Friday afternoon I was browsing Twitter when Huffington Post tweeted out an article written by Aaron Barksdale titled, What It’s Like To Be A Gay Black Men Who Has Only Dated White Men. Against my better judgment, I read said article and I have a whole lot of feelings and questions.
When I first read the title, a mild eye roll immediately followed. So many articles like Mr. Barksdale’s have been written, and they pretty much all say the same thing.
1) Men of color are fetishized, stigmatized, and discriminated against in the LGBT community. Which is true. Data proves that queer men of color are more likely to be ignored when seeking a romantic or sexual encounter than queer white men. The LGBT task force writes, “White gay men respond more often to OkCupid messages from other white men than from men of color. They respond to messages from other white men 44% of the time but respond only 37.3% of the time to men of color.” When you take a closer look at the data, it’s usually the Black and Asian men that get shifted. A full report of this data can be seen here.
2) Some men of color approach white men because of the embedded disposition of what is beautiful/handsome that is fed to us by the media, European beauty standards, and centuries of colorism. Some queer men of color find themselves being insecure and probably ashamed of their ethnic features, so they seek out men who don’t have them. Another fair and accurate sentiment. Bell Hooks, author, feminist, social activist, said this,
“Black males who refuse categorization are rare, for the price of visibility in the contemporary world of white supremacy is that black identity be defined in relation to the stereotype whether by embodying it or seeking to be other than it…Negative stereotypes about the nature of black masculinity continue to over-determine the identities black males are allowed to fashion for themselves.”
In this quote, Hooks deals with black masculinity and visibility. But I think there’s something to be said about the queer black men that “seek to be other than it [the stereotype]” by chasing after white men, who are the furthest thing from our ethnic features and stereotypes.
Writers choose to write for many reasons, but I think at the core of it all is that we either want to start a conversation or add some significance to an existing conversation. This article did neither.
So let’s get into why I’m annoyed.
While so much of what Barksdale said was problematic, what bothered me the most was this quote:
“When I’m dating a white man, I occasionally feel like I need to confront the issue of race head-on and acknowledge the difference in life experiences between me and my partner. It can be frustrating, but also deeply enriching, to teach someone about my cultural upbringing. But the older I get, the more I find myself wanting a partner who can relate to me without needing to be taught. I’ve become increasingly drawn to the concept of Black love, which celebrates Black couples and affirms Black pride within relationships, and I eventually want to experience this.”
So you don’t want to date a black man because we’re beautiful, creative, resilience, innovative, interesting and complex; you want to date one of us because you’ve become “increasingly drawn to the concept” of Black love.
You don’t want to date a black man because you love your blackness, and you’re drawn to others to that love their’s, and you think y’all can love and empower each other better together than apart. No. You like the idea of Black love. You are drawn to the aesthetics of what you perceive Black love to be. You want the “experience” of Black love just to say you’ve had the experience, and that’s not only extremely problematic, but it’s offensive.
The foundation of Black love is self-love. Black people loving their melanin magic is what Black love is truly about. So you if want you “experience” Black love, yourself is a good starting point.
Aaron’s desire to date a Black man and experience Black love is cute, but he’s doing it for all of the wrong reasons. And for reasons that don’t even make real sense, which brings me to my next point.
I completely understand you not wanting to teach someone about social equality and racial injustice; you want a partner not a student or a child, I understand that. However, I’m sorry to break it to you, but not all black folks are raised the same. We’re not a monolith. You’re probably going to have to “teach someone about your cultural upbringing” at some point. There is a range of blackness, so it’s somewhat unrealistic to assume that by dating a Black man you won’t have to explain your culture to him. I do think that two Black men can connect on some level because there’s a good chance that you both have experienced some of the same things living in the “land of the free” (sarcasm), but I’m certain in order to seriously date someone you’ll need to connect on a deeper level that will require some teaching and learning from one another. Which, I think, is the beauty of dating.
Moreover, Black love is not all roses and shea butter, it’s work. Hard work. It’s even more challenging since we’re talking about gay black men. To love each other through general homophobia, institutional racism, social marginalization, stigmatization, the machismo of both parties, perceived gender roles, external disapproval and the unavoidable issues that just come with life and love, Black gay love is work.
A lot of Black people (gay and straight) probably have dealt with some degree of internalized racism and adversely affected by colorism. It’s a part of living within the white supremacist society. I used to be one of those black people. Growing up I was reminded daily how ugly and undesirable my dark skin was. It made me feel small, loathsome, and unattractive. Good thing I had a mother who did not play that and reminded me on a very frequent basis that all shades of black are beautiful, including mine. She used to say, “It’s a blessing to be black. Your skin is beautiful.” It took me years to actually believe that, but I eventually did.
So while I am highly annoyed at the amount of Black men that seek validation from white men, I understand it. We’re all on this journey to “wokeness” together. It’s the way the author of this article delivered his message that made my spirit uneasy.
As you all very well know, I’m all for transparency and living in your truth so I can’t knock him for unpacking how he is dealing with his race and sexuality and how and where they intersect. However, to me, a great deal of Barksdale’s piece seemed disingenuous.
My point is that Barksdale made Black love out to be just a concept or a theory and not something that is actually real and legitimate. Black people have, enjoy and cherish Black love and should regarded as such.