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Why a Black Man Dating a White Woman Is NOT the Same as a Black Woman Dating a White Man

Black Twitter

So I was knee-deep in a mindless, Twitter-induced scroll hole late last night when a Tweet slid across my screen and jolted me out of it. The Tweet read “Twitter is not a real place,” and included two pictures. The first picture was a screenshot of a Tweet from a black woman. It featured a picture of three black college football players posing with three blonde-haired white women, presumably their girlfriends. The black woman who had tweeted this picture posted it with the caption, “I’m so sick to my stomach!” The second picture was a screenshot of a black man’s reply to the woman’s Tweet. In his reply, he included a picture of the same black woman kissing a white man and asked a simple, two-word question, “This you?”

This is the kind of content that always produces spirited debates so I immediately dove into the comment section to see what the cultural phenomenon of Black Twitter had to say. As you can imagine, I was not disappointed. At the time of this writing, that Tweet has now been quoted nearly 3,700 times and it has over 27,000 comments along with nearly 315,000 likes. From what I saw, the debate seemed to be split evenly down the middle. Most of the men who commented believe that a black man dating a white woman is the same as a black woman dating a white man. Meanwhile, most of the women who commented firmly believe that these two scenarios are not the same. Most of the women also seem to believe that men are “not ready” for the conversation about why these two scenarios are not the same. Well, I have a little more faith in my brothers than the women who commented because I believe that the men are ready for this conversation. If you read the title of this essay, then you already know where I stand and I intend to devote the rest of this article to explaining why.

I must admit that I initially agreed with the men when I started reading the comments. I thought that black men dating white women was essentially the same as black women dating white men so I was a bit confused by the debate I saw unfolding in front me. I even posed the question to my girlfriend (who is black) and we both tenuously agreed that it was pretty much the same thing. Then, my brain shifted into gear and I started thinking about it a little differently.

Male Responsibility

See, whether we like it or not fellas, the truth of the matter is that it all starts with us. I know that we are living in a modern society where women have more agency & more autonomy than ever before. However, at the end of the day, I still believe that men are responsible for setting the tone of most heterosexual relationships. Show me a man who has failed to do so, and I’ll show you a woman who is secretly wishing that he would. As a result, I believe that if more black men cherished more black women, then black women would not be so open to entertaining relationships with white men.

That’s it! That’s the gist of this whole essay! However, the question I asked myself is “why?” Why don’t more black men cherish more black women? Why do some black men actively avoid forming romantic relationships with black women? And why does there seem to always be tension between black men & women when the subject of interracial dating & marriage is brought up? The rest of this essay will explain my theory about the answer.

A Brief Look at America’s History

If we take a step back and look at the history of families in America, we can see that there have been massive shifts in the function and roles of the different family members and these shifts are relatively new. These changes have significantly impacted traditional gender roles for nearly all races, but I think they have hit the black community particularly hard. Let me explain…

Before the Industrial Revolution, most of America’s fathers worked in their own businesses or on farms, and most of their sons worked side-by-side with them in that business or farm everyday. According to US Census data, one-third (33%) of all families in the US lived on farms in 1910. This meant that most of the son’s formative years were spent in close proximity to not only his father, but also his uncles, cousins, brothers, and even his grandfathers. Daily contact with other men during their formative years provided sons with intimate & robust models for what it meant to be man.

However, after the Industrial Revolution, fathers were effectively removed from the household as families migrated to cities because most fathers started working in the factories of big companies. By 1940, only 20% of all families in the US lived on farms and that number decreased to only 4% by 1970. This means that the number of American families living on farms decreased by nearly 88% in only 60 years. That is insanely fast for such a severe demographic change but the question to ask now is, “Why is this significant?”

Well, as more and more families migrated to urban areas during the 1900s, more and more fathers spent less and less time with their sons. Boys who grew up during this time no longer had any idea what their fathers did during the day. Fathers became more detached from not only their sons, but also from their families altogether, in the name of work. In fact, the divorce rate during this time period is further evidence of this trend. According to US Census Data, the divorce rate in the United States nearly tripled between 1940 and 1970.

As their families migrated to cities, boys who used to go to work with their fathers & uncles were now being sent to schools where they were taught by predominantly female teachers. Fathers were replaced by female authority figures as the primary influence in these young boys lives. This trend, along with the increase in single-parent, women-led households, caused an increasing number of young boys to adopt a female perspective of masculinity.

Additional Historical Context

Let’s also keep in mind what was happening in the world during this time. World War 1 ended in 1918 and World War 2 ended in 1945. Many of the soldiers who fought in WW2 were the proud sons of World War 1 veterans. However, when they came home and started families, their influence on their sons simply wasn’t as significant as their fathers’ influence had been on them because of the reasons we have already outlined. When you combine this with the growing anti-war & hippie love sentiments of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, then it’s no wonder why the sons of World War 2 veterans tended to gravitate toward female-constructed views of masculinity. These views encouraged a tamed, docile type of masculinity because men start wars and war is bad. Thus, many boys grew up desiring to be nothing like their fathers because their fathers’ masculinity was perceived as the cold, emotionally distant cause of so much pain in the world. Conversely, many fathers during this time didn’t understand their sons desires for peace, love, and harmony. “Freedom isn’t free,” was often their terse retort and the gap between fathers & sons increased.

Ultimately, these trends caused young boys to become men who were accustomed to having their value defined by women. This is where masculinity first became associated with all the negative connotations it has today, and this is also where men started developing the need for women’s approval. Before I go any further, let me be clear: this is not an essay disparaging women. I am simply conveying something that should be obvious: a woman cannot teach a boy how to be a man, but that is exactly what started happening in the post-war era of the 20th Century.

Notice that we have not even started discussing race yet because the Industrial Revolution affected everybody. However, after I add the context of race to this equation, I hope that you will start to see why I said that the familial shifts that affected the country hit black families particularly hard.

Jim Crow vs. Black Families

Unfortunately, we live in a country where black men are viewed as inherently dangerous & lascivious animals that need to be tamed. Society is afraid of black men. These racist ideologies are endemic and can be seen in our media & politics. No other demographic has been the impetus for as much fear and/or aggression as the black male. For this reason, qualities that we typically attribute to masculinity such as strength, independence, leadership, and assertiveness have been proactively discouraged and/or suppressed when seen in the black male. The message that society routinely conveys to black men is this:

Your masculinity is too much for us to handle. Tone it down.

I believe that this may be one reason why black males seem to gravitate to & excel in sports. Athletic competition seems to be one of the few areas where society is ok with black men unleashing all of the masculine attributes that allow us to be great.

As we’ve seen, the Industrial Revolution had significant unintentional consequences on families regardless of race. However, I believe that these consequences were actually exacerbated in black families because their literal survival depended on it. Think about what else was happening in America during the early to mid-1900s. This is when America was in the heat of its Jim Crow & Civil Rights eras. Life as a black person during this time required that one learn to fit in and not ruffle feathers in order to survive. Failing to do so could, and often did, result in death. There was no space for independence, leadership, or assertiveness. For every Malcolm X & Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, there were millions of other black fathers who were just trying to stay alive & keep their families safe by flying under the radar. This is the opposite of mature masculinity and it resulted in the further subjugation of black masculinity.

While black men were learning how to provide for their families & keep them safe by toning down their masculinity in public spaces, black women were learning how to lean into their masculine energy so they could hold their families and communities together. If a king spends most of his time pretending to be a peasant, then it will be very difficult for him to remember how to wear the crown when he gets back home. Thus, black women were required to become strong so that their families and communities didn’t fall apart. At the same time, the Women’s Rights & Feminism movements were gaining momentum and allowed more women to earn an income. This made many of them co-breadwinners of the household and introduced a new dynamic into the household because fewer women had to depend on men for provision.

If a black man no longer knows how to be strong, then you can trust a black woman to be strong enough for the both of them. However, this can cause a bit of an identity crisis for both of them. On one hand, you have black men who used to know exactly where they fit into the family. Their jobs were to protect & provide. However, after years of being victimized by a racist society, they are now unsure of their ability to protect their family. Furthermore, the advancement of women’s independence meant that a man’s ability to provide for his family was simply less valuable than it used to be. In an effort to establish some sense of control, men with already warped and/or limited views of masculinity will do crazy things when they are unsure of how/where they fit. Some of these irrational behaviors might result in abuse (physical, emotional, alcohol, drugs) or leaving altogether. Meanwhile, black women found themselves taking on more responsibilities inside & outside of the home. While they are certainly capable of doing it, I have no doubt that the increased responsibilities left them wondering why they even needed a man in the house anyway. This is where the narrative of the “strong, black woman” started to become more commonplace, and I believe this is why so many black women today are tired of being “strong.” (We’ll come back to this point in a minute.) Thus, resentment & animosity grew within the house and more men ultimately made the decision to leave (cue the divorce rate tripling between 1940 & 1970).

Before we move on, let’s recap: Everything changed with the Industrial Revolution. America experienced an almost complete upheaval of family life as it used to be within the span of one or two generations. These seismic changes turned boys into men with warped views of masculinity. The effects on the black community specifically were even more profound because the draconian Jim Crow laws forced the very identities of so many black men & women to change in ways that were unprecedented.

The Modern Era

Now fast forward to the modern era where black fathers are absent from families altogether in ever increasing number. The tectonic shifts that started during the 20th Century have now been perpetuated for generations and millions of men now believe that being “too masculine” is bad thing because society has told them so. The challenge with this is that there is always an innate, masculine urge to “be a man.” So today’s men learn how to operate with weak & wounded forms of masculine-looking behavior because they don’t really know what mature masculinity means. I would venture to say that that this what we have learned to call “toxic masculinity.”

So we get to the year 2022 and we have black men who have been taught to be more feminine, and we have black women who have learned how to be more masculine. Both of them are acting out of character. Both of them feel uncomfortable, but neither of them know why or how to communicate it because it’s all they’ve known. The black man just wants to feel respected and loved for who he is, and the black woman just wants to feel safe so she can relax into her feminine again. The challenge is this: the black woman is not going to let her masculine guard down until the black man shows that he’s worthy of it. But the black man doesn’t know how to embrace his masculine in a loving & mature way so he constantly feels like he’s being emasculated by the black woman. So instead of trying to figure it out, he hits the “Eject” button and seeks out white women. Since they haven’t dealt with generations of trauma the same way black woman has, they are able to readily give him the respect, love, and adoration he’s been craving. As a result, the black woman is left feeling vulnerable and unwanted (even though she’ll never show/admit it). So when a white man takes interest in her, she accepts it because being a white male in a society built by white males means that he is free to operate the way a man is supposed to. The simple fact that he knows how to be masculine makes her feel safe enough even though he can never really understand what she’s been through.

And that’s my theory for why a black man choosing to date a white woman is not the same as a black woman dating a white man. Are there nuances? Yes. Are there exceptions? Of course. Does this mean that all black men who date and marry white women have weak/wounded masculinity? Or that all black women who date white men are simply doing so because they couldn’t find a black guy? Absolutely not. I am not seeking to explain and/or do away all interracial relationships. I’m not Senator Mike Braun. I’m simply trying to diagnose the source of all the hostility between black men & black women when the subject of interracial relationships is brought up.

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