Sorry not sorry, but I’m going to rant about white dudes.
Specifically, I’m ranting about while male approval and, specifically, how it affects black women. After going in on the toxic nature of swirl culture–fetishization and idealization of interracial relationships–I honestly didn’t think I’d end up breaching this topic once again. But yesterday I stumbled upon promotion for a dating site called SwirlMingle, founded by YouTuber and self-proclaimed white dude who loves black women (AKA chocolate), Jacob Michael Mason. No, seriously, this guy has a shirt that says, “I Heart Chocolate Girls.”
I gleaned a lot of information after scrolling through Mason’s Twitter page: He would happily deep condition a natural girl’s hair, he loves the way black skin absorbs the sun’s rays, and he has a video offering advice for people who want to enter an interracial relationship but don’t really know where to start. More scrolling revealed countless retweets of happy birthday messages from his key demographic–black girls and women–many of whom were absolutely gushing at this magical white dude who has the capacity within his heart and retinas to appreciate black women. One even tweeted “When he’s white and likes black girls” complete with joyous emojis and a GIF of Will Smith and Carlton Banks dancing.
A lot of this sounds largely harmless, I know. It’s like, well, what’s wrong with a white dude thinking black women are beautiful? What’s wrong with black girls liking a white dude who appreciates their beauty in a society in which it is often either ignored or flat out denied? But there’s a reason why, despite in an interracial relationship, I feel heated whenever I see this kind of dialogue about dating between white men and black women.
I could go on about the fetishization factor–a claim Mason denies, as do many other white dudes who want a Nubian goddess. I could even go on about how corny it is when white dudes attempt to show how down they are for black women by comparing them to anything brown and edible or tweeting about the evils of white privilege. But that’s been done to death and there’s not much to add to it. What I really want to focus on is the impact of white male approval on black women.
As I mentioned earlier, in a world that systematically shits on black women, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling special when white men–top of the hierarchical food chain–show interest. As a black woman who definitely had a period of sipping that being-black-is-kind-of-embarrassing-OMG Kool Aid as a pre-teen, it’s really easy to understand how black women don’t grow out of that, “Who? Me?” in response to white men showing anything other than disgust or disinterest in them. Romantic interest? God, that’s next level.
So maybe it’s a little bit of my self-hating past self that I see in all of these black girls sending heart eye emojis aimed at this internet famous white dude who is valiant enough to show some love for the sistas, the cringe equivalent of reading an old Livejournal entry from 2006.
I’m reminded of the black folks who call themselves Oreos, or the ones who insist that having a preference for not dating black people has no societal influence, it’s just totally happenstance.
Preferences don’t exist in a vacuum, and neither does a black person’s active avoidance of Dating Black. All of this bullshit is interconnected in a big ol’ web of white approval thirst, and it’s depressing to watch. The thought that I or any other black woman can only be beautiful and worthy of love if a white guy says so is…dark, to say the least.
I’m not going to lie, I think I’ll always have a fear that my interracial relationship plays into the desires of my self-hating former self. I bet that plenty of other black women who are in the same boat wonder the same thing, but don’t want to admit it. Are my sneers toward these black women a way for me to compensate for my past beliefs? Am I arrogant to assume that I’m simply more woke than these women, when I’m actually actively trying not to fall into the same trap they have? I’ll always have these fears chillin’ in the back of my mind, and they’ll always be a little less dormant than I let on.
But anytime I feel like I’m probably, deep down, no better than these women I feel so sorry for, I should probably ask myself how I’d react is my white boyfriend used the same script that white men like Mason used. Would I feel used if he told me that I’m a great source for expanding his mind on race? Yes. Would I feel fetishized if he called me a racial term of endearment? Of course. Would I feel weirded out if he pontificated on how interracial relationships and mixed babies basically end racism? Absolutely, without question. So maybe I don’t have as much to worry about as I thought.
Watching the dialogue between these black women who are so desperate to feel loved by white guys, and the white guys willing to grant black women vapid compliments about their melanin for retweets, makes me thankful that my boyfriend is aware of the fact that he’s in an interracial relationship without making a big deal about it. And, trust me, when he helped me take out my box braids, he definitely wasn’t doing it as some sort of cultural exercise to get white bae points.
I hope that black women who are thirsting for white male attention start to think critically about why their approval is so important to them, but I’m definitely not putting the onus on them to fight the ways that white supremacy fuck with our headspace. I’m also going to need all these white boys claiming to love black women so much to stop reducing us to our glistening cocoa skin and get a clue.