddenly so desirable. In my experience men don’t have a problem with educated and successful women, but also don’t put much a premium on it, and that is where I think the confusion is coming in. Lots of women think – hey, I have a PhD and a good job, I’m a catch. Sorry, not that easy.

    • DVE

      Looking good on paper but having personal issues may totally explain why individual black women are single when they would prefer not to be, but it doesn’t really explain the intergroup disparity unless black women have personal issues at higher rates than women in other ethnic groups. Since average looking/drama prone/not as interesting as they think they are/ people get married every day, it doesn’t really explain the statistics if you compare black women who are as close to flawless as humanly possible to the average of everyone else. For individual women whose priority is getting married, looking in the mirror may be the first step, but for people who are more worried about the structual inequalities I’m not sure that explanation really addresses the issue.

      • R.A.B.

        Do we have demographic data comparing respective groups’ willingness to pursue interracial relationships?

      • April

        Thanks for this point. Though I’m sure it wasn’t intended this way, ChiChi’s comment comes perilously close to playing into the old “black woman have issues” stereotype.

        • Scipio Africanus

          “ChiChi’s comment comes perilously close to playing into the old “black woman have issues” stereotype.”

          How? What I read her saying was something like “the dope ones have decent love lives, the ones that aren’t so dope, don’t.”

          This is the assertion we make of men all the time. If a guy is complaining about his love life, there *must* be some reason that involves him and mostly him, not anything else. Why is this assertion dubious in the case of women?

          If it’s dubious for one group, it should be dubious for the other, and if it’s largely legit for one group, it should be legit for the other.

      • ChiChi

        Does the “black women have issues” theme have no grain of truth? When discussing the apparent lack of “suitable” black men for marriage (particularly to successful black women) people often trot out the standard stats – less black men graduated college – more black men in jail etc. Is it possible that the latent racism in our culture has made more black women undesirable mates when compared to other groups? I think it would be interesting if a large sample of men rated the qualities they found desirable in a partner (in terms of personality) and then various racial groups of women rated themselves and we saw if there was any correlation. In fear of playing into stereotypes – could it be that a majority of men would report wanting some quality that is disproportionately low amongst black women? I realize this could be a slippery slope, but I think it warrants some thought. From my experiences and what I’ve observed with friends the societal pressures on a on black woman are *way* different (and I’d argue harder) than on women from other racial groups, and I’ve found that having to deal with that kind of pressure often influences a woman’s (or man’s) personality. Could the result of dealing with those pressures be creating women who are in some way disproportionately less desirable?

        • That’s just way too anecdotal, though. In my social circle, I can rattle off six black female/white male married couples easily, without thinking. While that’s not terribly uncommon for me, it is extremely uncommon in the larger world.

          All I’m saying is, “I see it all the time” isn’t in and of itself a compelling defense of anything.

        • Bug

          That could be. I realize this is totally anecdotal and so really says nothing (but yes, I’m going to offer it anyway), but I have a number of friends who are white men and in relationships or married to successful black women. When you hear them talk about what they like about their partners you often get stuff like “strong”, “outspoken”, “dominant”, etc.

          I’m not saying these are qualities that are in fact shared by all black women, but they are often the qualities that are stereotypically associated with black women, and in my experience they are in fact more common among black women then white or Asian women. Almost surely a product of the unfair societal pressures forced onto black women in America, but nevertheless they do seem be common traits. Am I just slipping down the slope and believing age old stereotypes or this other people’s experience too?

          I think this is important because it strikes me that these may not be qualities that a majority of men look for in a partner. I don’t intend to cast all men as brutes, but again, in my experience, a lot of men do in fact want the old cliche – a good looking wife who plays a more subservient role (and I’m not condoning that, just putting it out there as a preference I’ve observed). The subservient personality is one that I do not often see amongst successful black women, and yet one that is stereotypically found in Asian women, who enjoy one of the most desirable images in terms of potential mates (particularly inter-racially).

          Could there be something to that? Asian women and black women have extremely diverse stereotypes in terms of personality. I think it’s fair to say that men, consciously or unconsciously, use there stereotypes when deciding which women to pursue or how to think about a particular relationship option. Since it seems like Asian women are so popular, does that provide (flimsy) evidence that a disproportionate amount of men prefer personality qualities that are disproportionately absent in black women?

          • real quick: a stereotype is still dehumanizing and reductive even if you mean it as a compliment.

            cut that shit out.

            • Bug

              Point taken, and I do apologize. I didn’t mean to imply that those stereotypes represent reality, but I don’t think it is offensive to acknowledge that they exist, or that some stereotypes have a grain of truth to them, is it? I’m hardly one to believe or suggest that “black women are strong” or “Asian women are subservient”, but is it wrong to say that there is often culture forces at play that encourage/discourage these traits differently in various racial groups? I’ve taken my fair share of racial/women’s studies and sociology focusing on race and these are common areas of discussion and I don’t think they are commonly taken as offensive.

              • …and you pulled the “stereotypes have a grain of truth to them” canard, too.

                again, you probably mean that as a compliment. but stereotypes exist to justify disparate treatment. that’s it. isn’t it just as possible that the idea were black women women are outspoken and surly was created as a way to legitimize violent exploitation by slave-owners, i.e., they need to be put in their places? Or to suggest that they weren’t “real women,” like white women? Or that the idea that Asian women are submissive borne out of colonial exploitation of Asian women? To the extent any of these are “true,” how do you know you’re not more cognizant of the presence of certain traits among certain people because you’ve been conditioned to look for them there and not elsewhere?

                come on. do better.

                • Bug

                  I’m not sure that I agree that if the roots of a stereotype are racist (and despicable) that it may not in fact manifest itself in a disproportionate number of people.

                  Whatever the cause, is it possible that given a Myers-Briggs type personality test that there would be some correlation between different racial groups of women? I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case, particularly amongst minority groups, given the shared racialized experience growing up in this country.

                  For example, if given a test on how much you trust the police, I’d wager that there would be a stronger correlation among black men who view the police a little more skeptically than there would be amongst white men. And I have no evidence to support this, pure conjecture. Reasons for this aside, my point is that there are some personality traits amongst racial groups that are disproportionately popular – do you disagree?

                  • This assumes that someone can be an objective arbiter of what disproportionately popular, doesn’t it?

                    I’ve spent nearly three decades of my life on the planet as a black male, and I would never be so arrogant to say that all or most or many of black people were any one thing, or that “black people” place inordinate value on any particular set of behaviors.

                    I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case, particularly amongst minority groups, given the shared racialized experience growing up in this country.

                    And have you even been reading this thread? This is what the main post said:

                    People don’t necessarily share the same experiences, or process them the same way. I’ve had my share of racist things happen to me as an adult, but my reaction is very different than my partner’s. Part of that is because she’s been dealing with this sort of thing since she was six, whereas I encountered almost no direct racism as a child. Another part is that we’re different people.

                    You’re trying to find a way to intellectualize your desire to fall back on lazy stereotyping, to make it polite. That’s your prerogative. But please do that shit somewhere else.

                    • Bug

                      [deleted. I suggest you read the very first rule in our commenting policy. you want to essentialize, there are plenty of places that will have you.]

                    • Bug

                      Apologizes again, I hadn’t read the commenting policy. I have now. My intent was not to say that something is or isn’t “black” – but just to point out that those categorizations do exist, and so isn’t it valid to examine them and see what role they may or may not play in this context. But ok, I’m on thin ice, will return to reading and shut up.

          • LisaG

            I have to say I don’t like where this is leading and don’t see what useful would come out of this line of reasoning. So I take it your premise is that if given some personality test (which btw are known to be suspect) a disproportionate amount of black women score one way and that shows that this sub-group has some undesireable trait, than what? That means the fact that black women are disproportionately unpartnered is justified and valid? Is it really that simple? A lot of men want submissive wives – black women aren’t often submissive – so it follows that a lot of men won’t want black women? I don’t know if there is any truth to that, and I don’t know if I want to knmow – but I feel like if that were true it would be pretty depressing.

  • R.A.B.

    [I'm particularly interested in quantifying the attitudes of black women and white men.]

    • littleBee

      In terms of if black women view white men as potential mates?

      I personally see this on the rise, and I’m surprised no one has brought it up in this thread. Black men have been dating out for a long time, now black women are starting to do the same, and I think that is a good thing. Not dating out for the sake of it, but just being open to finding love in whatever color it comes in. A lot of black women I know don’t even see white men as potential partners, or didn’t used to. Now some have found love with white men, and the door is opening for others. I don’t know what implications that really has..but I do see it happening. I wonder if there is a wince factor when black men see black women with white men (I’m guessing there is something…)