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.