By Kellina Craig-Henderson, author of Black Women in Interracial Relationships: In Search of Love and Solace
I have always been interested in the factors that influence how and why people get along with others. But, my interest in interracial relationships hadnâ€™t really coalesced until a number of years ago when I learned that an African American man who worked in my organization had said that he was not interested in making a “love connection” with any African American woman because he “had nothing in common with Black women.” These were his words, and to add insult to injury, he followed this remark with a proposition for a date to a mutual friend who happened to be a White woman.
My reactions at that time ranged from sheer bafflement to anger to quiet disregard. I did not understand how a person could dismiss an entire demographic of people who no doubt looked a lot like his own mother, sisters, aunties or nanas. He was highly educated, of Caribbean descent and had features that shouted his African ancestry.
I donâ€™t know what’s become of him now, but I do know that he spurred me to systematically tackle some of the difficult issues and realities that characterize interracial intimacy (see my 2006 book Black Men in Interracial Relationships: What’s Love Got to Do With It?). I have him to thank for my continued research on this subject.
In recent years, I have focused on understanding when, why and how people – primarily African Americans – become involved in intimate heterosexual relationships. My forthcoming book, Black Women in Interracial Relationships: In Search of Love and Solace (Sept/Oct 2010) looks closely at the experiences of a group of African American women who have each made the decision to be intimately involved with men who are not Black. Most of the women I spoke with were married to White men. Although the women described unique circumstances and experiences leading up to their own relationships, all of them shared an awareness of certain realities that to varying degrees were related to their decision.
What were some of those realities? Perhaps the most obvious reality concerns the dismal prospects many of them reported facing relative to Black men. That is, there were few available African American men that they considered to be worthwhile potential partners. To be frank, the pickings and prospects were slim! This is a reflection of the disparity between Black men and women on certain key variables that when taken together reveal stark differences in quality of life and life expectancies. There are more African American women than men who have made educational and occupational gains, for example. The reasons for this are complex and speak to the continuing presence of anti-Black sentiment in this society, among other things. Yes – I said the continuing reality of anti-Black sentiment in this society. I know this may not sit well with some who believe that “Obama in the White House = absence of anti-Black sentiment,” but when one carefully considers how Black folks as a group are faring on a host of quality of life indices, it is very hard to argue that race no longer matters.
Another reality that influenced the choices made by the women I was fortunate enough to speak with concerned the need to have to play games with the rare Black man who came with the total package (i.e., he was comparably educated and employed). True, the mating game generally requires that one be willing to play, but it does not require dishonesty or reckless dalliances with others. This obviously takes on particular importance for those who are interested in monogamous relationships. Some of the women described painful experiences they had had with African American men who were so-called “great catches” that revealed that they really werenâ€™t so great after all. In fact, when these Black men consciously took advantage of the numbers by dating 3 or 4 or 5 different women at any one time they were downright detestable!
Having spent some time reading the posts from a number of different forums discussing IR, I see now that the trends I discuss in my new book have opened the door to others who may not have previously considered any of the issues I’ve raised here. As one woman whose post I read recently put it: “Hell, I’m curious, I want to try it too.” Interestingly, that was not a motive I recall hearing from any of the women I interviewed in my book. I suspect that may be because curiosity is not enough to sustain a long-term relationship or marriage like the kind that many of the women I spoke to reported having.