Black women are the least desired women… or are we?

I discuss mostly political issues on this blog, from my perspective as an African-American millennial woman. But my experience of being black shapes the way I see American politics and culture and the way I am seen in both these arenas, simply by my presence. Nowhere do I see this more than in my dating life.

The media narrative that promotes white women as the epitome of desirability and purity is alive and well even in 2017 despite all the #blackgirlmagic going on. Black women suffer from a real lack of positive images of us on the screen, especially where men are concerned. And then enters Rachel Lindsay.

Suddenly the discussion has changed or has it? If you don’t know who Rachel Lindsay is, she’s made history for being the first non-white person to be selected as the Bachelor(ette) on ABC and the first black woman to be the Bachelorette. Her season began on Monday May 22 and is getting people talking. Unfortunately not about what we should be talking about.

The biggest question about the men vying for Rachel’s heart is what would their racial make up be? All black men wouldn’t work. All white men wouldn’t work. My hope was that it would be a mix of not just black and white but Asian, Latino, Native American, Arab, everyone. We got as close to that as possible. Most are black or white but the contestant to get the First Impression rose and first kiss is a Colombian. There was an Indian contestant and a few East Asian contestants.

It’s understatement to say this has never been seen before. Black women are the most negatively stereotyped women in the media. We’re hyper-sexualized, completely de-sexualized or depicted as angry, damaged and the like. YouTube and other social media pages are filled with people expressing their outright disgust for black women, many of them black men. It starts early. Black girls go to school seeing black boys openly state their preference for white, Latina or Asian girls and this carries on into adulthood where black women have one of the lowest marriage rates.

In just the first episode Rachel Lindsay completely challenges this narrative. She is showing that black women can be desired by men of all races. We are beautiful, intelligent, kind, and worthy of any deserving man to “bring home to mom or grandma” as some of the men were saying. Let me repeat, this is new. And it’s refreshing. Because it’s never been seen before.

Yet predictably this is not what’s being talked about. Rachel said from the very beginning she’s not concerned with color but who is the right man for her. Newsweek ran with it and published and then retracted an article claiming that Rachel proves the statistics wrong, that black women do like non-black men. It was retracted when it got a negative response from men and women, black and white alike. On black social media publications, many black men criticized ABC for trying to convince black women to date white men, ignoring the fact that 12% of black women are married to white men, compared to 24% of black men married to white women. When black women spoke up who either married interracially or who has a relative who did, they were criticized and told to stop publicizing it. Again I repeat, more black men marry out than black women do.

Rachel’s choice, whether she chooses a black suitor or a white one or perhaps neither is irrelevant. She’s making the choice that’s best for her. What is relevant is the narrative that black women are the least desirable women and that no one wants us is being challenged in the best possible way. Yet predictably, that’s the one discussion we’re not having.

The United States as we know it, is dying… and that might be a good thing

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The past nine days have seen one political rollercoaster after another. From FBI director James Comey’s firing, to the revelation that Trump revealed classified information received from Israel to the Russians, and now James Comey’s memo saying that President Trump pressured him to stop the FBI investigation against former NSA chief Michael Flynn. Wednesday saw encouraging news that Comey’s predecessor, Robert Mueller was named as special counsel/prosecutor to oversee the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia but no matter how this turns out, things are going to get ugly. As dramatic and stress-inducing this very young presidency has been, this is only the beginning–whether something substantial comes of these investigations or not.

Things aren’t much better outside of the White House either. Education Secretary Betty DeVos announced a possible raise of interest rates on student loans by 20% and a proposal to end the public service loan forgiveness program. In Oklahoma late Wednesday night, white police officer Betty Shelby was acquitted of first-degree manslaughter of unarmed black man Terrence Crutcher. On all fronts it seems like the United States is crumbling, from the inside out. From the health care debate, to climate change, to the changing world economy, our government is seemingly doing the absolute wrong thing.

Unfortunately, removing or fixing one thing will not cure what ultimately ails us. Removing Attorney General Jeff Sessions will not stop police officers killing unarmed black and brown civilians with impunity nor will it correct the racial disparity in the criminal justice system. Removing Betty DeVos as Secretary of Education will not resolve the massive problem with student loan debt in this country. Removing Donald Trump from the presidency of the United States will not undo the damage he’s done, either in re-energizing white supremacy and xenophobia, which we thought were behind us nor in repairing the economic and societal divisions in this country that allowed him to rise to power in the first place.

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One might ask why? In our 241-year history, our structures are fundamentally unchanged. Despite experiencing a civil war early in our history, a Great Depression, fighting in two world wars, incorporating protections for civil rights and equality, and balancing a cold war for 40 years, the United States as it has existed since 1776 remains in tact. Precisely, and that is precisely the problem.

Declaration_independenceOur structures have remained in tact, and unchanged. Our politicians claim that a testament to our exceptionalist strength and morality. It also feeds a refusal to change even when the times necessitate it. And it is that inflexibility, the resistance to transformation, that is causing our problems now. No country is perfect or has a perfect history. But the United States has been a world power for much of its history. Like much of the West, it has come at the expense of others. However unlike western nations like France, Spain or even Russia it has not had a moment of transformation. We have not had a Revolution of 1789 or a Civil War of 1936 or a Revolution of 1917. We have not had a moment of truth where we can no longer ignore the reality about being American that is staring us right in the face. The truth that this is a nation founded on white supremacy and economic inequality, and it has not changed. Social mobility is not as present as we are socialized to believe. If we are born in poverty, chances are we will die in poverty. Chances of success for African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans are hindered by racial and cultural biases that restrict us to peripheral roles in American life.

The more we deny this the more it becomes obvious to all, both inside and outside the United States. And ultimately the more disastrous the collapse will be. But with death comes transformation and the ability to become greater than what was before. If we allow it.

 

The president doesn’t understand basic history but neither do many Americans

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Yesterday in Donald Trump-land, the man who calls himself our president or Orange Hitler as I prefer to call him, embarrassingly decides to re-litigate why the Civil War happened, insisting that had Andrew Jackson still been president in 1861 he might have been able to prevent it with his “big heart” and that he [Andrew Jackson] was very angry about the War Between the States. This is despite the fact that Andrew Jackson died in 1845 and was a virulent racist who owned as many as 300 slaves and forcibly removed over 125,000 Native Americans from the land they’d lived on for centuries in the southeastern United States.

Interesting this happens as I’m researching the Civil War and the American War of Independence for my memoir. I’ve been a history nerd since the day I could read, majored in History in college but American history pre-WWI is one of my least favorite subjects. Nevertheless, I’ve always been uncomfortable with Americans’ lack of knowledge about our own history even as themes from over 100 years ago reappear today. I remember being a college junior, taking an upper division class on American history “From Progressivism to Global War”, a class covering the US from the 1880s to 1945. This was in early 2008 when the financial crisis just happened, politicians debated our loss of international prestige following President Bush’s war in Iraq, and Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama battled each other for the Democratic nomination for president [I was also taking a class on US Foreign Policy.] Not two classes in, my classmates and I pointed out that the problems and concerns of the country in the 1890s were uncannily similar to the concerns of the country nearly 130 years later. But I digress…

Nothing surprises me about Donald Trump anymore. This isn’t the first time he’s made a serious blunder about American history. I’m more disturbed by the reactions of those condemning him. My US history college professors always pointed out how we [Americans] do not know our own history to where immigrants know US history better than native-borns. I’ll take it a step further and say of the little history we do know, it’s very white-washed, watered-down and distorted to prop us up and make us feel good about ourselves. Donald Trump’s lack of basic understanding of history, of simple dates is problematic but so is the ignorance of those defending him.

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Donald Trump said that if Andrew Jackson had still been president, he could’ve prevented the Civil War. Imagining how a slave owner and murderer of Native Americans would’ve reconciled the North and South is horrifying. If it was up to him, slavery would’ve continued on instead of ending with my great-great-grandparents’ generation. News pundits who favor Trump tend to justify looking back to Andrew Jackson and, George Washington, to connect them to American politics today while ignoring the fact that these men were racist and owned and profited off slaves.

Unfortunately children are taught watered down, white-washed versions of early American history. I remember the stark difference between my elementary school textbooks and in university and what I’ve learned since then. So I’m more interested in our response to Donald Trump re-litigating the Civil War because that reveals more about where we are as a nation. So far what I see is some people turning the Civil War and President Lincoln into a moralistic cause and figure when it was not. President Lincoln even wrote in a letter in 1862 that if he could preserve the Union without freeing a single slave, he would do it. And slavery or no, Abraham Lincoln also said he did not believe African-Americans would ever be as equal as whites. So yes, slavery was the ultimate issue in the Civil War but it was an economic issue not a moralistic one.

It is no coincidence that Donald Trump brings up the Civil War at a time when the nation arguably has never been more divided. Social media is rife with comments with fears that we’re headed toward another civil war. The thing about history is the same themes repeat themselves. That’s why we should remember it, but remember it as it actually happened.