By Panashe Chigumadzi (@panashechig)
“That made sense. I could easily understand the fact that the likes of Diop and Fanon (and even the black men of ‘liberation generation’ with white spouses e.g. Dali Tambo and Tokyo Sexwale) often had the kind of access to diverse social circles (by virtue of belonging to an elite class) where interracial interactions may have been commonplace. This is the kind of access that many black women (and men) did not, and still don’t, have access to in those pre-liberation times.”
“What is it about black women that we seem to want to be escaped so much by black men, even those of the ‘liberation generation’?”
I asked Ever-Suffering this question quite pained. Some context: there were three separate events that came together like wave crests crashing and led me to my appeal for answers from my boyfriend as follows:
The first was reading a number of tweets by the irrepressible Kola Boof bemoaning the fact that there seems to be a trend where revered anti-colonialism figures had white spouses, examples including Frantz Fanon (the Algerian philosopher, writer, revolutionary and psychiatrist) and Cheikh Anta Diop (Senegalese anthropologist, politician, historian and physicist). She found it disturbing that these heroes in Afrocentricism did not ‘affirm’ black women by marrying them and instead married white women, almost implying they “should have known better”.
The second happened when Ever-Suffering and I attended a party where we’d spotted a dashiki-wearing man, a la Dali Tambo, with his white spouse. We asked ourselves why it seemed that for the older generation the over-whelming majority of the black men that had or have white spouses were dashiki-wearing men. We made a generalization and took dashikis, decidedly not the common dress of the ‘modern’ Southern African man, as an indicator of a sort of Afrocentrism, an indicator that the wearer the kind of person who might just have ‘Not Yet Uhuru’ as the soundtrack to his life. So we thought it amusing that this ‘liberated’ man was the one with the most pronounced preference for the ‘former coloniser’ as a mate.
The third ‘event’ that precipitated the question was reading about a celebration of the life of the late Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera (arguably he didn’t make any pretense to beingt he archetypal anti-colonial or Afrocentric figure) held at Oxford’s Trinity College where it was apparently remarked that “he had many white girlfriends”. It’s important to note that “many white girlfriends” doesn’t necessarily mean no black girlfriends or even a preference for white women.
Nevertheless, I was reminded of the last two ‘events’ and wanted to borrow a line from Marechera’s House of Hunger and ask Fanon and Diop: “How did you reconcile your politics with your sexual adventures?”
So, after taking Ever-Suffering through the reasons behind my question, he responded by referring me to to a blogpost titled ‘Yes It’s True…Black Guys Can Like White Girls AND Black Girls Too’ by The Champ of Very Smart Brotha’s fame. Here’s what I found to be the most important insight:
“Proximity and availability are easily the two most important factors when men are choosing mates. If you see a black man with a non-black women, 9 times out of 10 it’ll be because she happened to be around, happened to be single, and happened to be interested in him. That’s it. No self-loathing. No hatred of black skin.”
That made sense. I could understand the fact that the likes of Diop and Fanon (and even the black men of ‘liberation generation’ with white spouses e.g. Dali Tambo and Tokyo Sexwale) often had the kind of access to diverse social circles (by virtue of belonging to an elite class) where interracial interactions may have been commonplace. This is the kind of access that many black women (and men) did not, and still don’t, have access to in those pre-liberation times.
Now not as emotional I nodded and offered the fact there are many other pro-black men who have married and thereby ‘affirmed’ black women. Malcolm X, W. E. B. du Bois, Julius Nyerere and Robert Sobukwe are amongst those who have done so.
My pain eased up, though I was still a little unsatisfied because I didn’t see the same thing happening for black women with comparable access to diverse social circles by virtue of their success. I suggested Ever-Suffering and I do a mini survey of black women who would have had the same kind of access to a racially-diverse social circle. Off the top of my head I offered Angelique Kidjo and Jean Hébrail, Grace Jones and her ex -husband Chris Stanley, Iman and David Bowie and Naomi Campbell and Roman Abramovich.
Ever-Suffering then pointed out that it’s also important to note that success and upward mobility (which is what often facilitated the access) doesn’t always do the same things for men and women in the dating game, regardless of race. Success tends to make men more attractive and ups their advantage in dating. Women tend to become less attractive by becoming ‘intimidating’ to potential suitors of any race, and so, their potential dating pool may shrink.
“True that,” I conceded. (Admittedly quite dejected about my own prospects should This Thing between me and Ever-Suffering end, having the ambitions that I do.)
I then brought up that Asian men are supposedly “the other big losers in the interracial dating game”. A little weary of the amount of “research” that would have to go into this, we ended the conversation about dashiki men and their white women with a promise to do a survey on upper middle class Asian men and their interracial dating experiences.
In the meantime, weigh in why don’t you?