Interracial dating has been around for centuries, but, nowadays, pop culture has a strange fascination for it. From people using their interracial relationships to create YouTube channels with the primary purpose of gaining money and social capital, to brands whose ads only show black people when they are in interracial relationships to be more palatable to a broader audience. Interracial dating remains a source of fascination that says a lot about how desire, sex and race interlink in our society.
Numbers don’t lie: black men are twice as likely to intermarry than black women and gloat about it more publicly. Yet, when high-profile black women choose to date interracially the double standard is blatant.
One recent example is Serena Williams, who had numerous relationships with black men but eventually chose to marry a white man. The backlash was terrible; black men insulted her looks, called her names, like ‘bedwench.’ What they seemed to forget conveniently was that before her wedding, they were clowning her darker skin and throwing transphobic slurs at her. What’s the truth, then? If she is not attractive enough by their standards, then it shouldn’t be a big deal that she married a non-black man. If she is attractive enough, then they shouldn’t have insulted her physique in the first place.
Black men, especially entertainers who date interracially are expected to have non-black partners to prove that they’ve made it, they need a desirable partner as a statement; a trophy. And since black women, especially darker skinned women are not seen as desirable by white beauty standards, it is expected from powerful black men to go for white women. And when they do, they tend to be congratulated by their peers as “they’ve upgraded.” Think about the classic Kanye West line in his song “Gold Digger”: “and when you get on, he'll leave yo' ass for a white girl,” which ironically, has proven to be a foreshadow for Kanye West as well as high profile black entertainers such as Donald Glover, Terrence Howard, etc. In the same vein, a look at powerful black British men, from rappers to politicians, to actors to fashion designers will show you that most of them have white partners, save for a handful of them (actors Adrian Lester, Idris Elba and Noel Clarke who have non-white spouses).
The ultimate double standard between black men and women regarding interracial dating is black men who date interracially justify it by publicly belittling black women, calling them “ugly, bitter, aggressive” etc. From Donald Glover’s show Atlanta portraying a dark-skinned black woman angry at a white woman for dating black men, to Taye Diggs saying that black women ruined his attraction to white women by judging him. Black women, even if they harbour those feelings, don’t let it be known.
In the capitalist, patriarchal white supremacist western world, love is not “love” and interracial dating doesn’t happen out of the blue. We make choices regarding everything in life. We choose the partners we want to settle down with, based on their attractiveness, money, privilege, power and all the positive qualities they will offer us. Let’s not pretend that in a society that tells us that white beauty standards are the most desirable, we happen to fall in love with white people by accident. Let’s also not pretend that in a society where white people own most of the wealth, dating one won’t open doors for us in our professional lives, in our access to money and social capital. Black women shouldn’t be subjected to abuse because of who they love. But it’s also time to examine why we choose the people we love.