It’s easy to stumble crossing the color line

in Contributors/Terry Manning by

Social media usually is such a proliferation of nonsense that I’m surprised when I read something that really makes me stop and think. This happened recently when a friend posted: 

“Seems to me that it’s time to remind our young Black men that young Black women are suitable life partners.” 

The post was not inflammatory, it was not accusatory, and in fact seemed almost resigned to the fact Black men, especially young Black men, are increasingly looking outside their culture for mates. This was an accomplished Black woman lamenting a social trend she had observed. 

The responses were what I expected. 

Some blamed Black women’s strong personalities and (allegedly) anti-Black male views. Others blamed poor models in youth culture: too many half-dressed hoochie mamas and womanizing wannabe thugs and too few smart, clean-cut nice guys. Some pointed to commercials that, while depicting more interracial couples overall, persist in showing Black female characters without a visible male partner. 

The author countered the replies with infographics from Pew Research showing Black men marry other races at twice the rate Black women do, 24 percent to 12 percent. Add in a bachelor’s degree and the difference increases, 30 percent to 13 percent. Unlike most times on social media, the commenters didn’t argue against the facts. 

I wanted to respond, but first I had to consider my own dating history. Over the course of my adulthood, l dated several white women. Some thought this meant I didn’t like or wasn’t attracted to Black women. That never was the case. 

I married my high school sweetheart, a Black woman. We divorced, but it wasn’t because she was Black. I met many beautiful, intelligent Black women throughout my career, but I was determined to follow the advice of never dating where I worked. And since I am a homebody by nature I met only the people I ran into casually, who were introduced by friends (very rarely) or whom I met on dating sites. They were usually white. 

Even with living and working in the South, I found that dating interracially was not as fraught with overt peril as it used to be. Still, it had its challenges: 

– There was the woman whose father is a Civil War re-enactor. He was a nice man and praised me as being “as white as any white man he knew.” I still don’t know what to do with that “compliment.” 

– Then there was the woman who brought up how chatter at her family get-togethers would inevitably turn to “the Black problem.” I still remember her describing a bunker her brothers and uncles built out in the middle of nowhere, filled with food, guns and ammo for when “the race wars start.” 

– I can’t forget the woman whose older brother thought he’d scored an irrefutable political point when he slapped me on the shoulder and said, “I like Herman Cain. He lets me vote against Obama without looking racist.” Unless, I said, that’s the only reason you like Cain, in which case, that’s racist. 

– I almost left out the woman who broke off things because her mother cautioned her father would disown her if he found out it was a “Black boy” calling their house looking to speak to his daughter. I tell myself I let her go, but looking back I know now that by the time she told me that story she was already gone. 

Anecdotes aside, interracial relationships with one Black partner face significant issues. A University of Washington study found couples in these relationships tended to live in poorer neighborhoods. They often face challenges overcoming cultural differences and pressures. White women who date Black men can suffer a loss of social status. 

A Black male-white female marriage is twice as likely to end in divorce as a same-race marriage. I experienced that after marrying a white woman a decade younger than me. When we divorced, to quote Richard Pryor, she took everything but the blame. 

A reasonable person might wonder, “So why even bother? Why not just stick with Black women?” 

Which brings me back to my thoughts about the original post. 

(To be continued …) 

Terry E. Manning lives and works in Savannah, Ga. He is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at teemanning@gmail.com.