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« This is your brain. This is your brain on hope. | Main | Mad Men: Q&A and the future of ad agency fashion »

July 29, 2008

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Suldog

This post makes me feel good. Thanks, Ryan!

I dated a black woman once. It was just one date. We just didn't hit it off. But I felt the stares - or, at least, I thought I did - when we walked into the restaurant together. Maybe it was me, maybe not.

My nephew's father is black. He (my nephew) is not quite three, so he doesn't see color at all. But, when the two families get together for a birthday or whatever, you can feel everybody just trying, really hard, to be extra-special nice to each other. It's a beautiful thing, but I wish it didn't have to be that way.

Wow. I could go on, talk about every racial experience in my life, but that would be boring in the extreme. Just, really, your post made me feel really, really good about things.

Suldog

So, can I call you? :-)

JUST KIDDING. HAPPILY MARRIED.

Hank Williams

Ryan,

I can appreciate your feelings and we all have a right to feel the way we do.

That said, I must say I cringe at hearing you attempt to justify not finding black men attractive because you feel we are too vocal. Just like I would really not like to hear a white person write on their blog that they are not attracted to blacks because their lips are too big or they, have kinky or wavy hair.

Just like you feel uncomfortable with a white person asking if they can touch your hair, some things should be thought and not said out loud.

Some things, even when said from the heart, do more damage than good, regardless of how cathartic they may feel. And so, somehow, that is my impression of this post. Despite I am sure good and pure intentions, it just sounds bad.

nikki

Hank,

It gets my goat when people say things like, "keep it to yourself;" or "some things are better not said;" or some such. I often wonder why "some things," like the fact that some Black men catcall at female black children, are taboo discussables. If you really feel this way, would you put yourself in the same camp as people who are averse to an honest to goodness, frank talk about race in this country? Hmm.

Nikki

Hank Williams

Nikki,

Some black men do bad things. Some white men do bad things. Some black women do bad things, some white women do bad things. But I would never say, for example, I don't date Jews because they are cheap. That is not a discussion about race or religion that moves anything forward. And saying that "black men do X" is something I personally find offensive as a black man who doesn't do that, and who has no black male friends who do that. And so I don't know if you are a black woman, but if you are, and I said, I don't like dating black women because they are angry, you probably would think that was offensive. Stereotypes used as a justification for dismissing an entire group are problematic. I understand that people have these feelings, and they don't at all make you bad. I also understand how you can't always help feeling them. But sometimes we must resist airing ideas when we know they are problematic and support caricatures and stereotypes. I am quite sure most black men Ryan has met black men don't cat call at her so, as a target of those words, I find them personally offensive. I don't want to be stereotyped in that way.

And yes, if relying on negative unfair stereotypes and airing them is me being against "openly discussing race" then put me in that camp. Interestingly Ryan is upset by the stereotyping of the black family on CNN (which is fair), but then defends her ethic perspectives using, in part, a different stereotype.

I just think its all bad. Whether CNN does it or Ryan does it.

Gee

I hated Black in America. I thought it did nothing more than perpuate the negative stereotypes of Black men. Thanks for your. I wrote a similar article the other day. Glad to see that i'm not the only one who feels this way

RyanB

Hey Hank –
First, let’s look at what I actually said for a minute:

“I was an early bloomer and I remember, at the age of 11, being very uncomfortable walking past large groups of Black men (well, male teenagers). They’d always yell things at me or whistle or walk next to me. Not saying all Black guys do this, but on the whole Black men are much more vocal with their flirtation, and when I was young I really didn’t know how to handle it. I think this informed my early proclivity for White boys.”

I think you missed “not all Black guys do this.” If you and your friends don’t do it, well then I’m not referring to you here.

Second, I’m wondering, have you ever been a woman? I’m guessing the answer is no. Most men have no idea what it’s like to be a woman, having guys whistle and taunt you on a daily (yes, DAILY) basis. From a young girl’s perspective, I’m sure you can only imagine how that might have informed her “early proclivity” for something else (which is what I said in my post).

Third, from a woman who’s been getting this for 14 years now, I can tell you that it comes from mostly construction workers, Italian men (like, from Italy, not Italian-American), Latino men and Black men. This post is about CNN’s Black in America, so I chose to discuss Black men, whose comments generally range from a “good afternoon, you look lovely” (which will make my day) to whistling me over like I’m their kitty cat.

And that is absolutely unacceptable.

It’s a real issue. I’m not the only female who goes through it. You say best not to discuss it. I say that’s a horrible option. We should discuss it more; along with the sexism spewed out by the rap industry that, I can only imagine, helps inform the sexism on the street. And I’d love to hear more from Black men like you and your friends who don’t engage in catcalling. Your perspective on the subject is vital.

But I digress. This post is about the CNN Special, not a gender war.

Best,
Ryan

Sidra

Hi -

This is my first time reading your blog, and while I agree CNN diatribe on being Black in America both pigeon holing and use less, I have to agree with Hank. I am a woman, who has dated both sides of the race. I date men, not catcalling boys, and while I agree that the Black men on a whole could step up "their game" sweeping statements like this "“I was an early bloomer and I remember, at the age of 11, being very uncomfortable walking past large groups of Black men (well, male teenagers). They’d always yell things at me or whistle or walk next to me. Not saying all Black guys do this, but on the whole Black men are much more vocal with their flirtation" are hurtful to the entire Black community. I have brothers, uncle’s cousins, and a father that have never done anything like that. Trust me I know. It leaves a negative connotation of the Black man, who as you may or may not know needs no more negativity slung his way. Ultimately - it hurts. And as a interracial women, its sickening. Furthermore, all men do it. I have been catcalled by Asian men. Men on a whole are aggressive. Again. Good job on CNN, lets give the brothers a break. WE all know no one else is.

Aisha

Ryan,

I completley understand where you are coming from. I too have dealt with unwanted sexual attention from men since the age of 11. And yes, 99% of the time it was/is from Black men.

Sorry to say, but there is a culture of sexual aggressiveness towards women within the Black community. Although it has not turned me completely off of Black men, I see how it could leave a negative taste in someone's mouth. I remember not being able to go to the local pool past 7th grade because of how the guys would act. And no, it wasn't just me. You didn't see too many Black girls past the age of 12 there period. Sexual harrassment is a lot to deal with at any age, but particularly when you are young.

It seems in your case that you realized you had other options early on. Of course your family relationships had a lot to do with that, as you mentioned. Perhaps if I had grown up around more interracial couples, it's something I might have considered earlier on.

I would just like to say that as a Black woman, I am very happy that you have found dating options that you are comfortable with. Keep doing you girl.

darryl

I hope black woman finally get what their looking for out of dating. Black men need not worry about losing something they’ve never had; a sister willing to try a different blueprint for relationship success in Black America? I am black man who’s dating out side my race and I would recommend any black woman to try it. It’s not such a bad thing. Don’t knock it until you try it. Beware; it’s only a cheap trick while dating, but the moment it becomes a relationship thing become quite different. I read many of the comments posted by black woman and many of them sound like first timers. Let’s hope his mother, sister, brothers and cousins welcomes you to the family reunion because he defiantly will not be attending yours. I wish the best for black woman.

Darryl

Mayra

You were in love in your 1st grade...!!!!! Great. Its a nice post. Thanks for sharing.

Chris

Nice post.

Erica

Why is it that CNN couldn't show a bw/wm couple that was happy? Why couldn't they show a couple who didn't regret their choice even though it was hard. There has to be at least one couple in the US like that! Why must the only bw/wm couple they feature be on the brink of divorce?

Erica

Why is it that CNN couldn't show a bw/wm couple that was happy? Why couldn't they show a couple who didn't regret their choice even though it was hard. There has to be at least one couple in the US like that! Why must the only bw/wm couple they feature be on the brink of divorce?

deva

I must say, I take Hank's part on your first reason for (exclusively?) preferring white men to black. The other explanations about the romanticization of your family situation seem more particular and personal and less based on stereotyping black men as aggressive. The fact that you experienced catcalling by some black teens in your youth doesn't really compute in terms of a reason why you don't find grown, sophisticated, non-cat-calling black men attractive. It may be that because of your family stories it seems to you that finding a black man who really loves black women is so rare as to be mythical and so you don't bother to go down that road, but even that is a strange generalization that unfairly stereotypes black men as a all one kind. The very same thing that you're complaining CNN does. I know you wrote the caveat that 'not all black men do this' but that is obviously a fact that does not play into your assessment of the attractiveness of black men as potential mates so, it rings completely hollow.

Hey, to each her own, but I wouldn't be blithe about throwing off the 'cat-called as a girl' explanation for your preference for white men. I mean, if you take that to it's most extreme and logical (though nonsensical conclusion) then one could point to such an experience for putting them off men completely, right? A kind of reactionary lesbianism. But that doesn't make much sense either.

You chose what you wanted to chose. I mean, I'm sure white men have done you wrong in your years of dating, but it hasn't made you label them negatively as a group and put you off them, right? To me, the interesting question then becomes, why not?

People often pick a group to blame or dislike or distrust for doing them wrong, but other folks who do them wrong outside those designated groups somehow escape getting labeled as a class of "bad people" they just get to be individually bad. That's a double standard worth noting, I think.

Tyler W

Well, I read your newer post about the reasons why women in your family like Obama, and first of all your answer (“I guess we just love men who really love Black women”) seems fair enough. I'm gay, and I like gay men more than straight men, in general. I don't mean I like all gay men more than all straight men but if we're talking about two perfect strangers, there's just something in me giving extra points to the homo - maybe because there's a flattering chance that they would be attracted to me. I don't know, but I feel like that goes hand in hand with what you said about you loving men who love black women. You like them because they will probably like you.

As far as your attraction to white men, well don't let anyone act like this somehow makes you some kind of bigot.

Like you said, it's something that you think started when you were a child. Everyone saying that this doesn't excuse your feelings now because white men must have hurt you somewhere along the way too - I don't think they are getting the point.

Children are impressionable. Things that happen to a child, even smaller discomforts like being pestered by a group of teenage boys, stay with a person. And kids start making generalizations without realizing that it's a bad thing. The vastness and diversity of the world aren't easy for someone that young to grasp. They aren't easy for anyone to grasp. Generalizations are easy. Everyone makes them.

And like you said, you didn't have a black dad. You got a lot of exposure to black males being disrespectful and the white males in your family caring and loving for you and everyone around you.

Ask yourself this, maybe: If a black man who was kind, attractive, and just overall desirable expressed a lot of interest in dating you (while you were single, of course), would you say no?

If you think you would, then if this ever happens the best thing would be just to think about why you're saying no and probably to give it a chance.

If this never happens, then don't beat yourself up because you never actively sought to date a black man.

Benjamin Jancewicz

Ryan,

I am saddened by all the negative comments on here. I thought your post was on point.
I liked this line especially:

"They will both have to answer questions and endure the 2-seconds-too-long glance from virtually everyone they pass. But they’re both willing to answer the questions and stare back. Together. There’s something absolutely beautiful about that."

I agree wholeheartedly. My wife is African American and I'm European American (though I am bicultural, but that's another story... we still get the looks). You hit in on the head.

What's interesting to me the typical reactions from both sides.
To an African American man, the relationship is evidence of perpetuation.
To an African American woman, the relationship is a reflection on the woman's lack of African Americaness.
To a European American man, the relationship is evidence of inherent jungle fever.
To a European American woman, the relationship is viewed as a fling and won't last.

Makes me a little sick...

Mikki

Hi Ryan,
While I certainly understand that you may have been negatively affected, at a young age, by the catcalls of brothas, and it may have scared you about what "some Black men" are like,one cannot generalize about the whole race.
I truly believe there are many variables involved in one's level of comfortability or the lack thereof, in interracial dating. I encourage you to be happy and at peace within yourself, in any romantic relationship you share in, but I also encourage you to be open and experience new people, cultures, as you go through life.
I am a sistah, whose heart flutters every time I bear witness to the love expressed, or "that certain look" that Barack Obama gives "his best friend; the love of his life", Michelle Obama-hoping and praying, that some day, a brotha would share with me, that glorious thang called love! Ryan, it does exist.

PUA

It seems any discussion of this topic is walking on egg shells. This thread is evidence of that.

Free Phone Chat line

It really do not matter if your are black or white. I believe that attraction comes deeper than that, within the person.

Free Phone Chats

Very true. Love is never meant to be limited to race, gender or age. It is a feeling and once you felt it then you have to be prepared because it is just about the most wonderful adventure to happen in your life. Hats up to you! Really nice!

-xo

Latino Dating

This blog is very interesting, I completely agree with you!

Let Love be no limits!

seeker

The whole 'star crossed lover' thing makes me kind of uncomfortable.

I'm a black woman who had many interracial relationships before happening to end up with a black man.

My boyfriend doesn't cat call. He isn't loud and obnoxious. He's a unique human being and we have our own challenges as a couple that, I guess by your definition, would make us 'star crossed lovers'.

I get really uncomfortable when interracial relationships are fetishized (to steal a word from racialicious.com) and perceived as 'extra [insert adjective here]'

extra romantic
extra special
extra beautiful (cosmetically and otherwise)

It's a point of view that automatically elevates interracial relationships, and the relationships that get de-elevated aren't the white-on-white or the latino-on-latino.

It's the black-on-black that are viewed as plain/regular/boring/xenophobic in comparison to mixed couples.

Relationships aren't about color. They're about content. Every relationship has aspects of it that make it romantic (for interracial couples that may be the color distance... for my boyfriend and I it is him loving me through my insecurities and anxieties).

I just am so uncomfortable with the way America talks about race, color and interraciality. And though I respect your honesty, this post really doesn't help things.

Jermaince

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Olderbutwiser

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Interracial Dating

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