Over the weekend, Hortense from Jezebel posted a story about Jill Scott’s recent commentary in Essense magazine. Scott, who is black, wrote about her feelings regarding interracial relationships. She describes her spirit “wincing” when she finds out a black man is dating, or married to, a white woman (rather than a black woman). “My position is that for women of color, this very common ‘wince’ has solely to do with the African story in America,” she writes.
Some of the responses to Scott’s piece at Jezebel made me “wince.” I’m not going to say whether I “agree” or “disagree” with Scott, because her experience is not one I’ll ever have. And my own opinion, as an outsider, is not relevant. However, I need to dispel some of the myths and falsehoods I read in the comments.
“Slavery is over.” The Energizer bunny of privileged cluelessness. I infer this bit of truthiness was in reaction to the part where Jill explained:
When our people were enslaved, “Massa” placed his Caucasian woman on a pedestal. She was spoiled, revered and angelic, while the Black slave woman was overworked, beaten, raped and farmed out like cattle to be mated. She was nothing and neither was our Black man. As slavery died for the greater good of America, and the movement for equality sputtered to life, the White woman was on the cover of every American magazine. She was the dazzling jewel on every movie screen, the glory of every commercial and television show. She was unequivocally the standard of beauty for this country, firmly unattainable to anyone not of her race. We daughters of the dust were seen as ugly, nappy mammies, good for day work and unwanted children, while our men were thought to be thieving, sex-hungry animals with limited brain capacity.
We reflect on this awful past and recall that if a Black man even looked at a White woman, he would have been lynched, beaten, jailed or shot to death. In the midst of this, Black women and Black men struggled together, mourned together, starved together, braved the hoses and vicious police dogs and died untimely on southern back roads together. These harsh truths lead to what we really feel when we see a seemingly together brother with a Caucasian woman and their children. That feeling is betrayed.
Slavery may be over, but the scars of slavery remain. White women are still exalted as the most desirable sex and relationship partners. I think it would hurt to feel like you’ve stood by the men in your community only to be passed over by those men when they look for love.
It’s easy for white women to say, “Love is colorblind!” (platitude #2) when they are not used to being rejected on the basis of their race. People’s dating success is heavily influenced by their race. Late last year, online dating site OKCupid processed the messaging habits of its users and published some trends they noticed. As they put it on the OKCupid blog, “despite what you might’ve heard from the Obama campaign and organic cereal commercials, racism is alive and well.”
And a lot of folks who disapproved of Scott’s piece realize that… except the “racism” they see is Scott’s. “Scott is no better than the KKK!” Okaaaay, if you completely ignore context and power differentials.
Which brings me to the question, “Would it be the same if [the details were totally different]?” No, it’s not the same when a white guy gets upset about a white women pairing up with a man of color. Those with racial and sexual privilege are not coming from the same place as those without it. Again: context and power differentials are important!
Scott is not speaking for all black women but I think plenty of black women can relate to what she’s said. These responses are attempts to invalidate Scott’s experiences – experiences white women cannot know. They demonstrate a superficial reading of her piece and don’t even try to understand where she is coming from. I recommend reading Tami’s post on the subject.