Women's Dilemmas in Black/White Relationships

This is out of the Rachel’s Tavern archive. It is one of the Snippets from my Dissertation. Keep in mind all of these posts are snippets of a much larger piece of work, so feel free to add to things, ask questions or give critiques. I’d love to hear feedback from people. In my dissertation, I focused on family approval of Black/White interracial relationships. The data is based on 39 interviews with people in interracial relationships (conducted individually) and 5 interviews with the relatives of some of these couples, so this is where most of the focus will be.

My research is most concerned with how contemporary racism…also called colorblind racism or laissez faire racism…affects family approval of interracial relationships. However, we cannot understand how contemporary racism works without acknowledging the extent to which racism is interconnected with other forms of oppression. Multiracial feminist theorist Patricia Hill Collins refers to these complex connections as the matrix of domination. After interviewing couples it is evident that opposition to interracial marriage is not just about racism. The issues of gender and controlling Black women’s, White women’s, and Black men’s sexuality is ever present in the discourses that families use to oppose interracial relationships. One of the most obvious ways gender and race work together to affect interracial relationships is in the likelihood of intermarrying. Currently about 70% of Black/White marriages are between Black men and White women, which contrasts with the early half of the 1900s when most Black White marriages were between Black women and White men. Below I have highlighted a few of the primary issues facing Black women and White women in interracial relationships.

5 Dilemmas Facing Black Women in IRs
1) Of particular relevance in my interviews are controlling images of Black women’s beauty and sexuality. Many Black women married to White men worried that the stereotypes of Black women as sexually promiscuous would affect how their White partners’ families viewed them, and in some cases it very clearly had a negative impact on a White family’s willingness to accept interracial relationships. Black women also worried that the greater value attached to White women’s fair skin and straight hair put them at a disadvantage in the marriage market with both Black men and White men. There was often an underlying worry that even though they were partnered their choices to date or marry Black men and White men were much more limited.

2&3) The other two controlling images that shaped the experiences of the Black women I interviewed were the belief that Black women are domineering “bitches” and “gold diggers.” Many Black women in interracial relationships felt pressure to carefully monitor their behavior, so they didn’t come off as “the typical Black bitch who doesn’t know her place.” The idea that Black women who marry White men do it for money was also mentioned as a common concern. This affected both how they dealt with their family members and those of their spouses.

4) Family approval of interracial relationships is most likely lower for Black women than it is for Black men. Black women’s families had more objections to interracial relationships than their Black male counterparts. Many relatives of Black women (especially male relatives) tried to “protect their daughters/sisters/cousins from White men” who they felt would sexually exploit Black women. Given the history of White male sexual violence against Black women this is not surprising. However, family opposition also has the affect of denying Black women’s agency because their judgment is held up to much more scrutiny than Black men in interracial relationships.

5) Black women who entered interracial relationships also worried about being alone, a phenomnon facing many Black women today. Since the gender ratio of African Americans is imabalanced, many Black women saw White men as a “whole new world of men” who they could date and marry. Considering White men was a way for some Black women to keep from being alone.

5 Dilemmas Facing White Women in IRs

1)When it comes to Black/White interracial relationships my research indicates, that White women face the most family opposition of all of the race/gender groups. The tactics used to show opposition in White women’s families are often more extreme. They appear to be the group most likely to be disowned or disinvited when they enter interracial relationships.

2) Many White women indicate that their relatives feel Black men were sexually aggressive, threatening, and irresponsible. When White families opposed White women’s interracial relationships, they often felt that they were protecting White women from Black men and from White women’s own naivety or passivity.

3) Unlike Black women who are stereotyped as “bitchy” and “aggressive,” White women are stereotyped as naïve, passive, and weak. This controlling image of White women affects how White women’s relatives and their Black male partners’ relatives view their relationships. Many White women’s relatives felt the need to intervene because they think White women are too naïve to know what they are getting themselves into and too weak to defend themselves. Their Black partners’ relatives worry that White women will be too weak to defend their partners or their biracial children against racism, and they worry that Black men have chosen these White women because they are looking for a women who will tolerate a subservient position, something many Black families think Black women will not do.

4) White women’s families not only question Black men’s sexuality, but they also question the sexuality of White women who enter interracial relationships. Even though White women overall may be held up as the epitome of beauty and sexual attractiveness, White women who had relationships with Black men were not viewed in this way. The most common notion is that White women who have relationships with Black men are sexually loose or tainted.

5) Some White women’s families worry that an interracial relationship would make them less attractive to White men after they were “left all alone” by Black men. Implicit in this belief is that White women’s interracial relationships won’t last, and when they do end, White women won’t be able to find anyone to date or marry.

I have much more I can add. I guess it will be out in a book someday, but I think this can be a jumping off point…. What do you think are some of the dilemmas women in interracial relationships face?

This entry posted in Families structures, divorce, etc, Feminism, sexism, etc, Race, racism and related issues, Whatever. Bookmark the permalink. 

107 Responses to Women's Dilemmas in Black/White Relationships

  1. 101
    Waheedah says:

    There are a lot of truths to this article. And this is my story of dating a white man for over 10 1/2 years. I deeply fell in love with him because he was gentle, understanding, a gentlemen, and he helped me to overcome my fear of allowing myself to get close to a man. I’ve been in at least 5 including this relationships. And he by far has been the love of my life. We broke up approx. 3 years ago. I noticed he started putting distance between us when he out of weakness he allowed a white so-called male friend to put negative ideas in his head. He would start telling me what his friend would say (racial slurs), and would tell me he isn’t communicating with him bacause of his remarks. But they continue their relationship. His friend was married and had two teen age children. My friend would tell me things like his friend is prejedice, then I noticed my friend would start making some-what jokes about the black race. I notice when we were out on the town depending on where we went if it was up-scaled, he would sometimes try to act like he wasn’t with me, or he would try to pick a fight with me. I was deeply hurt and often questioned his motives with him. He always spoke in denial of his actions. I later realized in order to salvage my sanity and dignity, I went back to the lord and asked for forgiveness, and the lord gave me strenth to overcome this hurtful pain.

    Since then I have been afraid of dating white men. On the other hand where I live and the church I attend, black men are dating and marrying white women in large numbers. I consider myself to be an attractive Africian American woman, but the white men only look and most of the black men have an attitude even if I say Hi to them. Most of the inter-racial relationships I have noticed is that most of the white women blace men are with are not as nearly as attractive as the single black women I see in our church and neighborhood, however the Asians and Mexicans that black men either marry or hook up with are attractive women. I also noticed that a small majority of black men who are with white woman are to say the least are very unattractive men, I would say men that perhaps would have a hard time dating attractive black women. Could this perhaps mean that black women are more selective in the area of looks vs. perhaps quality in a man than white women.

    Or, maybe I’m just shallow in this area. I would like to know what you think of my story.


  2. 102
    Jen says:

    I am a white woman in a relationship with a black man. We are 27 and 28. I think it is hard when dealing with older family members. Although we must remember they grew up in a different time. Our younger family members being all for it, at times being able to loosely make jokes and have fun with it when the issue comes up. Our parents, his parents not caring at all, my father being a bit reserved. And my grandmother, well, that’s a whole other story. Her lack of exposure and upbringing being a huge factor. Although she has been kept out of the loop due to distance and the relationship being relatively new.

    Anyway, I do not see why the discussion of interracial relationships always veers off to color and cultural differences. What if I said I liked the color of my man’s skin and thought it’s sexy just as if most men prefer big breasts? In the same way people find small sometimes insignificant things as an attractive quality, some people can add skin color to a list of ‘turn-ons’. If a man likes a woman with a small waist, does this ever bring up an argument that he is prejudiced against bigger women? It’s just what he likes. My man’s skin color can be added to all the other things I love about him: the fact that he’s 6’4″, the fact that he’s one of the sweetest men I’ve ever met….it’s just another fact about someone sometimes.

    So in a funny way, I guess it is a little bit about skin color for me, but not in the bad kind of way. If that makes sense. And I think all the assumptions about what kind of, or how much of an attractive white/black woman/man it takes to date the other race, is ridiculous. I see ugly white couples everyday. I see ugly black couples everyday. I see attractive couples of both races everyday just as I see ugly or attractive interracial couples all the time. Why would anyone think that it takes an unattractive black man to date a white woman? Are you serious? Maybe my HOT black man just finds white skin a turn on as I find black skin. Can’t it stop there?

  3. 103
    Kenisha says:

    I am a young beautiful succesful Black woman in a relationship with a White man. I understand the most people make a lot of assumptions as to why I am with him or why he is with me. They think that he must see me as some type of “exotic sexual object” and I must see him as “money”. These assumptions are ridiculous. I am with him because I enjoy his company. I am free to be myself and I do not feel that I am held to the standards of what shallow men see on TV. Why do people think when a black woman and white man are dating that one of the two must be desperate or in it for any other reason besides the fact that they genuinely love one another? If I were dating someone Latino there would be no dirty looks. It’s as if the realationship of a black woman and white man is forbidden. We are all humans.
    Honestly, I feel that more Black women should become open-minded because it is correct that there is a shortage of Black men and one may miss out on their soul mate simply because he is not of the same race. It is silly. I must admit when my fiance and I first starting dating I was very uncomfortable and hated the looks we received from White women and Black men (how funny the two races that are known for dating outside their race). Now I just give him a kiss or hug him because I do not care what others think. I saw an old friend at the mall once and he commented that he was upset he heard I was dating a white guy and that the white men were trying to take all the fine successful black women. I simply said it is not about black or white. He came along at a time that I was single and I told myself why not and we have been together ever since.

  4. 104
    Sam says:

    I am a white female in a relationship with a black male. Since about the time I found boys interesting I have never had interest in many white males. Just as Jen said, I find darker skin quite attractive. Me being a full figured female, black males find that attractive. White males are very picky about the size of their women. They like tiny girls, for the most part, where black males like weight on their women or atleast a thick woman! My boyfriend and I have been together for 3 years. We are 18 and 19. There are a lot of black females that do not like this because us white women are “takin all their men”. I don’t look at relationships in a racial way. Everyone has their preference on what THEY like. My boyfriend and I grew up together and we’ve definitely had our ups and downs, but in a lot of interracial relationships, when there is an argument, race is brung into it. We do not scoop to that level because I don’t look at him like hes black and he doesn’t look at me like I’m white. We look at eachother like human beings. Just because you get mad, doesn’t mean you bring race into it. His mom didn’t agree with him or his brother dating white women, but both of them are dating white women. I go over to his house a lot, and now she is more accepting and loves me and asks about me a lot. One of her concerns with her boys dating white women was the parents. We live in the south and a lot of families still are racist. My family is not. And thats one thing she learned and began to accept me. We are very much in love and plan to have a great future together!

  5. 105
    Adrienne says:

    Icome from an interracial family (father black and mother white). Just recently, my mother and I had a huge argument when I told her I identify myself as black, not white. In regards to preference, I do find black men more attractive, and have always dated black men for that reason. That’s not to say I dont find white men attractive either and have dates some of them as well. I am in a relationship with a white man. I was just recently married (yay!) and I have not had any opposition from my immediate family. For my husband, this is the first interracial relationship he has had; although his family is always very nice to me, it’s obvious they do not approve, and would prefer he be with a white woman. The first time I was going to meet his extended family his mother took me aside, and told me that not everyone in their family was “as tolerant” as they were and I should prepare myself to deal with racism (FYI no one said/did anything). This is despite the fact that he is not the first in his family to be in an interracial relationship. I am currently finishing my degree and will be starting a graduate program soon. Although we live in an area with a large population of blacks, most of the men are uneducated (meaning they do not have a high school diploma) and/or are dating women of another race. Before we decided to get married, my husband and I had a number of long conversations about race, and what it means to be a black women in an interracial relationship and what it was like for me growing up as an interracial child. We also discussed at length some the problems I have encountered in past relationships with white men. For example, a previous man I was dating suddenly started to listen to hard-core rap and sagging his jeans (two things I never really cared for), or a date I had went on with a white man who was claiming to be in a gang and doing drugs (again two things I dont want to be involved with). There was also a white man whom I really enjoyed his company, but the relationship never went anywhere because he was overly sensitive to our status as an interracial couple, and walked around on egg shells to avoid saying anything that would call attention to the race issue (he voted for Obama because he thought he was “siding with me and didnt want it to be an issue”). I guess all I am saying is that racism IS still out there, and as long as we are strong enough mentally, emotionally and spiritually that our relationship will withstand any attack against our love for one another.

  6. 106
    Rich says:

    The only dilemma a black woman in an interracial relationship faces is vetting her partner and his background to make sure they can stand together and face the challenges life will bring. It is that, and self acceptance. If you love the guy and there is a knowledge gap, work together to fill it and create mutual understanding. This is the fundamental challenge faced in same race relationships, and love is a team sport. Anything less than the right person opens the Pandora’s box of doubt and dysfunction and drives us to look at things through the prism of race. If you accept yourself and see beyond that from the outset, an interracial relationship should differ from no other.

    Sincere love from a good man (regardless of race) gives one the strength to overcome whatever obstacles present themselves. People with strong, mature, and aware minds break free of media and historical presentation of counterproductive points of view, and define reality based on the strength and sincerity of their commitment and the purity of their intentions, not what other people may think of their union.

    From my experience and observation in multiracial families and relationships, once someone has proven their commitment acceptance follows (time of acceptance isn’t the same, but it comes eventually). Relationships are really individual things, and I never underestimate the power of the individual to influence their relationshps, and the views of the people around them.

  7. 107
    Michael says:

    I Know this is a blog for a woman’s point of view but I need help. I am a Black man in a relationship with a White women and I care for her a lot. I can really notice the difference between being with her and my past lovers, all of which were black, but I believe I am mature enough no attribute that difference to cultural differences not skin color. The biggest problem we face today is one that I believe I am most responsible for. While watching T.V. or just talking casually, an issue would arise where I would feel like she just didn’t understand my point of view on a lot of issues. She quickly dismisses my assertions that she is being insensitive, then she refuses to continue the conversation which makes me feel disrespected.
    I feel as though I should not care whether or not she understands what many Black people have faced or are still facing. Its like I am expecting her to listen just because I want to inform her. It really bothers me and I don’t know how to approach the situation other than not having the conversations at all. I really care about her but I feel like our cultural differences or lack of respect for each others history are going to lead to our demise. I mean, I don’t dwell on the past or get upset when I see an old movie about slavery but it does bother me when my mate acts like it does not even matter. Maybe I should let it go….?