Black Women, White Men and the Question of Marriage

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

There are enclaves where interracial relationships are still frowned upon. But by and large, this phenomenon is on the upward trend: becoming common around the world — especially in Europe, Canada, and the United States. A cursory look suggests that interaciality has a longer history of acceptance in Western Europe than in the United States. And when aggregated, interracial liaisons seem less common and less celebrated in societies that are considered conservative, dutifully religious, and politically closed.

Except perhaps in the early years of its existence as a Republic, one could hardly consider the United States a “conservative, dutifully religious, and politically closed” society. A few settlements may fit that description, but in the whole, America has mostly been a social laboratory in many respects. Race was something else, though. And not a few has attributed racial tension and unhealthy racial competition to the residual effect of slavery and to the manner in which the country was “discovered” and founded.

As commonplace as interracial relationships are becoming, the vast majority of such interactions seem to be between Black men – African-American or Sub-Saharan Africans – and White women. And indeed, there is also an upward swing in liaison between Black men and women of Asian and Latin America heritage. The evidence for these can be found in places such as Seattle, New York, DC-Tri-Cities, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Chicago, and in many college towns.

Many reasons have been proffered for why people date and/or marry outside of their race. Such studies and/or social commentaries generally look at “why black men date white women.” My own commentary, published in the spring 2006 edition of CYH Magazine — “African Men: Why They Favor Non African Women” — did exactly that. In the Fall of 2005, I wrote Nigerian Men and Their Foreign Wives, which has remained my most oft-quoted essay. What about African women: why don’t they date non-Blacks as often as their male counterparts date and marry outside of their race?

Put another way: why is marriage — or any type of relationship between Black women and White men not as common? I have been associated with six university campuses in the United States. And even within these settings, the norms was/is Black male students with White female students. Rarely does one see a White male student dating or going gaga over a Black female student. One is left to think, or at least suspect, that the general populace prefers the former as opposed to the latter.

Without the benefit of systematic studies, and relying primarily on casual conversations with friends and friends of friends and online acquaintances, one was able to glean some specifics as to why large number Black women don’t date or won’t marry non-Black men. In all I spoke with 19 single Black women between the ages of 27 and 39. (Statistically the number of respondents is way too small to make any kind of scientific inference.) Nonetheless, other than wanting to know why “Black women don’t/won’t date/marry white men,” some of the questions I put forth included:

1) What do you think of White men
2) Would you date or ever date a White man
3) Would your friends and family accept such a relationship
4) Do you think his friends and family will accept/celebrate such a union, and
5) What do you think of Black women who date/marry White Men

I also went in search of Black women (African-American and sub-Saharan Africans) who have or currently dating, had intimate relationship with or married White men.
1) What’s the difference between dating a black man and a white man?
2) What did your friends and family say about it?
3) Have your friends/family, and your partner’s friends/family accepted the union?
4) What are the advantages/disadvantages of such a union; and
5) Do you have regrets?

Paraphrased, several respondents said, “to give myself to a White man would be like allowing my self to be enslaved again.” For Hanna and for Leah, they simply could not imagine a condition under which they would date or marry a White man. Or any non-Black for that matter. Both women seem to have mental barriers — barriers that seem rooted in historical events, and as if to say “the white and black world must not mix;”

Olamide and June — best friends for more than 12 years — simply do not find the white skin attractive. Besides, they believe that the “white culture is simply too permissible.” Both specifically point to “their sexual practices…anal sex, ass-to-mouth, and the awful things they expect women to do with the male body fluid.” Reminded that there are some westernized African men in the Diaspora who also engage in such practice, both concurred but said “such men are few, perhaps 1:5000.”

Three of the women thought “a white man will never respect a Black man or a Black woman,” and so they have no intension of allowing themselves to be treated less than a cat.” Three of the women — Bessie, Marie and Aina — believe that “white boys don’t get circumcised,” and under no condition were they going to go to bed with uncircumcised men. Most of what was said about “uncircumcised white men” cannot be printed here.

The last online acquaintance I spoke with is a product of a biracial relationship, and was raised mostly by her dad with whom she has a very healthy relationship. However, she has not dated a non-black since she was 17. For undergraduate and graduate education, she attended historical black colleges in the south. At 32, more than 95% of her friends are non-blacks. “In spite of the loving relationship I have with my dad and his family…I never could bring myself to dating one of them. The Black world is my world,” she said.

But for women who date and marry White men, what are their lives like? Why did they date and or marry their partners? How does it feel to be removed from the Black world? Are they totally accepted by their non-black friends and in-laws? Are they able to navigate both worlds without feeling like strangers or feeling unwanted in either world? How are they treated by their own friends and family members? And how are they treated, for the first time, when it is known they date or are married to non-Blacks, by new friends, associates and co-workers?

More questions needs to be asked. Systematic studies need to be done before one can be definite in ones pronouncements. Nonetheless, there are three distinct impressions one gets whenever one observes Black women who dates or are married to White men. First, insofar as sub-Saharan African women are concerned, they generally do not look or feel comfortable or secured in the company of White men. It is as if they are not completely into the relationship; as if they are holding out to the day when a Black man will come along and take them away.

Second, within the sub-Saharan African group, the Ethiopians seem different. In fact, the majority of Diasporan Africans thinks of and sees Ethiopian women in a not-too-bright light. The intention here is not to perpetuate stereotypes or morbid generalization; still, the general judgment is that a sizeable number of women from that part of the continent would rather marry a White man than a Black man — even if the White man is less educated, less endowed, less cultured, and is less of everything than the Sub-Saharan.

Finally, the African-American women, within the context of what is being discussed, find themselves in a position they did not bargain for. In most cases, the

se women have more formal education than their male counterparts; and seem more secured in their career. For such women, finding a fitting man becomes difficulty. Also, an increasing number of educated, successful and marriageable Africa-American men seem to be ignoring Black women for non-Black women. And so a growing number of well-educated, well-traveled, and successful Black women look to the non-black world for suitors and for well-deserved comfort.

Relationships are not easy to maintain. And love is not easy to come by. In the end though, it really and truly should not matter who one marries or fall in love with. Global events indicate that the world is getting smaller and smaller and becoming more interconnected and integrated. What mattered in yesteryears — culture, religion, distance, family ties, etc, etc — may not matter as much today as they once did. One must marry he/she who, amongst other qualities and requirements, thinks the world of us.

Part 2…coming soon

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wilma April 19, 2010 - 5:54 pm

i just read this article and its almost a year since it was written.however,i love it.a bossom friend of mine recently wedded a white welshman and i was the most avid spporter of the union because they match,irrespective of the difference in races.i am already married to a blackman but i will give my daughter all the support she needs if she finds love in the arms of a whiteman because finding love isnt easy,so who cares what race he is,as long as they are a nigerian and marrying from from another tribe is really difficult because so much is expected from you to learn and accept.on a broader perspctive you deal with similar issues in an interracial is for the bold,not the weak.

Tia March 22, 2010 - 6:37 pm

But for women who date and marry White men, what are their lives like? Why did they date and or marry their partners?

How does it feel to be removed from the black community.

our lives are very varied, because we are different women in different experiences, there is no one answer to this. it depends on where you live, your family, etc. why do you think we’d have to be removed from the black community that is not the case. A black person does not become white then they marry a white person, , if anything their sense of being Black may be challenged in new ways. there will not be one answer to ” why did you get married” imagine if you asked this to a room full of nigerians or african americans or germans.

NVM February 17, 2010 - 5:20 am

“In most cases, these women have more formal education than their male counterparts; and seem more secured in their career. “

How can more women be secure when the males are the multi-million dollar athletes and musicians? I mean do they ever get married? I’m being facetious. There are no sureties here.

There is so much I could say about this article, but I will hold my tongue…

sophlames November 30, 2009 - 3:09 am

nice article again i liked it and some of it is true. African sisters especially nigerian tend to fill embarrassed when with white men. But i think it has to do with the fact that in nigeria most of the girls u see with white men are prostitutes from slums. Im not being rude but thats the fact. they degrade themselves so low that they would have sex with 5 white men for a flimsy 10 dollars. They embarrass themselves in public. People see this and so the minute u are spotted everybody thinks ur a whore.

nicole November 5, 2009 - 6:57 pm

That is cool, it sucks that people are still staring in this day and age, but people are ignorant. Good luck with your relationship.

Shelia August 20, 2009 - 5:32 pm

I feel that it is silly for BW to not consider their options. I am a BW and I have always dated Whitemen. I really don’t understand why this is such a big topic for most BW especially since BW outnumber BM in college and in the workforce there are more available, marriage minded men available.

Rosie July 7, 2009 - 2:38 pm

I am currently dating a white male. It aint easy. For him, it is not a big deal. He thinks I am the cat’s meow. His friends and family like me so far but I had to work to earn their like. The few freinds that I have told about him have had mixed reactions. One in particular was disgusted. But she is the type that eventually comes around. IMO it is harder for black women because we tend to want to fit into what our local communities had prescribed as a standard for us – to find and marry a black man. Even when we find a decent white guy willing to jump through loops for us, we are discontented because we feel we are being judged by everyone around us. Which in most cases is true. I can’t count how many times I have walked into a room with my boyfriend had have eyes watching our every move. It can get annoying. Fortunately, we have sworn to ignore all this and focus on ourselves and our families – for now.

Reply July 7, 2009 - 9:17 am

A well written piece. The points mentioned here are indeed true. I will like to add that in Europe it is a little different than in the States perhaps because Europeans may be more open to inter-marrying other races, especially in England & the Netherlands. One is more likely to see a white man married to a black woman in these countries than in the States. I guess with time, issues like these will change. Once again, this was an excellent piece.

Anon E. Mous July 7, 2009 - 5:45 am

I think this is an excellent article, that makes many valid points. I can’t wait to read Part Two!


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