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 naÃ¯ve, 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 naÃ¯ve 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?