My husband and I are African-American professionals with two grown kids. We raised our children to be proud of their heritage and imbued them with the history of blacks in America and the Civil Rights Movement. Both children have earned college degrees and while our daughter is in law school, our son (32) has become a very successful entrepreneur.
The problem is my son has been dating a white woman for a year and now plans to propose to her. He has dated both African-American and white women for years but seems to prefer whites. His father and I are not happy about this. We are not racist and in fact many of our friends are white and from other races, but we feel strongly that our son should marry within his culture.
I’m curious what your perspective is and whether you think there is anything we can do to encourage him to reconsider. Go ahead, hit me with your best shot!
Dear Worried Mom:
I too am worried, because you are unaware of what the real problem is in your family: your daughter is in law school. You have my deepest condolences.
I tittered with excitement when I received your email, because in the almost year-long history of this blog I don’t think I’ve had any questions on this subject. Today I become an expert on interracial marriage, which will widen my appeal and makes my radio show even more imminent!
Also, I get to help you, which I suppose is good too.
If I had received your letter from a white woman with all the same details except her daughter/son was marrying a black man/woman, today’s blog would be very simple. I’d accuse you of being a cultural neanderthal stuck in the past and in denial about her own racist nature.
I’d instruct you to remove your melon from your posterior and embrace the marriage, especially because Halfrican American children are the cutest kids around and they have advantages for getting into college, which given your apparent level of ignorance they may need if your DNA is strong.
Finally, I’d lecture you about how hard people fought to end the ban on interracial marriage and ridicule you for trotting out the tired but still popular “many of my friends are black” routine in an attempt to camouflage your prejudicial nature. Since any good diatribe requires a visual, I’d end with this:
However, I knew when I read your letter that I needed to consult with a real, live black woman (she does not care for the “African-American” label) so I could understand your concerns before I wrote my advice. I may be extraordinarily tan, but as a white woman living in a white neighborhood in a very white city, I can’t really relate. It was time to call in an expert!
I talked with my real, live black friend at length last night, and she shed some light on what many in her community see as a pressing problem: when their men become successful, they pair with white women and eschew those ladies with a more ample supply of melanin.
With the exception of our president, almost every highly-visible and successful black American celebrity tends to prefer non-black women. I’ll name just a few: Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte, Tiki Barber, Kanye West, Reggie Bush (and every other dude with whom Kim or Khloe Kardashian has ever made sweet tender love), Ice-T, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, John Legend, Charles Barkley, Sidney Poitier, James Earl Jones, Tiger Woods before he got caught driving on the wrong holes, etc.
It would seem that white women are coveted as a prize by black men and a symbol of what the pinnacle of success looks like. I imagine that women in the black community find this extremely irksome, because not only is this a hurtful rejection of black women as a whole, in the more practical sense it shrinks the dating pool for single women of color.
I can also understand why your son’s propensity towards swirling his yogurt rather than just going for chocolate is a personal affront to you. As his mom, you were the first woman your son ever loved and his choice of white women could be interpreted as a rejection of you, but I wouldn’t take it that way…I’m certainly not going to be offended if my son doesn’t marry an opinionated unibrow’d boozy woman with questionable judgment and a nonfunctioning filter between the brain and the keyboard/mouth.
It’s not surprising that white women hold the top spot when it comes to being coveted by men of all races, because we live in a society in which ladies who look like me (and by that I obviously mean white – I’m not an idiot and I do own a mirror) dominate the media and color (ha!) our perception of beauty at a very young age.
For every Iman and Halle Berry and Kerry Washington there are hundreds of beautiful white women in movies, on television, online and in print. Women of color are pretty screwed.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any advice that can overcome the enormous cultural paradigm that troubles you. As I’ve noted before, I’m good, but I’m not THAT good. We love who we love, and some of us make partner choices that confound others.
In my case, I married a man several years older than me and I cannot imagine my life without him. I know that choice raised some eyebrows around town and I was warned all about an early widowhood by one woman in a fantastically unhappy marriage to a man her own age. Little does she know I’ve made a plan to steal her husband once Mr. Patience and Understanding shuffles off this mortal coil…
My point, and I do have one, is that there is nothing you can do or say that will dissuade your son from proposing marriage to his beloved yet painfully pale paramour. Take that love you have for your son and channel it into being supportive and strong for him, because even in this modern day interracial marriages have it rough. White wife/black husband marriages are twice as likely to divorce by year ten than their vanilla counterparts. Good news for you, you bigoted little hussy, bad news for your kid.
If you feel you must let your voice be heard on this subject, direct your son to the 2008 study on interracial marriage done by Jennifer Bratter and Rosalind King. I won’t link to it because I don’t want to make it easier for you to upset him, and I do believe he will be upset if you choose to express negative views about his choice of wife.
Don’t spoil this happy time for your son. Be strong, be loving and look at the bright side that bears repeating: really cute grandkids!