Thank you Abagond! National Geographic has put out a race issue to make amends for their past racist portrayals of Black people and other people of color. National geographic routinely showed nude Black women and other women of color and displayed them as though they were not women, but animals.
“These twin sisters make us rethink everything we know about race”
As Abagond said,
“Huh? One of the sisters could pass for White, but that stuff has been going on for hundreds of years. Who is this “we”?
The bottom line is Black people have known about the whole passing situation for centuries because we’ve lived with it. MOST African-Americans have European ancestry and most of us have stories of relatives who could pass for white and others who could not. There’s nothing to rethink on the part of Black folks…we’ve been knowing National Geographic’s racist editorials were wrong.
For decades Black people dealt with the reality of race, we knew white men were sleeping with and producing offspring with Black and mixed women, so most of us have always known that the lines of the race were more blurred. Duh…
Here is a classic story of a woman whose mother passed for white, so National Geographic you’re about a few centuries too late on this one:
“The western world was made for white people. Black people were brought here to be worked like chattel and made to labor to benefit white men, women and children. While white people were on pedestal, black people were subjected to the worst cruelties.
Our perceptions of beauty and desirability are rooted in our history of white supremacy. White beauty standards are a form of white supremacy that dictates our daily existence. From the time that we’re children, we are indoctrinated with the notion that white is superior. Hence the reason black children continue to pick the white doll over the black doll in the black doll-white doll test. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWyI77Yh1Gg) Both white women and white men are represented as everything good, while black men and black women are represented as every thing bad. However because we live in a patriarchal society where looks are more valued in women than men (and many women accept this), white women are especially promoted as being the epitome of beauty, femininity and womanhood. Look at who is featured in magazines, observe who is portrayed as desirable on television and in film, it is overwhelming white women. Yet, Black women are restricted to being typecast as the sapphire, mammy or jezebel.
How does this relate to dating, sex and marriage?
Underneath the veil of political correctness, there lurks a deep racial caste system that, if you’re black, impacts every aspect of your life whether you choose to see it or not. Black people are living in a white supremacist culture. Black people must depend on white people for jobs and live in white neighborhoods and go to white schools. In the black community (unfortunately) prestige is associated with going to a white prep school, living in a nice white upper-middle class neighborhood, going to a white country club, working for white companies etc. Yet black people are never fully accepted into this world. This is why Black people get followed around white stores and white neighborhoods, denied jobs in white businesses and denied loans from white banks. Yet, instead of focusing on building up black communities where black people would set their own norms, control their own wealth and image, the ideal aspiration for success continues to be (for many black people) assimilating into white society.
Given all of these inequalities and given the fact that black people are forced to live and assimilate into a white supremacist society, it would make sense that this white supremacist doctrine also impacts black people’s dating choices. Not only do some Black people aspire to be assimilate into white society in the workplace, in the neighborhood and in school, but some Black people strive to romantically and sexually assimilate into white society.
The impact of racism on hiring practices, the wage gap and socio-economic disparities are well-documented, but the impact of racism on dating and romantic prospects is less documented, less studied and almost taboo. White supremacy impacts both Black men and Black women, but Black men date and marry out more often than Black women and because beauty standards disproportionately impact black women, Black men are the focus of this post. As mentioned, if racism impacts every aspect of American life, especially if you’re black…if racism impacts hiring practices, health, socio-economics and education, is it not naive to believe that dating and romantic choices would also not be impacted by white supremacy.
There are Black men who exclusively prefer white and non-black women. While not every Black man who gets into an interracial relationship is indoctrinated, many who claim to exclusively prefer any woman, but a black woman and many black men who degrade black women as a justification to date white/non-black women are indoctrinated, white supremacists. They grew up in a culture where white is portrayed as being superior and their dating and romantic habits are a reflection of that culture. Some Black men who have these predilections will claim by tooth and nail that “it’s just a preference,” or “love just happens” or “you can’t help who you love.”
But, preferences don’t evolve in a vacuum, your racial preference likely is heavily influenced by the culture you grew up in and how you were raised and because most black men are raised in a white supremacist culture, many black men are white supremacists and their racial preference exemplify that. In addition, you can choose who you love. If people couldn’t choose who they loved, then we would see more even dating and romantic relationships across the board. We would see the sweet, kind, homely [black] woman being portrayed as the love interest and being romanced by the football star, but instead we see high status football stars being portrayed with women who conform to an idealized, Eurocentric, beauty standard. Yes you can choose who you love.
You don’t randomly wake up one morning and prefer every race, but black and call that a preference. That is white supremacy. That is indoctrination, that is an inferiority complex.
Now, not all Black men are indoctrinated or white supremacist, there are some who genuinely get into relationships with white/ non-bw for honest reasons, so no Black man should be judged solely based off of who he dates, but often times white supremacy has more to do with who you choose to be with than you realize. More people must start being honest with themselves and questioning WHY they have an exclusive preference for any race of woman, but Black women.
Ultimately, Black men and people in general will do what they are going to do, but sometimes self-reflection is beneficial. If you exclusively date non-black women and if you demean black women as an excuse to date white or non-black women, then you more than likely are indoctrinated with the ideal that whiteness and in particular white women are superior. Love didn’t “just happen,” and no you’re not colorblind. Sorry.
Where does this leave Black women?
Society has made a concerted effort to portray Black women as the least desirable. Black women, in general, are reduced to 3 main caricatures, the mammy or overweight, asexual black woman, the sapphire or angry black woman and the jezebel or oversexed, immoral Black woman. All three of these stereotypes are commonly found in todays culture. The angry black woman is seen everywhere in the media and the jezebel stereotype is prevalent as well. The mammy stereotype is very commonly found in todays culture. In 2011, Psychology Today published an article stating that “black women were objectively the least attractive women.” Although the study has since been debunked and removed, that didn’t stop other media outlets from picking up the story and it didn’t stop racists from perpetuating the notion that black women are objectively uglier.
This “ugly black woman stereotype,” believe it or not is rooted in slavery. The ugly black woman stereotype is a derivative of the mammy stereotype. The mammy stereotype was created by white men during slavery to excuse their sexual violence against black enslaved women. By portraying black women as asexual and unappealing, this stereotype served to absolve white men of the responsibility of their sexual abuse of female slaves. Namely the idea was why would white men rape mammy- looking black women? This stereotype also served to assuage the damaged ego of his white wife. But, we’ll get into that later. Black women are inundated with the message that they are ugly and undesirable and this is reified by the abundance of “studies” that describe black women as the least desirable, the least replied to on online dating sites and the least beautiful. The constant portrayal of Black women in the media as combative, unattractive, very cumbersome and or asexual serves to validate white supremacy.
You rarely see beautiful, classy, intelligent black women portrayed in a desirable light in the media. One doesn’t need to venture further than YouTube to find an abundance of videos, reports and posts that highlight black women’s perceived undesirability.
The media makes a concerted effort to highlight black men/non-black women couples, yet focuses less attention on white/non-black men with black women couples. Often when the media does show Black women in relationships with white men/non-black men, it is done for comedic relief or to further emphasize the weirdness of the characters. A good example would be in the movie Napoleon dynamite where (funny as it may have been) the black woman/white man were portrayed as both being abnormal to say the least, so the relationship between the black woman/white man was used to further reinforce the abnormal aspects of the characters.
Society sends the message that Black women are the least attractive and society derides the features of Black women, such as full lips, protruding backsides, dark skin and kinky hair. Society mocks and derides women like Serena Williams for having these features, but when a white female has these features (whether they are real or not), society treats the white woman like she is superior for appropriating qualities that are common on Black women. A prime example would be “twerking.” Black women have been booty dancing for years and years and some can even trace the origin of booty dancing back to Africa. When Black women were twerking, this form of booty dance was considered trashy and ghetto, but still the Black women in music videos and on YouTube were getting views and people were noticing. This made some people insecure, so of course twerking was white-washed by placing white women with more “acceptable bodies,” (i.e. smaller, less protrusive backsides) on the scene. Now, there are white women who are mimicking black women by twerking and offering dance classes to learn how to twerk, so basically white women are being paid to appropriate what Black women have been doing, but Black women remain marginalized. Instead of giving credit to Black women for creating a desirable and sexually-appealing form of movement, it had to be whitened and put on a white face in order to maintain white supremacy and again appease the egos of white women.
This type of whitening of Black female features and culture is also evident because you see Black men who refuse to date Black women, but seek out non-black women with traditional black female features. Full lips on a black woman are seen as “monkey or coon lips,” but luscious and exotic on white/non-bw and protruding behinds are seen as fat and hypersexual on black women, but curvy and exotic on non-bw. Twerking is trashy and ghetto when done by black women, but innovative and sexy when done by non-black/white women. Recently Allure magazine even wrote an article teaching white women how to get an afro. In a country where until recently, cornrows were banned from the military and where cornrows, afros and other natural hairstyles are still banned in many schools and in many places of work, Allure, a magazine that seldom features Black women in their magazine, teaches white women how to appropriate a Black woman’s natural hair at their leisure.
Interestingly, when you bring up appropriation of black women’s features, some will get offended and say “you can find these features any where, so it’s not appropriation.” In other words, these people are attempting to deny black women’s right to claim aspects of their beauty and culture as unique to Black women, but yet white women are the only ones who can be white. Kinky hair, full lips, dark-skin, protruding behinds are not found everywhere. How many northern and western european women NATURALLY have dark skin, kinky hair, full lips or even protruding backsides?
Most have pale skin, straight hair, smaller lips and less protrusive behinds and there’s nothing wrong with that. It is an adaptation to the cooler climates of Western/Northern Europe. Just the same way black women’s dark skin, hair and other features are adaptations to the warmer climates of Africa. Look back at European art and most of the women are painted or drawn having pale skin, straight hair, thin lips and less protrusive backsides. They weren’t drawn or painted with cornrows or drawn booty dancing. But, look at various carvings and art work from West Africa and other regions of the African continent and you’ll notice the carvings have cornrows or braids, full lips, protrusive backsides, very wide hips, dark skin and all the features traditionally associated with Black women and booty dancing has been a part of many African cultures for generations. These features are not found everywhere, but you’ll see the media and society appropriating these features from Black women and putting them on a white face and then pretending that any woman can have these features.
Blue or green eyes are very commonly found amongst white women and the media highlights these women often. However, there are also Black women with blue/green eyes, but do we ever see the media or anyone finding the Black woman with blue/green eyes and putting her up on a pedestal, while ignoring the white women with blue/green eyes, even though for every 5 black women with blue/green eyes, you can probably find 50 white women with blue/green eyes??? Do we ever see white women being demeaned for having blue/green eyes, but black women praised for having blue/green eyes? No, we don’t. Yet, this is done with Black women’s features all the time. Throw up a white woman with some cornrows , throw up a white woman who is “twerking,” and call it beautiful and then continue to degrade Black women, even though Black women have an abundance of these features.
This cultural appropriation further reinforces the stereotype that Black women aren’t beautiful.
How does this relate to history?
A central reason that Black women are maligned is because white supremacy depends on propagating the notion that white is superior and because we live in a sexist society, women are valued for their beauty, so naturally in a white supremacist society, white women have to be portrayed as superior beauties. If black women were acknowledged as being beautiful, whole human women, that would put Black women on equal footing with white women and that debilitates white supremacy.
Many people are under the impression that prior to the late 1960s/1970s “biracial children,” didn’t exist. With the removal of Jim Crow laws and an end to the lynching of Black men by white men with impunity, white women/black men relationships increased as a result of loving vs. Virginia. Thus, many people assume that “biracial children,” exist primarily because of black men/white women intermarrying. The reality is though, mixed-race children have always been around as long as the United States has been around and even before. This idea that mixing between Blacks and whites didn’t occur until black-white marriage was legal stems from fear and a dirty past that America has with slavery. Prior to Loving v. Virginia, most of the mixed-race children of black ancestry were born of black women and white men and unlike white women in the present day, black women did not have the privilege to acknowledge the fathers of their mixed-race children.
There are many stories of white men keeping a secret black mistress or having a whole other mixed-race family. These stories are hidden in the collective memory of American history, yet they are often unacknowledged. Entire ethnicities exist today because of white men raping and or having sexual relations with Black women. It is America’s dirty secret and shame. Often, the sexual interaction between the black woman and white man occurred under a situation of exploitation. If you read slave narratives, you’ll read accounts of white men having sex with their black female slaves and having mixed-race children. In contrast, even with a black mistress on the side, the white man’s white wife was portrayed as an angelic, beautiful and holy woman, the queen of the big house. She was seen as the “cult of true womanhood,” while the black woman was seen as the jezebel.
This sexual exploitation didn’t only occur in the United States, but occurred all throughout Latin America, the United States, the Caribbean and in colonized parts of Africa as well. Some white men blatantly preferred to have sex with black women over white women because of the Jezebel stereotype.
In addition, sometimes, these sexual relations between white men/black women were kept out in the open and sometimes sex between black women/white men occurred under the same roof that the white man shared with his white wife. Many white women felt very insecure and understandably offended by the openness of sex between black women and white men during this time. Mary Boykin Chestnut deeply resented this and other white women such as Ella Thomas also felt deeply resentful of of this. This interaction between white males and black females also impacted Black men and many Black men resented and became enraged by the sexual interaction between white men/black women. All the while, Black men were denied access to white women.
These interactions between bw/wm were often exploitive in nature and black women were in a powerless position, but that didn’t stop some white women from exacting revenge, such as selling off mixed-race children or selling off their husband’s black female partner or in some instances having black enslaved female rivals beaten. The jealous white women couldn’t accept that their men would be sexually-involved with a black woman, rape or not. Black women were supposed to be inferior to white women,so as one white man put it “why would a white man leave the bed of his delicate flower of a white wife for a black woman?” It is understandable why a wife would be offended that a husband was having an affair with another woman, especially when the affair occurs right in your midst. Yet, while white women were in a less privileged position than white men, they weren’t complete victims either, so it is not excusable that black women should have been the target of their aggression when really Black women were powerless to stop a white man from sexually violating them.
The result of these sexual interactions between white men and black women spawned the one drop rule. The one drop rule comes from slavery, it was created to keep the wealth and status of white fathers out of the hands of their mixed race offspring. Today, many black men adhere to the one drop rule, thinking that any children they have with non-black women are still Black. Even though the one drop rule has a racist origin. This dirty history between Black women and white men still makes some people uncomfortable to this day.
I recall going to see the movie “Lincoln,” and people gasped when Thaddeus Stevens was shown in bed with Lydia Hamilton Smith, a mixed-race woman of black ancestry. People today still cannot or do not want to accept that these type of interactions between black women/white men existed back then and I think it is shocking to some people to accept again that white men would have been sexual with Black women.
The reality is when Black women did not have the ability to say “no,” to white men, many white men took advantage of black women by having sex with them. It wasn’t until Black women fought to get rights that this type of sexual abuse stopped.
A considerable number of people know about the history of black men being lynched for looking at a white woman, but not as many people know about the sexual abuse that black women endured at the hands of white men, not only in slavery, but all the way up until the removal of Jim Crow. They don’t know that most African-Americans are mixed with European ancestry from white men. They don’t know that many latinos, especially Puerto Ricans, Brazilians and Dominicans exist because of white men sleeping with Black and Native women. So, entire ethnicities that exist today are really the mixed-race offspring of Black women , Native women and white men.
Even though these relationships were exploitive and damaging that didn’t stop many white women and black men from resenting these intimacies between white men/black women. These dynamics that occurred for so many years during slavery still shape our perceptions of race and beauty today.
To compensate for this disconcerting history of sex between black women/white men, people continue to cast Black women into an inferior position in the present day. A considerable number of people acknowledge that it was wrong to lynch Black men for looking at white women, but it wasn’t until recently that it was even acknowledged that Black women suffered systemic sexual violence by white men under Jim Crow, the Reconstruction and slavery. Still, many people are unaware of this history, even though it is estimated that more rapes of black women by white men occurred than lynchings during Jim Crow.
So today, we have black men/white women portrayed as being a form of racial reconciliation and we have Black women portrayed as being inferior and a representation of a sordid chapter in American history.
Given all of this, it is understandable how stereotypes that started in slavery, such as the mammy and jezebel would still impact how we view our romantic prospects. It makes sense that white women who were put on a pedestal throughout history, to the detriment of black women, would continue to be portrayed as the ideal romantic partner for both white and black men. It all goes back to history and white supremacy.”