by Anthony Williams
After 26 years as a Black queer man and two separate 2.5-year relationships with white men, 2015 is the year I have decided to stop dating white men indefinitely.
While my personal decision not to date white men is the direct result of actually dating white men, the decision is rooted less in my experience with the individuals I dated and more in my experience with society.
We live in a white supremacist society that promotes a racialized and gendered hierarchy. So, as Black queer men, we have male privilege that largely provides us with protection from things like the gender-based violence women face every day. But despite our male privilege, the intersection of our Blackness and queerness exists in a society that privileges heterosexuality. And finally, we live in a world that provides white people with privilege while constantly affirming their whiteness at the cost of Blackness.
Living in an anti-Black world, it is easy to internalize these sentiments from a very young age and begin to hate different aspects of ourselves. Society tells us that ‘white is right,’ not just in terms of intellect, but also in terms of beauty and anything else you can think of. I was lucky enough to be raised by a pro-Black mother who affirmed the beauty and brilliance of my Blackness. But even so, the mainstream media still promotes Eurocentric beauty standards that we, in turn, accept as common sense. We live in a world where white women with voluptuous butts, baby hair, and cornrows are being praised while Black women and other women of color are routinely criticized and ridiculed for those same features or cultural staples.
Being gay meant feeling like I had no one left to talk to, so I turned to media and porn for examples because there were no public models of Black queer love. Mainstream media depictions of gay life like Will & Grace left out my narrative, yet I faithfully watched because it made me feel less alone. Porn, on the other hand, included Black men, but only as the trope of the ‘Black brute’ or ‘thug’ with the “Big Black Cock (BBC).” I remember wondering if I was a twink because of my small size or an otter because of my body hair, only later realizing that porn categorized me “Ebony.” This is symbolic of larger issues within the LGBTQ+ movement that ignores the intersectional identity of being a Black gay man.
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Hearing how I decry respectability politics and seek to dismantle white supremacy, many people wonder how I began dating white men in the first place. That question is fair because many of us face racism from the white gay community, and as someone who grew up in primarily white spaces, I am no exception. In fact, in the nine years I have been sexually active, I have had a whole host of negative experiences with white gay men that are specific to race, not just dating as a general concept. Most importantly, though, is a conversation I had with a friend when I was 19 and interested in the man who I later stayed with until I was 22. I asked: “he’s cute, do you think he’s into Black guys?”
“Do you think he’s into Black guys?”
That statement didn’t stem solely from insecurity or even modesty, but instead from the internalization of anti-Black sentiments I had heard my whole life. Outside of what the media told me, I had numerous personal experiences with backhanded compliments from “well meaning white people.” These racial microaggressions—which are anything but micro—included: “you’re cute for a Black guy” or “you’re different from other Black people,” and “I don’t even think of you as really Black.” These comments work on the basis that I am an exception to my race; a part of the talented tenth—or in this case, the attractive tenth—and one of the “good Blacks.” I am given white approval by transcending the stereotype of how a Black person looks or behaves, and that is simply wrong on a personal, political, and psychological level. I am a Black man whose accomplishments are shaped through, and by, my Blackness, not “despite” my Blackness.
At this point, the societal factors for not dating a white man become personal and political. Institutions and society work together to purposefully prevent white people from seeing their privilege. But even when they do acknowledge it, even when a white man is “woke,” he will never have the lived and embodied experience of a Black man. And after two attempts, this racial challenge makes a potential relationship too difficult and bears too few benefits to merit trying again. It’s pretty simple: a relationship is hard enough and becomes more difficult with racism, white supremacy, and white fragility.
This is not to say that racial compatibility solves all relationship problems; Black love is not without its many struggles because relationships inherently require work. But add in a Black-white racial component and the difficulty is taken to new heights. This doesn’t mean it isn’t possible, because clearly it works for some and many revolutionaries dated and maintained romantic relationships with white people. That being said, I personally have sometimes felt a justified, but unhealthy sense of paranoia in dating white men. If I am dating a white man, is he fetishizing or exoticizing me for my skin, lips, hair or penis? Have I not met his parents because of my race or just because of his own internalized homophobia? When his friend calls me “Malik or whatever,” will he let that slide? And finally, when I’m exhausted from the psychological toll of racial microaggressions, daily Black Death, and everyday life, do I have to educate him on the ways in which he is further dehumanizing me or invalidating my opinions? If so, I’m not interested. This also applies to non-Black people of color who aspire to whiteness or uphold white supremacist ideals.
So whether he is or isn’t into Black guys, I don’t think he’s for me, and I’m finally ok with admitting that.
Anthony Williams is a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow studying Sociology and minoring in Theatre & Performance Studies at UC Berkeley with research interests in Blackness, sexualities, and social movements. He is also a staff writer at the Afrikan Black Coalition and more of his work can be found at http://www.anthoknees.wordpress.com
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