Dating White Men
White man danger...He's come to stay
For most of us women of color - that is, those of us whose politics are such that make us aware of the everyday, oppressive power dynamics embedded into the system and the social relations of our society- have complicated internal "negotiations" (for lack of a better word) when it comes to being intimately involved with white people. As a straight woman of color whose politics are one of anti-oppression, I have a difficult time seeing myself dating, or being in a serious relationship with a white man. Now, I have done it before, and who's to say it won't happen again. I'm open to the idea. However, there are also reasons as to why I'm hesitant.
I started thinking about all of this again recently. I've been talking to a few friends who have just ended rocky relationships with major power struggle issues. These friends are all women of color dating white men. These are beautiful, strong-willed, women with some serious ambition. They are kick-ass women who, despite the many obstacles in their lives, have continued doing what they do - whether it's their music, their art, their writing, their academic endeavours, their business ambitions, etc.
Now here comes the kicker. When it comes to reflecting on their relationships or involvements with the white men, most of these women (I've been there too) feel that we are too demanding, too aggressive, and basically see the issues at hand only as interpersonal; so, it all becomes a matter of personality conflicts or clashing personal baggages. Now, I agree that the interpersonal thing is partly true. But when it comes to being a (straight) woman of color, there are wider systemic issues and some major internalized shit going on in terms of our positionality in our relationships with white men. I'm not saying this is untrue when it comes to dating men of color, but that is a whole other discussion that merits another blog posting.
So for some women, the internalized shit, and the wider systemic power dynamics embedded in race-gender relations, often translates into "interpersonal issues." Whether we aren't aware of it, or choose to ignore it, this is where a major part of the problem resides. Women of color who are intimately involved with white men have to address the race-gender power dynamics so deeply embedded in their relationship. I'm not saying this is something that needs to be brought up all the time, but there needs to be some serious discussion about it at some point. Without it, how can there be trust and growth between the two people? If racism and sexism are just some of the realities of living your everyday as a woman of color, then how can there be no discussion on these issues when it comes to being with a white man?
Having said that though, in most cases, the white guys just don't seem to get it. And if they do, they choose not to be self-reflective and work on their shit. So I don't know folks. All I know is that there are many amazing women I know caught up in situations where they are compromising, self-doubting, and questioning the hard work they've done on themselves to get to where they are. For us women, the confidence, the belief in ourselves, the perseverence, the resilience, is an everyday struggle. This struggle is a part of us. Not recognizing this struggle, which is so damn integral to our being, is not right. Compromising all the hard work we've done on ourselves, and for ourselves, is not right. It just isn't.
I realize we can't help who we fall in love with. But come on now, oppressive power dynamics and all the isms that go with it don't just magically stop at the door to your relationship. Just because you are a white man and you love a Brown woman doesn't mean everything's cool. It's precisely the opposite. You have some serious work to do in terms of challenging yourself, un-learning and re-learning, listening, paying attention to your positionality in the relationship, and how you can be oppressive without even being aware, and how you can be supportive in ways that you didn't even know.
When it comes to women of color who are involved with white men, just cuz there's love doesn't mean it's all good. Really and truly, there's some serious work to be done.
ps. In case you didn't catch the song reference in the title, it's from an Elton John tune (1980). And to all the white men, I was being a little tongue-in-cheek guys, calm down.