Penny For Your Thoughts: Can You Be Pro-Black In Life And Pro-White In Love?

April 15, 2015  |  

You probably know more about Azealia Banks than I do.

However, I’ve done my homework, and in the process, learned a lot about her. I learned that she’s incredibly feisty and outspoken on social media. I learned that she’s not shy about discussing her sex life. I learned that, despite frequently spouting coarse invective (“fa**ot,” “ni**a” and “b**ch”) about other people on Twitter, she proudly calls herself a feminist and pro-black.

I also learned this: Azealia Banks dates “lots of white guys.”

Now, from what I’ve read, she hasn’t said that she only dates white men. The “only” seems to be implied, and it’s an assumption she’s okay with, especially since someone recently asked her on Instagram why she “dated white dudes with money,” to which she offered this response:

“Because black men take black women for granted and I’m too busy with music to be fighting for my rights at home. I already have to fight for respect with the black men in hip-hop so When I get home I like things to be nice and easy. Make sense?”

Azealia Banks probably meant “Make sense?” as a rhetorical question. But “Make sense?” is something I’d like to attempt to answer here.

Or, better put, it’s something I’d like to hesitantly attempt to answer here. I say “hesitantly” because I know Banks is a lively debater and I would be nervous to actually tangle with her in verbal conflict.

My hesitant response to Banks’ “Make sense?” question would be, “Um…no. Actually, it kind of doesn’t make sense.”

To be clear, in my book, people can and should date whomever they choose. My editor Victoria likes to say, “Love is love,” and I wholeheartedly agree with that declaration. Personally, I have dated all across the rainbow. If you saw the last handful of guys I went out with, you might even think I have a singular preference for white men. But many people hear “I date white men” or “I date white women” and they insert an “only” where it doesn’t belong.

Do I date white men? Yes.

Do I only date white men? No.

If someone were to ask me, “Why do you date white men?” My answer would vary, depending on my mood and my audience. I might venture a humorous yet thoughtful response, like,“I grew up as one of only a handful of black kids in a white school. Several of my beloved family members are white (my stepmother and my stepsister). So, hey, what do you expect? An interracial relationship was kind of inevitable.”

Then again, I might act offended at the question itself, and shoot back, “Really? Are people still asking that in 2015?”

But whatever reply I’d give (if I even bothered to give one at all), I’d hasten to avoid what I call, racially escapist reasoning. Meaning, I wouldn’t say (or even imply) that I date white men because there’s something about black men that I don’t like and want to avoid. I wouldn’t make any comparisons about what white men like/do/are/say vs. what black men like/do/are/say. In fact, I wouldn’t bring up black men at all when talking about my decision to date white men. Because frankly, black men have nothing to do with it.

Which is why Banks’ racially escapist reasoning (she basically said, “Black men take black women for granted, so I date white men because they’re nice and easy”) doesn’t make sense to me.

I mean, I get it. But I only get it because I’ve heard it before. The racially escapist explanation for interracial dating is nothing new. For years, people have been similarly defending their relationship choices with some version of “I date white men/women because black men/women are too ____.” (You can fill in the blank with any generalization, like black men/women are too selfish, too aggressive, too mean, too arrogant, too needy, too nagging, too broke, too unfaithful, too untrustworthy, too stingy, too shady, etc.)

There are myriad reasons why one would date outside of their race–from the torrid (exoticism, curiosity, fetishism) to the meaningful (genuine and mutual attraction). 

But my question is: Why are we still asking people who date outside of their race to explain themselves in the first place? 

Then, my next question is: Why are some people’s explanations for why they date outside of their race based upon broad generalizations and blatantly dogging the so-called unsuitable mates within their race?”

Maybe I’m the only one who’s tired of the lame rationale that if you date a white man (or woman) it’s because you’ve got something against black men (or women).

I generally don’t agree with dating any type of man/woman simply because he/she seems like the antithesis to another type of man/woman. That’s not just racially speaking, either. That goes for the guy who chooses to date women with afros, only because he thinks their natural hair means they’re cooler and freer than the so-called stuck-up women who have relaxers. That also goes for the woman who chooses to date guys with a traditional 9-to-5, only because she thinks they’re more financially reliable than, say, writers and musicians who supposedly don’t pick up the check.

I don’t date one type of person simply for the sake of not dating another type of person. If I date guys from Brooklyn, it’s not because I don’t like guys from Harlem. If I date guys with beards, it’s not because I don’t like clean-cut guys. I don’t date someone because he’s the right to someone else’s wrong. I date a guy because I like him. Not because of who he’s not (not broke, not clean-cut, not black). Just because of who he is.

As a black woman who dates white men, I wish Banks had chosen another way to answer the “Why do you date white men?” question, besides reverting to racially escapist logic. So, that’s one reason why I’d say, “Um…no” to her rhetorical question of whether or not such statements “Make sense?”

The second thing is this: All black men do not take black women for granted.

Actually, no. It’s two things: 1) All black men do not take black women for granted. 2) All white men are not “nice and easy.”

I have dated a lot of black men. I can’t think of one of them who took me for granted. (Not to mention that there’s no one word or characteristic that I could summon that would accurately apply to all black men I’ve dated and/or all black men who roam the earth.)

I have dated a lot of white men. I can’t think of one of them who was unfailingly and unremittingly “nice and easy.” (I can’t think of any person or group of people on the planet who are “nice and easy,” in fact.)

There is no one way to describe all people. Period.

Giving Banks the benefit of the doubt, she may have been using a racial generalization simply as a way of being incendiary, controversial, or even artistic. But Banks’ generalizations about black men have raised eyebrows because of her self-professed “pro-black”-ness. Her outspokenness about dating white men has some people thinking that Banks is a walking contradiction.

I enthusiastically support a black woman who call herself pro-black choosing to date white men. But I’m less supportive of a black woman who calls herself pro-black bashing black men when explaining why she chooses to date white men, and vice versa. 

But you tell me: What’s the most pressing matter here? Is it about whether a black woman or a black man has the right to be pro-black in life and pro-white in love? (I’m using both “pro-” terms somewhat loosely, of course. But I hope you know what I mean.) Or is it about whether or not a black person can be “pro-white” in his/her love life without being anti-black?

For me, it all goes back to Banks’ rhetorical question, “Make sense?”

“Love who you love” will always make sense to me as a way of explaining interracial relationships (if they need any explanation at all). But the “I date white men because black men…” thing? Well, that will always leave me scratching my head.

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