Is it really true that a good (black) man is hard to find? This week, we're taking on some long-lasting stereotypes about black-on-black love.
I am an attractive, social young black woman from Austin and I can't seem to land a black man. I support and participate in interracial friendships and romances (so much so that strangers frequently comment on the college-brochure-cover level of diversity going on in my circle), but I have always desired and expected black love like my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents had. I would not say I am waiting for a black man, but the older I get, the more weddings I attend where my brothers or cousins marry a white woman, the seemingly intentional lack of eye contact I receive while black men sidle up to my non-black friends in the club, the more I feel it will never happen for me. I wanted my baby heir with baby hair and afros...Jackson 5 nostrils, etc. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon and what can a black woman do to protect herself from feelings of rejection?
Ah, the perpetual question.
Natalie, this is a conversation I've had with friends, family members, coworkers — even a professor I had in college. And it's never easy. Because to answer your question, we have to unpack some truths, some myths and some painful realities.
So first, the truths. Dating is hard for lots of people, but for black women in the United States, it can be uniquely horrible. For one thing, we're often expected to conform to white beauty standards. For another, we're up against a hold parade of racist stereotypes: that we're angry, overbearing, lazy, prudish and hyper-sexual and emasculating all at once. Oh, and we can't take a joke.
Those stereotypes and expectations do two things. First, they limit the pool of people who are interested in dating black women. And second, they often create situations where we, as black women, try super hard not to fit into those categories. So rather than relaxing and trying to have fun with potential dates, we're caught up in the impossible game of trying to seem fun and ambitious and feminine and flirty...but not too flirty.
And to help us out, we're told to listen to relationship advice, as Demetria Lucas D'Oyley puts it, that comes from experts with "screwed-up views" about sex and gender, who tell women "how to be better women [so that they can] land a man."
Almost makes you want to not date, huh?
On top of all that, black women have to contend with some deep stereotypes about black men. LaDawn Black, an author and relationship expert, says that all women get the message that it's hard to find a good match. But she says black women who want to date black men "really get the message that he's not out there."
Some myths about black men, according to LaDawn Black: "He's not going to college. He's not interested in you because he's interested in dating women of other ethnicities. ... Or, he's just not available to you because maybe he's in jail, or just not healthy, or addicted."
Black says, "We get those messages all the time. And what has happened is that we as black women have started to internalize it, even though we look around and see that our girlfriends are getting married, even though we ... see happy families, we see people growing and thriving."
So let's take a look at some numbers. According to a 2015 Pew Research study, 75 percent of recently married black men were married to black women. In other words, black men who marry black women are the norm. And — contrary to popular belief — that percentage was even higher for college educated black men and those who earned more than $100,000 per year, according to some Howard University researchers who delved deeper into the statistics.
Nonetheless, people tend to notice interracial couples more than they notice same-race couples. So Natalie, when you walk into the club, your eyes probably zoom in on the black dude downing white wine spritzers with his Latina date. But the idea that all black men are passing up black women for everyone else is overstated, to say the least.
There's another stereotype about black men that's worth unpacking. Many people cite OKCupid findings from 2014 to underscore the idea that black women and Asian men have the worst outcomes among straight couples on dating sites. What they don't always add is that black men also face a "racial penalty" for being black. We've all heard the myth that black men have their pick of the pack when it comes to dating. But in fact, they're up against a whole host of setbacks of their own.
Of course, looking at those numbers doesn't tell the full story. Black men are still significantly more likely to marry someone of a different race than black women. (That 2015 Pew study found that 88 percent of black women were married to black men.)
Now, knowing all this data doesn't mean that next time you go out, the black man of your dreams is magically going to start chatting you up. So what do you do? LaDawn Black says that intentionality is your friend. So many people are hung up on the idea of a meet-cute — but she that's just not how love tends to go down anymore. It's something that people have to plan for, whether that means using a dating app, website, or putting the word out to friends and family members.
And Black has one last piece of advice for the lovelorn. "The big challenge I think that we as black women face is that we're ... socialized early on that you look for a good black man. Where black men or black boys are socialized to just look for a good woman. So if you're getting that message from birth, you're really looking for that. And he exists, he's out there, he's available to you. But what if he's a good Asian man? What if he's a good white man? What if he's a good Puerto Rican man? You're limiting your potential by not opening up yourself to dating someone who's different."
She adds, "As black women, we have to define love for ourselves. Don't be afraid to have non-traditional relationships. Don't be afraid to have a relationship that's different from your parents, that's different from your girlfriends. That's different from what TV and movies tell you your relationship should look like. You really have to get the love that fits you. Not the love that you've been sold may fit."
There you have it.
Good luck, Natalie. And happy Valentine's Day.