The black man occupies a unique space in American culture.  He is an aggressive and inherently violent threat to society.   Both insatiable and lazy, he is creator of chaos and maker of his own inevitable demise; he is forever guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  He does not feel pain, or remorse, or empathy.  As angry and volatile as their female counterparts, black men, by their very presence, give society reason to assume the defensive.  He is simultaneously invisible and ever present in the minds and lives of white America.  A non-citizen, he holds no right to self-defense.    

Debased, filthy and unworthy, black men, we are told, are sexual deviants incapable of either desiring or maintaining healthy, meaningful relationships. 

In fact, at a recent fellowship dinner at Columbia Law School, a wealthy, white businessman told me that the biggest business problem occurring in America is the inability of black women to find [black] husbands.  He declared that this travesty is rooted in the black man’s inability to commit, not just to a woman, but also to a job.  Upon picking my jaw off the floor, I concluded three important things: (1) my supposedly personal decisions regarding who I choose to fuck or date or marry are very much political, (2) so long as I date black men, I will carry their burden, and (3) while my decision to primarily date black men is a conscious one, it is not necessarily simple. 

As a racially ambiguous woman, I have the privilege of changing the way society receives me at my discretion.  Sometimes I am black, other times I am Indian or Latina, or I may be French, or just a white girl who tans a bit too much.  Sometimes I am intimidating or a race-baiting Angry Black Woman, but I can just as easily morph into innocent and approachable.  Over time I’ve found that the easiest way to change my ethnicity – change the way people treat me – is to change my company.  And the company that most defines us is, in fact, our choice in a mate.  When I choose to date a black man, I inevitably send a message to society about who I am and what I represent.  When I choose to date a black man, I choose to be ignored at bars, barred from clubs, humiliated by groups of drunken white men, or passed over by taxis.  I choose to internalize their experiences of undervaluation, passed over promotions and emasculation.  I choose to carry the burden of [dating] black men, and I choose it often; 90% of the men I’ve dated are black.      

One night, a date and I decided to hit a local New Jersey bar.  As we approached the secured entrance, a white couple was also entering, walking only steps behind us.  Before we could hand over our I.Ds, the white security guard informed us that we could not enter, as my date was violating the dress code; mere seconds later the white couple reached the door and was promptly let in – with the guy outfitted in the same ensemble.  We stood there gazing at one another, he obviously embarrassed, pondering the same silent question; should I say something or just take this as a loss and walk back to the car?  If you’ve never been in a situation where you are singled out and denied access to a space because of your race and then forced to decide what action will allow you to leave with a bit of dignity, let me tell you, it is always painful and humiliating.  But, perhaps more shameful than being publically passed over is thinking that just maybe your life would be easier – better even – if you were dating a white man.  While I was angry with the security guard and the establishment, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a tinge of regret at that moment for being with a black man or a hint of frustration at the very man who was just victimized and dismissed.  I knew that the Access Denied Pass did not extend to me – when I was in the “right” company, so shame on me for surrounding myself with such company, right? Shame on me is right.

I still remember how I felt when I first dated a white man. I was welcomed into any space and important; we didn’t need to dress a certain way to prove our membership.  Respectability politics were a non-factor.  The burden had been lifted; we wouldn’t get turned away at the door, in fact, we always skipped the line.  The ease with which this white man navigated the public sphere was simply amazing and I wanted that.  Dating was just easier.  Life was just easier.  I implicitly signaled to whites that I was mainstream, that I shared their middle-class values, that I was civilized – that I wasn’t angry, but safe and approachable.  I felt safe and free and privileged.  I realized I could choose whether or not my sons looked like Trayvon Martin, or my daughters like Marissa Alexander.

But I also felt like an outsider.  The ease I was afforded became mitigated by the fact that my otherness amplified in increasingly white situations; while part of self-identification lies in perception, a portion rests in reality.  No matter how I modified my company, as a conscious black woman, I knew I was different and could not shake that suspicion of being exoticized by white men; I could never fully trust these relationships were real because at the end of the day I was still black.  I was not raised a sheltered, “white washed” black woman, and so the permanence of being black, with all its burdens, was always more important to me than temporary ease of access – but that privilege afforded by my complexion was not so easy to ignore.

The feelings I experienced that fateful night at the bar, and admittedly many times thereafter, now evoke the wise words of Malcolm X: “If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”  Unpacking privilege and sorting through the complexities of racial and sexual politics as a bi-racial woman in white America can be a high task.  Accepting that my seemingly personal decisions regarding who will occupy my company or my body, is a high task.  But, choosing to date black men when somewhat more privileged unions are possible is, for me, the unequivocally more perfect union, and regardless of how “taxing” carrying the burden of dating black men can be, I wholeheartedly accept it.     

This piece originally appeared on For Harriet.

Bea Hinton is an intersectional activist, law student and founder of The Filthy Freedom Project, an online community dedicated to promoting open dialogue around issues of sex, sexuality and body image. She blogs about sex(uality), intersectionality and invisibility every other week.  You can catch up on her previous blogs here!  Tweet with her at @IamBeaHinton and @filthyfreedom.  

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8/24/2013 09:37:22 am

I first came across your writing in your article on being a biracial child of an absent white father/black woman and was curious to know more about you. I ended up reading your "The Burden of Dating Black" which brings me to the reason for writing you. I appreciate your openness and candor as I do for most people your age. I would just like to share a few comments that I hope will be as interesting for you as your article was for me.
First, you obviously have balls to put your stuff out there like this and I am not here to criticize or analyze you. That being said, a little about me: I am a Black man and widely regarded as well educated though down to earth. I am just now completing editing on my latest book about human nature. We share a similar experience with fathers though for reasons of gender had a different effect.
Here's the thing. People are very much like ducklets in that we are impressionable and become imprinted at an early age to what we identify with. The little ducklet follows a hen believing her to be (the missing) mama etc. This is mostly unconscious by the way. Secondly, the difference between "being" Black and "datng" Black is as you have discovered a matter of commitment; and commitment is the primary component of maturity. So there.
We each have a "burden" to bear in life. The question is owning up to that which has our name on it!
Thanks again for your articles and
Best Wishes JST

Bea Hinton
8/28/2013 09:47:05 am

Thank you! check back tomorrow for another blog :) You can follow us at @filthyfreedom to stay updated on new articles

8/27/2013 01:37:31 am

This piece blew my mind, thank you for your work!

Bea Hinton
8/28/2013 09:46:16 am

Thank you! I'm posting another blog tomorrow related to the #blackpowerisforblackmen movement - so make sure to check back for similar pieces - you can follow us (@filthyfreedom) and/or like us on Facebook (facebook.com/filthyfreedom) to know when the blog is posted!

9/1/2013 01:09:16 pm

Really liked this article, I would love to see you write an article on dark skinned woman dating Black men and men of other races and how the media views it.

You are brilliant!

9/18/2013 10:14:05 am

Eloquent and heartfelt. Punctual too. You stated that you consciously choose to primarily date black men describing it as the "unequivocally more perfect union" over privilege.

But why? If the "playing field" were more equal in terms of sexual and racial politics regarding Black men would you feel the same?

Is your dating preference a countervailing response to racism?

I admit to being political in this regard as well. Admire your work.

Bea Hinton
9/19/2013 08:28:09 am

Hi Domevelo - I believe (as is probably apparent from this blog) in the feminist adage of the "personal is political" and vice versa. I don't see my choice to date black men as a sort of act of rebellion or even conscious solidarity, but just a natural fact given my upbringing and beliefs. I grew up in black communities the first 13 years of my life and have always lived in a black household - so that's what I identify with. I, just like anyone else, was socialized to find certain things (and people) attractive. I do think there is something inherently amazing about black men and women that is most def connected to our shared history and that plays into my dating preferences.

9/20/2013 12:05:02 am

When I admit to being political regarding countervailing responses to racism I'm alluding to prospecting of mates who are capable of accepting the politics of dating black men without resentment; without feeling a social pressure to do so because of "group loyalty". Many African American men including myself commend you for stating it as a choice you make consciously and accept as reality.

Many of us are socialized to find things attractive but it doesn't naturally follow that we will identify or prefer cohabitation with group members precisely because of socialization affected by media. So your feminist adage of making what is personal political here is inconclusive.

Refreshing to know you find "something inherently amazing about black men connected to our shared history" IMO simply because it IS independent of group identification. After all what, or who defines the group?

Struggle? Racism? The very notion of Race?

So to reiterate; ceteris peribus, if the playing field of racial politics were level, you would primarily choose to date African American men, not because of group identification but because of something intangible regarding "our shared history" An affinity perhaps?

Aren't you sentimental...

I personally value group accountability over group loyalty. What, or in this case WHO defines a group and how far is one willing to demonstrate loyalty within a group should the group lack integrity?

Bea Hinton
9/19/2013 08:20:15 am

Naeemah! YOU should write something on that and submit to us to share!! You can email me at info@filthyfreedom.com if you're interested :)

Thomas conrad
9/18/2013 04:22:03 pm

Excellent piece. Despite my educational credentials...clean criminal record etc...I still can't navigate in society as well as a white male who might be a HS dropout. 2013 and my skin is still and will always be a negative factor in my life.

9/18/2013 05:38:40 pm

That.....was a very good read.

9/18/2013 11:56:42 pm

Wow - great article - thank you. As a White woman who was engaged to a black man, this article brought so many things home to me. I say "was" as we did part ways - turns out I was his badge of honour, the marker of his success. To me, he was the man I loved. We were in our early 30's, had been dating for 4 years. How did I find out I was his "trophy", his friend's wives were talking about it, I over heard. I asked him. He agreed, but said that didn't change anything. He eventually married another white woman, 10 years his junior.

Bea Hinton
9/19/2013 08:30:33 am

Thanks for reading! After I wrote the piece, I was talking with my colleague Lindsey Yoo, and we talked about how the issues I raise may or may not effect white women who date black men - as well as a myriad of other interracial configurations (Korean and Puerto Rican, for example). Glad you could connect!

Councilor Sheryl Thomas
9/19/2013 09:26:20 am

Bea, This was a great article. What you stated is so right on, you should also take into consideration the geographic area as well. I did however have a question for you, I would like to know, once you and your date stood there outside the establishment in total awe and in all of the emotions that had just come over the both of you, what did you do afterwards? Did you both just let it go or did you bring this to the attention of the security person the matter at hand? In taking on the issues that black men and women face in tis society, the best way to educate and address these types of issues is to make the culprit aware of their actions! If we as a people continue to just be in awe and carry the painful feelings that stem from those types of behaviors and actions, then we are just as guilty as the oppressor. So I was curious as to what your final outcome was with the situation. Look forward to a response. Councilor Thomas

Bea Hinton
9/20/2013 12:58:48 am

Hi Councilor Thomas - yes, I did make a comment directly to the security about what we perceived as racism (I usually do speak up!) but to no avail. He just denied that was the case and sort of looked away as to avoid the situation. We didn't press on. We shook our heads and went somewhere else

Donna Bailey
9/19/2013 10:03:29 am

As a 65 year old black woman, I was a little uncomfortable with this piece. The writer seemed to be using black men to show off her virtue. In this day and age, it seems the wiser choice is to date a man you're attracted to regardless of race and not all white men eroticise black women. Why are these discussions always about black vs white, what about latinos and asians?

Councilor Sheryl Thomas
9/19/2013 10:32:08 am

Ms. Bailey, I have learned that the younger generation is more open and exploring than my generation and your generation. If you look at the media and society as it is today, black and white is always the forefront of everything! The civil rights movement started out as blacks fighting for our rights to be equal, it then morphed into something totally different....it is vastly used today by everyone, everything, and every issue that is looking for equality. I have two bi-racial sisters who were raised by both her white and black parents, they totally identify with their black side more than their white side and they only date black men. The bible says that a MAN who finds a wife finds a good thing, it also talks about being unequally yoked! We have to hold these young people accountable by how we live as well as teaching them about Christ which is the foundation for our whole being! So, unfortunately we can't get around the black & white issue, it will be prevalent until the end of the world!

9/19/2013 02:10:15 pm

I'm a little confused by your comments. If the younger generation is more open than mine, why are they not open to dating latinos or asians? I thought this writer was patronizing to black men and if I were a black man, I'd be careful.

Bea Hinton
9/20/2013 01:02:10 am

Hi there Ms. Bailey - this is just one blog about one very specific subject, so I have not addressed other interracial configurations. If you peruse our blog, you'll see that our writer and social media coordinator, Lindsey Yoo, has written about interracial relationships as they relate to Asian and white couples. Our stories can only reflect the experiences of the authors - the more people who share their stories, the more nuanced our discussions will be! We invite additional conversations beyond black and white, but I personally have no authority to speak on, say, relationships between Latino and South Asian individuals

9/19/2013 01:03:15 pm

I just finished your article, and.. well... it was something. First, I find it interesting that you can "choose how people see you at your diescretion". That in and of itself is quite a statement. Because your physical appreance is what it is, are you telling people that you are these other ethnicities, or behaving in certain stereotypical ways that you feel qualify as French, Latina, Black, a white girl who tans too much.. how exactly does that work, and why would any well-adjusted person want to portray anything other than whatever their natural essence is?

Next, by looking at your picture, I will guarantee that if you are standing with a White man, the fact that you are NOT White is probably the most obvious thing in the room at the time, so while YOU may be "ambiguous" about your race, I promise you, others are not as confused.

Honestly, the entire tone of this article screams, "Black men, you are lucky I date you. You are, in fact a burden. I could choose to do better.. be in a far more privileged relationship, but even while knowing the problems you bring, I choose you." That's some deep shit.

I actually feel bad for you because I think you are exhibiting the biggest problem that people who have parents of two different races face: the world automatically affixes all bad stereotypes to dark people, but while you won't ever be seen as white, you can't fully reconcile being associated with all of negative things you've been taught about being Black. I believe your friends, dates and even acquaintances suspect that you have this conflict inside. Even though you portray yourself as "black", they probably have indulged you in your confusion and just play along.

I think each of the sterotypes you listed have also been used for Black women, so if I were to hypothetically flip the genders in this article- change all references about Black men to Black women, and allow for the article to be written by a biracial man, as a young Black woman I would be highly offended because basically you make it sound like you're slumming when you date someone Black. However, Black men need to read this and make their own judgement.

Bea Hinton
9/20/2013 01:13:19 am

Because some of the things you raise are addressed explicitly in the content, I won't waste time reiterating them here. One thing that was not clear, though, that you raise I will comment on because I think it can be confusing:

Q: "how exactly does that work, and why would any well-adjusted person want to portray anything other than whatever their natural essence is?"

A: I'm sure I could venture guesses as to why some people would attempt to pass as another race - and I'm sure you could too as it is a commonly known concept. I personally have never tried to pass off as anything other than I am, so I couldn't speak from my own experience on that. My point is that others assume my ethnicity, not that I actively go around introducing myself "Hi, I'm Bea and I'm sooo not black just in case you might have thought that". Usually people think I'm South Asian or Latina. When I had long, blonde hair it was even more confusing for people. I was also a lot lighter when I was younger (I was literally white when I was born), which affected people's perceptions. In my entire 24 years of living I've never once had anyone think I was black. ever. and I mean ever.

9/19/2013 09:29:31 pm

I think you should continue to date white man. You certainly aren't a ride or die chick. I have stepped in puddles deeper than your insight. Don't do any black men any "favors" by dating them. Life is challenging enough without having a shallow chick at your side.

9/19/2013 10:32:41 pm

Response to the writer:
So wow, you hang up all of your entitlement and privilege just to be with a black man...why? Sounds so selfless until you explain this relationship as a burden causing you lose out on promotions, social functions and friends. So what exactly are you getting out of these relationships? What is the social, mental or physical benefits that you get out of these encounters where 90% of the men that you choose to date are Black?
Meanwhile, you indirectly imply that you're doing black men a favor to date them, but the questions remains why don't you date white, Indian men since you can morph into an Indian or a white girl who tans too much? Is your stock not high enough in that group where they don't even consider you? Through all that you give up dating black men, it seems to me that they obviously treat you better in some way than most men of other races for you declare your preference.
Every statement that you listed closely connected to BLACK was negative down to the typical Angry Black Woman stereotype. It's clear that you have no interest in understanding the culture because you would be more enlightened where you wouldn't explain them all as a monolith.
This is all a self confidence booster for you to date a black man where you mentally and socially superior in the relationship to maintain control. This sounds like a self esteem boost. You can blame all of the missed opportunities on dating the black man rather than there being someone more qualified, smarter, more creative, nicer.
In conclusion: You are using her beau's black card more than he is ever allowed to use it in America. NICE!

9/21/2013 07:04:15 am

As a mixed raced woman I appreciate your response to this blog. While I can understand how Bea may have developed some of here view points, I pray that it's enough. Bea :) . .. take Remy's words as FFT thought that will help you move towards a deep enlightenment ..

Bea Hinton
9/21/2013 08:58:35 am

LOL If I prayed, I would pray you read my reply, reread the blog and put on the critical thinking cap, as you also missed the message. Whatever "enlightenment" ya'll are referring to I want NO parts of!

Bea Hinton
9/21/2013 08:55:21 am

My short response is, no. I thought this was particularly interesting, though:

"This is all a self confidence booster for you to date a black man where you mentally and socially superior in the relationship to maintain control. This sounds like a self esteem boost. You can blame all of the missed opportunities on dating the black man rather than there being someone more qualified, smarter, more creative, nicer."

Let me sketch you a little picture of myself and the people I've dated to clear this up for you:

Me: I'm 24 years old, I have a degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan and am a J.D. Candidate at Harvard Law School. I've worked in the U.S. Senate, for the White House and a number of nonprofit entities in NYC. In these capacities I've worked on a myriad of topics w/i women's issues, voting rights and state infrastructure, immigration reform and education equity. I'm a pro-sex feminist. I'm an alpha female that believes equality can and should exist in relationships.

Relationship A: Black man, immigrant parents, medical student, from suburbs.

Relationship B: black (parents from America), consultant at prominent firm, Ivy educated engineer and athlete, owns a BMW, international business

Relationship C: white, lawyer, entrepreneur, consultant

So what exactly are these "missed opportunities" I'm blaming on the man's race rather than his merits? The man I referred to in the story is a social worker and actually was not some I ever dated - so he is not and was not my "beau" as you described it. Given my own background outlined above, my dating pool is actually pretty confined to the types of men I describe - privileged, accomplished men who are quite smart, creative and certainly qualified for some of the best positions in the public and private sectors. One of the main points of the blog, however, is to relay that despite ones merits, black men as a whole are still viewed negatively by society. Get it? I guess you missed all those paragraphs - including the opening. Your deductions essentially miss everything put forth in the piece. I date who I want because of attraction. This is merely a short commentary on a realization of privilege given my racial ambiguity; the reasons I end up dating mostly black men are not included in this piece because that's not the issue at hand - it would be out of the scope of the blog. My 'reasons' are quite simple and the same as anyone else's; processes of socialization and geographic limitations.

9/20/2013 08:38:41 am

When you are with someone you carry their burden.
I carry the burden of my wife's social anxiety.
She carries the burden of me being narcoleptic.
I carry the burden of her being one of the few black/mixed person where she grew up.
She carries the burden of the death of my father.
We carry each other burdens so can help lighten the load.

Bea Hinton
9/21/2013 08:20:04 am

I agree!

Comments are closed.