This is an article I wrote for AfroCaribe magazine to be published in their August 2013 issue. I want to share it here because it pretty much encapsulates why we exist, even while certain folks wish like hell we’d just spontaneously combust.
Christelyn D. Karazin
When I married my husband 11 years ago, I gave little thought about how what I was doing might have an impact on anyone else. After all, I was just a girl, who met a guy and it was off together into the sunset we went. Of course I had some needling worries still in the back of my mind–not if I’d married the right one, never that–but what we might encounter from outsiders because of our racial differences. While you see it more now than ever, you’d be surprised how rare it was to see a black women and a white man a little over a decade ago. But something interesting had happened–I got questioned by other single black women about how I met my husband, what it was like to meet his parents and what did they think of me, and more often than not, those ladies wondering if my guy had a brother! Many of them were kept in rapt fascination, because the world and relationship I described seemed so far away from them. A small part of me understood this, because black American women are regularly discouraged from dating interracially, particularly dating white men.
Black women who express such interest might be scoffed at and ridiculed, told that their behavior is somehow betraying their race, and that the our female slave ancestors who had been raped by their masters would flip in their graves to see such a thing. In my work, I have even heard people say that black women who date white men suffer from mental disease, and that if they perceived a shortage in black men, then perhaps they should consider visiting and getting to know men in prison. Prison!! Others won’t go so far, but will insist that black women go through every available black man they know, pursue every possible angle to meet one and mate with one before they should ever consider dating out. With all of that guilt and restrictions it’s no wonder many of my girlfriends regarded my marriage with such fascination.
What struck me as most disturbing was that these “concerned individuals” didn’t seem to put much criteria upon the character of the black man, simply that he should be black was sufficient. Somehow melanin content superseded any other tangible qualities like intelligence, education, career aspirations, or the ability to provide and protect a wife and family. Educated and successful black women are regularly told that their standards are too high, and that their degrees won’t keep them warm at night. We see movies depicting high-powered women encouraged to pair up with mechanics, day laborers and misunderstood felons. The message in those stories is that if black women dig deep and not be so prissy about it, they just might find that “good black man” with a heart of gold, if not a bit poor and non-degreed. Ironically, black men on the same level of education and money-making potential as black women often do not limit themselves to coupling within their race. They happily entertain all their options, and marry interracially twice as often as black women do.
I saw so many of my fellow African American sisters truly desiring committed partners in marriage and intact homes for their children, despite the astronomical reality that 72% of black American children are born out of wedlock. For a variety of reasons, “our men” weren’t marrying us like they used to and the problem has now become entrenched and normalized in our culture. But what about the women who want marriage before family like most women of other races? Should they search under every rock, crevice, university, and (God forbid) jail to find their black man so that everyone else will be happy? I don’t think so. There might be a shortage of black, marriageable men, but once black women open their dating pool to include all men, all of a sudden that shortage becomes a surplus. It is a simple message, but it needed to be said explicitly because some black women feel like they need permission to swirl. That was how “Swirling: How to Date, Mate and Relate, Mixing Race, Culture and Creed” was born. Both of us seasoned writers, my co-author, Janice Roshalle Littlejohn and I went to work writing the first handbook on how to navigate the ups and downs and ins and outs of interracial relationships from a black woman’s perspective.
Then the letters rolled in…dozens of black women writing about how my story and the other stories in “Swirling” and on my blog, Beyond Black & White, inspired them to take the risk and find their happy-ever-after in whatever package it came in. Here’s one of them:
I LOVE your blog. I remember when I stumbled across it & it was so awesome to finally find a community of like-minded women! I just got engaged to my boyfriend, Henry, on Saturday after my birthday dinner. We met in medical school at Brown and we’re currently doing our residencies (I’m in Boston doing internal medicine & he’s in Philadelphia doing emergency medicine). I’ll be moving to Philly in June to join him! Your blog is wonderful because it doesn’t mince words — we black women are just as beautiful & deserving of being treated like queens as any other women. I’ve heard it all, that I’m uppity and don’t know my place because I’m not interested in DBR brothas hollering at me on the street. I know my worth, and I love that your blog empowers women to embrace their options and choose the best for themselves. Anyway, I know you sometimes post when people get engaged, and I was hoping you’d consider sharing our story. Keep fighting the good fight!!
If there is a key benefit for interracial marriage for black women, I would have to say it would be in having a certain level of empowerment knowing that you have a tremendous bounty of choices for quality men. With proper vetting and living and breathing the mantra “character above color,” every black woman can find her prince in whatever shade of melanin that may be.