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Relationship Barriers: Black Women, White Men and Other Non-Black Men

Posted on | August 16, 2011 | 12 Comments

Note: Let me put my caveats up front. This post obviously does not apply to each and every black woman, since some of us are flexible, flirtatious, and at ease with white and other non-black men.

The Swirl Imperative: Becoming More Social

There is no shame in lacking a flirting game or being a bit socially inadequate in mixed company – at this juncture in your life. You know how it goes: sitting at a table with your girlfriends, like a hostage, segregated from everyone else, because they’re uncomfortable at that social event and by design do everything to keep you from getting your groove on.

I believe in the power of a couple of Cosmos and Fuzzy Navels! πŸ˜€

I’m always hopeful we’ll grow out of staying socially segregated, because when we integrate – that increases our interactions with white, Latino, Asian and other non-black men. The more men you meet, the more likely you are to meet Mr. Right for marriage, 2.5 kids and picket fences. And all that good stuff.

Relationship Barriers: The Strange Tensions

I appreciated the candor of this testimony. It reveals why some white men, and by extension other non-black men, are wary of approaching black women.

The following comments are by Carlos, which I edited to highlight some points:

  • I’m a white man in my late 30s… Well, not completely white, but basically white for other people’s perception. I love women, and I’m also a bit of a sex addict- always have been, since my teens. I love sex, and more than anything I love to give women pleasure.
  • That said, the intesity of the debate and people’s feelings around BW/WM relationships and sex have always been challenging for me. I am attracted to so many types of women, and appreciate so many different things, and black women are no exception.
  • But where I’m normally just lustful and girl-crazy, I am more cautious with black women. The controversy, history and frankly less clear flirtatious interest from black women definitely factor in and give me pause. And it’s not for lack of adoration for black women on my part, trust me.
  • But it feels more complicated, potentially, than with other women. Of course I’m generalizing, but I hope you get the idea. And really, I think that tension reflects race relations and race (mis) undertanding in general.
  • My first girlfriend and sex partner in high school was a black girl, and I have had two relationships with black women since- one lasting for 3 years monogamously and another a friendly casual sexual relationship with a neighbor that was off/on for five years.
  • I hope for more in the future.
  • On a cultural note, I think a lot of Generation X white guys like me who were raised in liberal post-hippie households, growing up and learning about sex involved a positive open attitude about sex that fostered a lot of emphasis on women’s pleasure and orgasm. I basically learned that that defined good sex. Works for me, and I think that might explain the scenario that white men are versatile, creative, long-lasting and giving lovers.

Thank you for your perspective, Carlos.

Yeah, I know he’s talking about SEX, SEX and more SEX, but he’s also admitting – as a regular guy – that he finds black women as attractive as other women. Far too often some of us like to hang our hats on men not finding us attractive, so that’s not the case here.

He’s interested, but he cannot tell if you are. He’s interested, but he hesitates, because of the historical racial and sexual “drama”.

So, I have a few questions for everyone:

  1. Do we stress the racial aspect in our interracial relationships too much?
  2. Are we working the topic of race to the point of fracture?
  3. Is our flirting ability impaired? Would it make a big difference getting it fixed?
  4. Are we the ones bringing racial tension(s) to our interactions with non-black men?
  5. Are we letting outside forces create this tension? You know, taking control of your love life where they have no business being involved.
  6. What would it take to alleviate those sexual and racial tensions? (Aside from great sex.) πŸ˜€

And everyone is free to add their own thoughts….

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12 Responses to “Relationship Barriers: Black Women, White Men and Other Non-Black Men”

  1. pioneervalleywoman
    August 17th, 2011 @ 10:53 AM

    I’m one of those women who have no problem with being flirtatious, I can be mildly so, and a woman’s ability to flirt comes from so many different places, ie., her feelings about herself, her feelings about men in general, and even about what flirting actually means. This all boils down to socialization. I don’t even think of my behavior as flirting, but I’m sure others would see it that way, I see it as being friendly and outgoing, warm and attractive in my interactions with men.

    3. So many think being flirtatious means that a woman is availalble for sex, ie., that she is “fast,” and yes, there are men who would see it that way, but one’s behavior is what makes it clear. Warm and attractive can be just that, warm and attractive with nothing more.

    So how does that influence our interactions with men? If we think that every interaction with a man that seems remotely friendly gives off the wrong message, then we will clam up and not be approachable.

    Complicate things by getting to the racial thing, and you can see what I’m getting at when I get to your other questions.

    1 and 2. Too many black women sure as heck do, we are so focused on race when in reality, our interactions with our partners are really grounded in gender, their maleness, our femaleness. Yes, there are racial politics and history involved in dating a non-black man, but is that the be-all end all of everything in dating? There can be no enjoyment of being a woman and him being a man? Must everything be political? For too many women, the answer is “yes,” ie., those silly women in the WSJ article who talk garbage about non-black men not “getting” their struggles. Yes, he might not know everything and experience everything, but that doesn’t make the relationship fatally flawed. Moreover, certain aspects of the difficult political aspects of being with a black man suddenly don’t matter anymore, and many black women tend to forget that aspect of things.

    4. It depends on the person. Non-black men can have preconceived notions about us the same way we might have preconceived notions about them. On another note, it is true that race isn’t everything (as I noted above), there are non-black men who act as though race doesn’t matter at all, and that is just as troubling.

    5. We are listening to the voice inside our heads that tells us what it means to be a “good” black woman, and it is worse when those voices are reinforced by those around us, friends, relatives, strangers, that dating interracially puts us in the “bad” black woman category. Moreover, we are turning off our critical thinking skills in addressing those voices, their perceptions of us, our history and our lives.

    6. We need serious consciousness-raising to get rid of those voices. What is CR, what we are doing on these blogs, questioning those voices inside our heads or coming from outside that tell us what we are supposed to be and do.

    GoldenAh: Hello, Pioneervalleywoman! It is such a pleasure to hear from you. πŸ˜€

    I almost closed the comments section after your input, because it’s such a perfect response.

    It has always been easier to flirt with non-black men. I don’t feel threatened, and I feel that they understand it is innocuous and fun, or could lead to something more eventually. Growing up in a mostly black area, I could not smile without being harassed for blocks. There is no subtlety with some folks. That would ruin our interactions with non-black men, unless we make a conscious effort to get away from those harassers (leave the neighborhood). So we’re walking about looking humorless and mean, without anyone realizing it’s done for protection from invasive, rude and disrespectful black men.

    I hear you when you talk about those women in that WSJ article: what “struggle” are they talking about? The overwhelming majority of my hassles came from other black people. Those women made being a black woman sound so crazy and unattractive, I could see them as a different species. Their viewpoint needlessly puts up a wall between black women and other men. And as you say, at the end of the day, it’s simply about a man being in a relationship with a woman.

    It irritates me the way black women love to “other” themselves. I don’t want to be regarded as a separate species from other women. I wish the media would ignore these black women.

    Socialization is the key. We have to make ourselves comfortable in our skins in every social environment, and get away from damaging racial self-persecution and self-segregation. Let’s just go out, relax, mingle with people and have fun.

    Love the feedback, Pioneervalleywoman. πŸ™‚

  2. Truth P.
    August 17th, 2011 @ 1:22 PM

    Do we stress the racial aspect in our interracial relationships too much?
    I think so.Race is a SOCIAL construct.It affects our lives whether we like it or not.But race is not only just “happening to us”.I think we are doing somethings to make race somewhat of an issue in our lives where it isn’t or shouldn’t be.

    Are we working the topic of race to the point of fracture?Possibly

    Is our flirting ability impaired? Would it make a big difference getting it fixed?
    This is a No for me.My flirting ability is not impaired.I simply don’t flirt.I don’t recall if I ever have, but I am somewhat of a shy person in real life which actually leads me to being talkative.This has made it very easy for me to meet interested men without even expressing romantic interest in them.I think other women who may not be comfortable flirting can try that approach.I talk to people EVERYWHERE because I am a ball of nerves sometimes.I focus on things we may have in common and go from there.I also am open to new things.The slight on again off again interest that I intentionally developed in Nascar has allowed me to hold friendly conversations with white people in general.This has led me to having conversations that lead to non black men expressing interest.

    Are we the ones bringing racial tension(s) to our interactions with non-black men?Some of us are.Of course, and so are non black men.Other people are in our business a lot as well trying to make it hard for us.

    Are we letting outside forces create this tension? You know, taking control of your love life where they have no business being involved?Yes,See above

    What would it take to alleviate those sexual and racial tensions? (Aside from great sex.) πŸ˜€
    I think black women simply need to get to know more white and non black men.Just hanging out and stuff.I have met jerk white and non black men who were dbrs and good ones.I never went out to intentionally meet white or non black men.I just met white and non black men and women at work, became close with the white and non black men and women I liked,and then was introduced to more white and non black men outside work through them.I think we simply need to stop self segregating in situations where we ARE doing that.If you are surrounded around white and non black a**holes no one is gonna make you befriend them.I know I wouldn’t but I would suggest you go out of your way to get to know white and non black men (at school work the grocery etc.), in a non flirtatious manner if you feel uncomfortable flirting, and see what it leads to.

    GoldenAh: I remember having a conversation with a white male colleague about boxing, because I used to follow the sport closely. He was surprised and pleased that I could recall the name and weight class of specific boxers. According to him, I was more informed and interested than most women he knew. Men love to talk about themselves and their hobbies. Even if you do not see yourself as a flirt, you have the basis for an engaging conversation.

    Great feedback, Truth P. I like that you are going out and talking to everyone. You may see yourself as shy, but you are taking charge and not letting that stop you from socializing. πŸ˜€

  3. Daphne
    August 17th, 2011 @ 1:33 PM

    I may have a controversial opinion about black women and flirting. I’m beginning to wonder if most of us know how to do it, but we just don’t recognize it as such. As in, it’s innate, and not necessarily something “taught.” Especially when we are in a setting in which we’re comfortable – we feel safe. To pioneervalleywoman’s point, it may be perceived as “being fast,” and thus has been discouraged among many black girls and women growing up.

    For my part, I was called a flirt in college by fellow church members, and it wasn’t necessarily a compliment. I didn’t realize it was flirting, because it wasn’t something the women in my family “taught” me. I’m agnostic now, but I mention church because I think it’s important to note the context. For those of us raised in rather conservative/religious black homes, flirting may not have been perceived as a harmless thing. Couple that with being born and raised in a lower class area, where women are subjected to aggressive come-ons by men, and the instinct is further suppressed.

    Anyway, I think it’s not a matter of teaching black women HOW TO, but knowing WHEN TO. AS in, when it’s safe. Once I left home for college, and was exposed to different experiences, I began to learn more about social decorum, what was appropriate, what wasn’t, etc. Not to say I was primitive before, but just naive, due to my limited experiences before college. But the key is that I actively sought different experiences. If a woman isn’t interested in broadening her horizons (or lacks opportunity to do so), and comes of age in an environment where flirting was a pejorative, then she may never feel comfortable flirting.

    Back to #1 and 2:
    Depends on who you ask. To use a comment I made elsewhere several months ago:
    Sometimes, I just wanna lay my head on his shoulder and be held/watch TV mindlessly/laugh/whatever, m’kay? No deep racial discussions required. I take caution with assuming a vocal perspective is a majority one. I’ve been slowly realizing that the loudest voice isn’t necessarily the most representative one. Some women overstress it, some don’t.

    #4 –
    I think this is a mutual thing. Men and women bring racial tensions into interactions. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have people, on both sides, making assumptions about the other with little to no actual interacting. Or, people take one or two interactions, and assume it will be that way for all since it’s just easier to do so and potentially avoid discomfort.

    #5 – Depends on who you ask. I used to, but no longer.

    #6 – I think it ties into my earlier comment about feeling safe and comfortable. For black women, I think if we feel that way, tensions may ease on our part.

    I’d also like to thank those liberal, post-hippie households for instilling an emphasis on women’s pleasure. I personally appreciate that. πŸ™‚

    GoldenAh: LOL. Winking at you on #6, Daphne. πŸ˜€

    I agree with that we must feel safe and comfortable in order to be able to flirt and have fun. If we’re used to being on guard, it’s hard to be relaxed. I didn’t realize being called a “flirt” could be an insult too. I see your point on the religious and conservative nature of some, perhaps most, black homes. I remember people would be scandalized by a lot of makeup, especially red lipstick. That’s too much mental stress, negating of our feminine selves, before we even walk out the door and greet the world.

    Speaking of racial tensions: Pioneervalleywoman mentioned that it is just as troubling if the guy pretends race never matters. I believe there’s no way to realistically do that. I’ve already been in environments with my white male friend(s) and out of nowhere some black male or white female will get in our faces. White women are more subtle, but are still just as interfering as the black male.

    At some point, that is a racial topic I will ask about. Such as, “How do you feel about those pests?” I love the guys who know exactly what I’m talking about. They don’t like the white woman coming around and will ignore her, and we’ll walk away from the black guy. So, the ones who are aware of these nutters, but don’t see them as relationship crutches are guys I respect.

    Other than that, it’s just like you said, I just wanna lay my head on his shoulder and be held/watch TV mindlessly/laugh/whatever, m’kay?

  4. Betty Boo
    August 18th, 2011 @ 2:11 AM

    I will answer IMHO

    1. Depends on the woman, I know I dont like to do that I see my self as a woman first, black second (though others may make the latter a priority).

    2. See answer to #1

    3. Yes for many of us it has been greatly impaired due to many factors; one being the “race” police of the black community manny of whom are in the chruches we grew up in. I think the way to fix it is to just IGNORE the voices that accuse us, (including our own) of being “fast” or a “harlot” (Thank you churchianity). and just enjoying the innocent attention. A Smile, and exchange of looks, and “welcome” the attention it might just be a compliment whatever enjoy it like a piece of godiva chocolate without guilt!. I realized that I was giving off a vibe of “stay away” when I just relaxed and had no expectations more men began to approach me and my flirting skills got and continue to get better.

    4.Sometimes we are and I do not think it is always intentional. I was talking to an asain guy for a hot minute, but I found out he was one of those who had a “jungle fantasy” and had no interest in courting me. I was tempted to be apprehensive with every guy there after that all they wanted to do was fufil a fantasy, but I had to arrest those thoughts, not every guy is like that but I am also cougar age and let things off the hook alot faster whatn when I was younger. I am sure 15 years ago I would be bringing that “baggage” into every IR encounter there after.

    5. YES YES YES, the community race police have played a huge role in this and it is not always as easy as just ignoring them , some are very loud and very vocal. I read in Karen Foland Book “Don’t bring home a white boy” about a young lady she interveiwed who was leaving the movies with a white male friend and this black dude tried to sell them some merchendise and they declined, the black dude immediately started yelling “see sistah he don’t care about you!!!” when in reality they were not dating just colleagues, but this guy acting like the race police took it upon himself to accuse they white guy of something he was not guilty of.

    6. that is a good question IMHO on our side just be more warm and open to flirting and enjoying the exchange and completely IGNORING everyone who tries to interfere and if need be put them in their place if they try to interfere and if the exchange turns out to be a mistake then let it be our mistake (not talking about dangerous situations, just that he was a jerk or something) learn from it and move on there are some really noice guys out there and I for one have stopped consciously giving off the vibe “stay away”

    GoldenAh: Wow. You mention guilt and Christianity. When I was a kid, I asked my Mom why was every woman in the Bible bad. She found a handful that were good. Yet overwhelmingly, I got the impression that the Good Book did not like women all that much. Needless to say, I stopped going to church after that. I also feel that the punishment-of-Eve mindset is taken too literally.

    I see flirting as enjoying the natural, relaxed and friendly interaction between men and women. It is a different world to live in an environment where men hold the door open, say hello and are willing to have a nice chat.

    I’ll admit if a guy has a lusty interest in me, expressed politely, I’m flattered. I’ll return the sentiment with cheerful glee, but I’ll let him know – with humor – that nothing is going to happen. πŸ˜€

    #5 – These negroes love making life miserable for black women. Do black men not notice that folks are looking at them as a source of trouble everywhere: those “flash mobs” in cities like Philly, and the UK riots? Bothering us isn’t going to take them out of the spotlight.

    Yes, we learn from it and move on. Great advice, Betty Boo. Thanks for stopping by and leaving feedback. Much appreciated. πŸ™‚

  5. pioneervalleywoman
    August 18th, 2011 @ 8:24 AM

    Hi!

    I’m so glad you liked my response and found it a worthwhile contribution!

    Glad to stop by and do my part…

    I think something else is important as well with respect to women flirting, appearing friendly to the men they interact with.

    It goes a long way, ie., catching flies with honey and not vinegar. In a patriarchy, this is crucial for women, because we need the support/protection of men in general, regardless of what the radical feminists have to say. Equality, yes, but there are differences, and we have to recognize them.

    Majority group women (white women and perhaps honorary white women–depending on the circumstances) can have the “halo effect” of being presumed worthy of attention, protection, etc., regardless of how evil they might be. Their evil is seen as excused, explained or justified.

    Black women don’t have that, so we have to create our own “halo effect,” and that comes from strategic use of our flirtatiousness/friendliness to make sure that we get the results of the “halo effect.”

    GoldenAh: We can be so charming when we want to be! Oh, it would go so much further in helping us achieve our goals. I think a lot of us believe that the belligerent, strong angry black woman routine is best, but it’s not. And I hate that constant image being shown again and again in the media as behavioral reinforcement.

    Black women need to be women first. Didn’t feminist literature used to emphasis embracing our femininity and womanhood? Now I feel it’s gotten lost in the be-like-a-man, dysfunctional-families-are-okay, and weird pro-slut-don’t-judge-me-agenda of white women, which we cannot embrace if we’re looking to thrive.

    We do need to refocus on being lovely, engaging, friendly and womanly. You are absolutely correct: We’re working to gain that which other women have by default.

    Thanks again, Pioneervalleywoman. πŸ˜€

  6. Sherry
    August 18th, 2011 @ 12:23 PM

    Okay Miss Betty, I’m going to jump in here. Although Brotha Carlos annoys me, I will focus on the questions you asked. For this colored girl…
    “Is our flirting ability impaired? Would it make a big difference getting it fixed?” – Mine is NON-EXISTENT and so probably having SOMETHING might help!

    “What would it take to alleviate those sexual and racial tensions? (Aside from great sex.) ”
    Assuming the best of anyone you meet until they prove they are unworthy?

    GoldenAh: LOL. Carlos was … excited. πŸ˜€

    Oh, I have been accused of being too serious at times, but this is coming from men who aren’t being friendly or flirtatious themselves. Barking at someone to smile and be accommodating will have the opposite affect.

    I think it matters where we are and if we feel safe or comfortable. If that’s not happening – I wouldn’t feel bad about it.

    That last line is a good response. I use that approach. After leaving NYC, it took a number of years to realize that everyone wasn’t trying to run a “game” on me, you know? I’ve learned to give people the benefit of the doubt.

    Always good to hear from you, Sherry.

  7. pioneervalleywoman
    August 18th, 2011 @ 1:56 PM

    Goldenah:

    Didn’t feminist literature used to emphasis embracing our femininity and womanhood? Now I feel it’s gotten lost in the be-like-a-man, dysfunctional-families-are-okay, and weird pro-slut-don’t-judge-me-agenda of white women, which we cannot embrace if we’re looking to thrive.

    My reply:

    This boils down to different forms of feminist theory, in my view. I understand egalitaranism and dominance (ie., radicalism), but each can have its limitations (when taken too far), even though they were effective in their ways, ie. rape law and dominance feminism.

    If you are a cultural/difference type (which I veer towards) you will recognize that the absolute egalitarians along with the radicals and the third wave “sex positive” chicks are out of their ever-living minds.

    [GoldenAh: I fell out of my seat at this line. LOL. Yes. I see them as crazy too.]

    Cultural/difference feminist types believe women are equal but different and that we should recognize where we are equal and think about strategies that would make us unequal because of our gender.

    So examples, voting, it is not gendered, so equality straightforward matters. But when we get to other issues where gender matters, sexuality, childbearing and childrearing, think about protecting women and their femininity. Single-parenting, violence against women, all of those come from lack of protection for women and their gender, and result from a corrupt egalitarianism or domination of women.

    It seems I’m seeing more and more cultural/difference feminism out there in terms of attitudes that women are cultivating–the ideas are out there.

    GoldenAh: I like this explanation. I can move forward with it. We have our differences and we need to be protected, but in a number of areas we must be treated equally under the law.

    I find the extremists such a turn-off. It’s like they don’t know they’ve won and have nothing to do with themselves now.

  8. Carlos
    September 2nd, 2011 @ 9:46 AM

    I’m a bit embarassed to have my comment highlighted into a blog entry, but I appreciate being able to read so many perpespectives on the issue as a result. And I’m relieved that my comments were coherent enough to be useful in some way. My apologies to anyone I annoyed. I’ll stay out of the feminist theory discussion! – “Brotha” Carlos πŸ˜‰

    GoldenAh: Hello Carlos, thank you for returning! Your apology (and candor) is appreciated: I can tell there was no disrespect intended. Your contribution was a great launching pad for our dialogue here.

    LOL. And, yes, feminist theory can be quite deep. πŸ˜€

    Have a great weekend. πŸ™‚

  9. Pamela
    November 28th, 2011 @ 2:44 PM

    Carlos, you were straight up honest. I think every woman that reads your comments appreciate that you were indeed honest and not trying to play some game. Frankly your directness was refreshing.

    My comments about flirting: I agree that some of the problem has to do with training and exposure, not necessarily a woman’s so-called tendency to automatically flirt. I was not a conscious flirt in most cases. HOWEVER when I understood that looking people in the eye and having a nice smile relaxed people I began to on purpose do this until it became natural. When I was unmarried the only time I would not do this is if I felt I would be misinterpreted. I felt if nothing else I may meet some good people that will be a blessing to me and I to them. Now I only have flirting eyes for my lovely husband:) However looking pleasant is never wrong really except when you may not be safe.

    GoldenAh: That’s so true. A direct stare, along with a matter of timing. Too short: not interested. Too long: might be interpreted as hostility. Somewhere between staring for moderate periods of time and glancing off might be good enough.

    Such a fun game.

    Gosh, I gotta get out of the house this season. πŸ˜€

  10. Barbara
    February 1st, 2012 @ 9:18 AM

    White men in america make their lives so complicated.

    I dont see why they say its so hard for them to approach black women-asian men and puerto rican men dont seem to have that trouble.
    And I see a lot of those couples.
    White men and black women are the easiest couples to make, to be frank, yet constantly white men are using excuses to say why they cant approach black women.

    When the reality is..they just dont want to.

    A man who wants something, really wants something, uses NO EXCUSES to not get what he wants.
    This is why im more interested in foreign white men.
    Yes, there was racism a long time in New york that made it harder between the races but people in their 20’s and 30’s did NOT grow up in that and therefore shouldnt be using that excuses for not finding a mate.

    Foreign white men put american white men to shame.

    GoldenAh: American white men are really nice (and giving) once you get to know them. However, there are strange some strange misconceptions they have about black women (sometimes). There are a lot of hurdles that I believe both black women and white men put in each others way. Like I’ve noticed even among good friends, they seem to worry that I’m going to find any bit of candor (about some issues) offensive. I tell people as long as you aren’t directly insulting me, you can talk about what you like. I’m going to say stuff that’ll bother you as well. Get used to it. It’s a two-way street. πŸ™‚

    And, yeah, whenever someone wants to start endorsing the “black women are hard to approach, I’m terrified of them” story, I put them on ignore. I don’t want to hear it. I cannot be bothered with that. It’s stupid. Like you say, if they don’t approach, it is because they don’t want to. End of story. What more do we need to know?

    Plus, we’ve seen enough with our own eyes that the most timid white man will break off someone’s arm if he wants something bad enough. Phew. I’ve seen it with my own eyes: startling!! No one needs some lame excuse that black women are scary. If they’re not interested, it’s okay. Let’s keep it moving. Spare us the B.S.

    I think with foreign white men, they don’t have that extra layer of “issues” you have to peel away like you might have to with American men. That would make them more attractive.

    Nice to hear from you, Barbara. πŸ™‚



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