Submitted by Terence Blackett
In George Lamming’s debut novel – In the Castle of My Skin (1953), this famous Bajan son of the soil describe the psychic scars of racism in direct and powerful terms. In The Castle of My Skin he wrote, “No Black boy wanted to be white, but it was also true that no Black boy liked the idea of being Black. Brown skin was a satisfactory compromise, and Brown skin meant a mixture of white and Black… There was a famous family on the island which could boast of the prettiest daughters. Their father was an old Scottish planter who had lived from time to time with some of the labourers on the sugar estate. The daughters were ravishing, and one was known throughout the island as the crystal sugar cake.”
Grantley Adams, a British educated lawyer – who later rose to political prominence as the first Black Prime Minister of Barbados – had an English wife. ‘At that time’ Neville recalled, she was a member of the Aquatic Club in Bay Street and Grantley was not a member, he was a Black man, he wasn’t a member, but she… had that privilege as a white woman to be a member of the Aquatic. And Grantley would carry her to the Aquatic Club, drop her there and turnaround and come back down the road [laughs]. Tell me when you’re ready and I’ll come back and pick you up when you ready to go… He dropped her there. That is your thing. You belong to that club. I’ll put you there, you come back when you’re ready to come, call me and I’ll come back and pick you up.’
It is now 177 years since the Wilberforce Abolition Act of 1833; 147 years since the American Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and the 44th years of Barbados’ Independence from British rule and sovereignty since 1966.
A whole new generation has grown up across the geographical, geopolitical divide where overt acts of racism are outlawed and where the geo-spatial markers of segregation are now less obviously recognizable.
In Rajen Persaud’s book, ‘Why Black Men Love White Women: Going Beyond Sexual Politics to the Heart of the Matter’ is a fascinatingly funny, yet illuminating discourse on this critical issue of interracial dating and the identity politics which challenges our notions of “RACE” and it effects on the Black psyche today. We are forced to look at ourselves and our cultural intonations pondering matters of how celebrities from Michael Jordan to Bryant Gumbel to Tiger Woods – high-profile interracial affairs and marriages with no shortage of theatre, intrigue and controversy has played upon us as men. We must ask: Are Black men choosing white women – or rejecting Black women because of SEX? Does the issue of “Race” affect how white male insecurity is the key and at the heart of our understanding of structural as well as institutional racism? Is it more than love that brings interracial couples together? How is fear used to gain power, from sexual politics to global war? And finally, how movies and television keep Black men running to white women through the cultural machinations of the media?
Susan Crain Bakos in a NYPress article – ‘A White Woman Explains Why She Prefers Black Men’… begs the question: “How many white men can treat a woman like a lady and ravish her” all at the same time? She forcefully opines, “Black skin is thick and lush, sensuous to the touch, like satin and velvet made flesh. There’s only one patch of skin on a white man’s body that remotely compares to nearly every inch of a Black man’s skin. The first time I caressed Black skin, it felt like a luxury I shouldn’t be able to afford. I craved it more strongly than Carrie Bradshaw craved Manolo Blahnik shoes. That phrase, “Once you go Black, you never go back” is all about the feeling of the skin.”
She further contends that “I want Black men. They want me. We look at one another and exchange a visible frisson of sexual energy in the lingering glances. And our attraction is based first on race… that deliberate seeking of the specific other makes some people, especially Black women, damned mad… We are what they denigrate and castigate: white women and Black men who choose one another because of our racial differences. They resent our taking their men. Black men are two and a half times more likely to marry a white woman than a Black woman is to marry a white man. Black women can point to that statistic in justifying their wrath. But in truth, Black sisters, we’re after the sex, not the ring and these guys aren’t the marrying kind anyway. Yes, the sex!”
Moving beyond the gamut of romantic politics for a moment – what about the notional value of the education of the Black male or in this case, the re-education? In the United States, Black students account for 17% of public school students nationwide, but represent only 6% of the teachers. Black colleges enrol a paltry 16% of Black students, but they produce a mere 37% who since the 1954 Brown vs. Topeka decision to integrate schools has seen a 66% decline in Black teachers.
Black male teachers constitute only 1% of the teaching population. There are schools without one Black male academic teacher. They are employed as custodians, security guards and Physical Education teachers. Often, schools will hire a Black male to be an Assistant Head teacher which translates into being in charge of all male behavioural problems. So what really has happened to Black teachers in the American school system? This is a poignant question for all those who are researching the “HIP HOP Generation” and observing the smashing of cultural barriers.
On the other hand, the turnover of white female staff in the inner city schools system was 40% within a five year period. Is it practical to expect someone who has never lived in the Black community, attended a rural college, nor did their student teaching in that region, took few if any courses on Black history, culture, psychology, family, learning styles, Ebonics, etc. to be truly effective? Can one subsume then that gender, race and romantic politics is an epiphenomenon of late 20th and early 21st century construction emboldened and engendered by stereotypical portrayals of the white woman as both an object of sexual fantasy as well as a psychic mentor – now glamorized in HIP HOP music as an attainable fashion accessory? However for this luminous discourse, I turn to Lacanian psychoanalysis and, in particular, to Lacan’s contentious claim that “There is no such thing as a sexual relationship” – through an explication of Lacan’s position on love, I conclude that love not only has a place within racial pedagogy but is necessary for it as the boundaries of race and sexuality morph into a supposed cogent whole.
Some continue to argue vehemently that the continuum line of social and interracial interactions amongst Black & non-Black individuals that were curious about or harbouring a belief in a racist stereotype related to Black sexuality centres squarely on the mythology of the Black penis and the anthropomorphosis of the Black male as a savage, virile beast of a lover – hence the mythology of beauty and the beast.
Sadly, many white Caucasoid women who are taking advantage of these curiosities only serve to promote and perpetuate a form of covert reverse racism which posits a form of pseudo power to the Black male and denies the white female any real lasting psychic wholeness. But more importantly, these metamorphosed interracial interactions make it clear that race, or more accurately racism, often plays a role in the formation and promulgation of such interracial romantic relationships.
John Johnson, the author of “It Ain’t All Good: Why Black Men Should Not Date White Women” states that the removal of Black men from the Black dating pool may not make race relations worse, but it does contribute to male scarcity problems already present in the Black community. Johnson believes there is a ridiculously large and growing disparity in the number of Black men and women in the US population. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there are 1.7 million more Black women in the country than Black men. And if you account for incarceration rates, the numbers approach 2.7 million more Black women in the American Black population. Without question, the absence of Black men from the Black population creates its own collection of problems; particularly for Black women who face heightened levels of competition for mates and are often forced into dissatisfying relationship compromises. The siphoning of Black men out of the Black dating pool and into the interracial romantic marketplace only serves to make these existing problems worse. Meanwhile, Black men are cohabitating with non-Black women at close to 4 times the rate of Black female interracial cohabitation and they are interracially marrying at 2.5 times the Black female rate.
Isn’t it possible that the sexual mythology surrounding Black men and the constant celebration of the beauty of white women in the media are combining to create a disturbing, albeit common, racist romantic combination in this new multicultural romantic marketplace? Does a combination of Black female independence and the tormenting history of white male rape prevent Black women from seriously considering, or being considered for, interracial romance? I would think that these and many other questions would need to be considered before we create an environment for individuals to satisfy their interracial fantasies or even pursue “genuine” interracial romantic partnerships?
An article in National Review stated that when compared to white men, white women were 10 times more likely to report that their most recent sexual partner was Black – white women are also more likely to cohabitate with Black men more than any other non-white male group, which may not seem especially disturbing given the size of the Black population in the United States. Research is also looking at European trends. However, when you consider the fact that white women are more likely to marry a Bi/Multiracial man than they are a Black man, even though there are 4 times as many Black men in the population, one might begin to consider the possible influence of racism on romantic partner selection.
What is the logic behind a Black man intentionally seeking out a non-Black romantic partner, especially when you consider that more than 98% of the 55 million married couples in America for example involve individuals of the same race? What is the reasoning for a white woman seeking out Black men to date when in most interracial environments there are far more white men than Black men? Shouldn’t this race-specific romantic preference, at the very least, be questioned as an observable phenomenon?
Whatever the sexual politics is in the bedroom, boardroom or classroom – we recognize that the debate on “race” will continue to take center stage and will be a point of ongoing controversy and contestation across the ideological spectrum.
In the end, whatever the conclusion the racial map must be redrawn!