Dear readers, dear readers, dear readers. It is now winter and I’ve left you all summer and fall without a post. And I do feel horrible.
I often think of you all when something happens in the newspaper (that I read online) or in my television shows or when I am in a conversation with someone else about something foolish. I think to myself—I need to share this with the five of you who read this blog so that y’all can get as big a kick out of it as I do.
But writing dear readers…Writing, for DBW is akin to holding her breath under water (YES DBW CAN SWIM. AND HER HAIR IS SHORT AND UNRELAXED SO IT DOESN’T BOTHER HER AS MUCH ALTHOUGH SHE SOMETIMES STILL THINKS ABOUT IT AND STILL DOESN’T SWIM AS OFTEN AS WHITE PEOPLE DO BECAUSE WHY.).
I have pretty good records for “holding my breath.” But when I hit the goal, I often come up for air and then think, Oh my lord I was under water for a long ass time. I’m just gonna float for awhile and then awhile is the whole summer and fall and I have to remember all over again how to breathe under water and REASONS.
Now, you probably don’t care about any of that but that is the only excuse–aside from laziness–that I have to explain my whereabouts.
In any case, I’m here ‘nah. So let’s get to the question. A reader asked me to answer the all too damn difficult question: “Why do black guys go for white girls.” Haa.
And I’ve just gotten real specific by listing the two people I would have the most problem with in the world to get together: Idris Elba and Zooey “I want to physically accost her” Deschanel.
But seriously: Lord, if I had a nickel for every time someone has tried to answer the question of BM and white women I’d have as many nickels as Tami Roman (Team Tami FTW).
The problem with the question is that we honestly have no idea. At the core, it seems to be personal choice and desire. And, yes, desire is informed by a multitude of stuff–history, culture, assimilation, integration, self-hatred, etc. Remember when Hollywood tried to beat us over the head in the 90s with all the “deep black people movies”? Like Higher Learning (which I loved).
And Zebrahead (which I slept through but tell people that I love),
Save the Last Dance (which I refused to see for fear of setting fire to the movie theater),
Jungle Fever (which I watch but skip past the Snipes/Sciorra scenes in favor of the BL conversations shot in full closeup)
Wait, wait…let’s stop and watch this clip:
I do deeply love the harshness and realness of these BW talking about the state of Black relationships. It’s mean; some of it can be offensive; it’s crude–but it’s real. And few of us can deny that we’ve had this very conversation even though Jungle Fever came out in 1992.
Back to the list…Mississippi Masala (which, I mean…do *you* remember Mississippi Masala? I thought so).
What did these movies try to teach us? Essentially that it’s none of our damn business anyway. “Love sees no color” and all that foolywang. And I suppose that half of that BS early post-race formation logic is sorta kinda true: It’s not my damn business. So, please, before you send me comments about how you and your loved one break the mold–and for the love of God and all that is holy do not send me comments about how the only race that is important is the human race. I will tell you to take a seat in the lake of fire–realize that I’m not talking about y’all personally and individually. This whole “atomized” individuality is how we all got into this mess to begin with. Bygones.
Here’s the thing dear readers: Just like Flipper’s wife said at the end of the Jungle Fever clip, at the end of the day (BW love saying that expression nowadays. I blame reality television), whatever color woman took her man away. But that it was a white woman just made it sting worse. Why? Because it’s about not feeling first. At the end of the day? It’s about not feeling first. Lemme explain.
So, since BF came to this country (involuntarily I might add), we’ve essentially been embroiled in what I will shallowly call an Image war for our identities. We were enslaved and it seemed that to keep us enslaved (I’m not even talking about that Willie Lynch stuff so don’t ask me about it), some reimagining of identity had to take occur. So beautiful people begin to be called ugly and dumb and beautiful BW who are raped and producing children for their white slave owners are drawn as overweight, asexual mammies to disavow desire because “who would want to lay down with THAT when you have porcelain skinned beauties in overly tight dresses to woo??!”
After slavery, beautiful BM are reduced to bucks and coons and toms and mandingos and BW are mammies and Jezebels and Sapphires and Tragic Mulattos–identities marked by stereotype more than real dimensional characterizations. What’s more? These are not “good” identities; rather, they are fraught with hypersexuality and hyperviolence and neglect and abandonment and ineptness.
What’s that got to do with my arch nemesis Zooey D? Be still and watch me work.
So, BM and BW identities are frozen in time. They rarely change and grow and even if a new identity arises (the black nerd or the black hippie or what have you) they don’t erase the old identities–they just lay the new ones on top of them.
But white people? Oh my goodness, white people have a myriad of identity types. Not even the damn sky is the limit! Anything you wanna be! Any way you want to be it–it’s fine! In order to get to a particular identity you have to give a descriptor–think Southern or Granola or Hipster or F*ckin Hipster, or Midweseterner. Get it? In order to think about the particular identity I have to give you a clue because white signifies very little on its own. A FRAKKIN AMAZING THING.
Here’s another descriptor: QUIRKY. Now, if you’ve been reading DBW for a while you know how I feel about quirky. As a quick refresher? I HATE IT. IT’S SO ETHEREAL AND AIRY AND NOT PALPABLE AND LIGHT AND NOT WEIGHTED DOWN WITH THE GRAVITY OF HAVING LIVED A LIFE THAT IS SOMETIMES FRAKKING HARD AND IT’S FLEETING AND GAAAAAAAH.
:: DBW takes a deep breath and lies down for a few minutes ::
Okay, okay I’m back. So, I don’t like quirky for all those reasons I screamed at you just now. But more than that, there’s an earnestness and an innocence to quirky that I don’t think all the people (read: people who look like me) get to access. There’s a cavalierness to being able to ride around in a cotton dress on an old school bicycle and think about how good your life is and how much you really enjoy record shops and playing tunes on your beloved BUT BROKEN piano because your father is a world renowned cinematographer and you have access to a dietician so you can lose your baby fat. There’s an elvishness to the quirky identity that I found grating because again, it’s completely dependent upon naivete and the fact that one doesn’t have to be aware of Others because they are the most important ones.
Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about so specifically? This.
I just want to contrast this quickly with Jazmine Sullivan’s Cotton ad to show some difference (pun intended):
There are some similarities in how both ads show these women dreamily contemplating their lives in coffeeshops while journaling and such but even at the level of lyric, Sullivan’s is about achieving the “dream” while Deschanel’s is about you know, what she did that day. (I also recommend looking at Miranda Lambert’s cotton ad because the descriptor of difference–in her case Southern and country–makes her song and visuals markedly different.)
Anyway, anyway: that quirky identity that Deschanel makes for herself is one of many that are accessible to her and one that she can switch out for another whenever she’s ready to switch into “takes myself serious ingenue” or whatever. There’s little fixity to her identity persona.
And more to the point of this little
diatribe blog entry: PEOPLE LOVE IT. They eat it up. She is valued beyond measure for being quirky and “oh so cuhyute.” She is accessed value and worth and is allowed to be at the top of the totem pole.
But we BW who are fighting this Image war? We don’t get the same privileges. The attributes mostly associated with us are “turn offs”; things that people don’t love. Things that make us hard to deal with. I refer you back to the Jungle Fever clip if you need a sample.
I know some of y’all remember hearing about Wesley Snipes (enjoy your prison stay! BF, pay your income tax for the love of God and all his holy baby angels) and how he said that BW have too much attitude. Even if he didn’t say it and it’s urban legend right up there with Tommy Hilfiger and Oprah and Liz Claiborne, the fact that it exists and that it has lingered for so long stresses just how undervalued BW are perceived to be.
Too much attitude. Why pick someone who has too much attitude when you can have quirky all day long!? (Yield sign to my white friends: I don’t think any woman comes off particularly unscathed in Snipes’s remarks–especially Asian ladies)
Now, over here at DBW, she with the intellectual letters behind her name recognizes that she’s just created a really strong binary that has little nuance. And yeah, you’re right. These things are simply not that simple. But you asked why it seems to hurt BW when BM go for the white ladies. And my answer is because it feels like we’ve lost the Image war with the very people we’re allied with. I didn’t say it was rational or logical. It’s not betrayal; it’s a question of WORTHINESS. Put simply: are we worth the effort? And many times, it seems like the answer may be no.
This is why…OH THIS IS WHY..that new ABC show Scandal is so interesting. Oh readers, do yourself a favor and hop on the Twitter on Thursday nights at 10/9 c and SEE for yourself. (Seriously: Black Twitter is where it is at y’all. Pop some popcorn and watch the foolywang.)
The opportunity to identify with (colorblind until the most recent episode where Olivia called herself Sally Hemmings which yes we can talk about but not now because who has time to write THAT novella?!) a BW who is madly in love with a white man (and the white man is in madly–like bordering on obsessive–in love with her) that makes all of us consider our life choices and decisions? Of course we’d take that bait.
HERE! Have some pictures and gifs and stuff so I can prove my point.
Who cares that he’s married?
Hell who cares that he is a REPUBLICAN!? All I know is that when he told her that she didn’t belong to him but he belonged to her I think BW all over America had to drink their second glass of moscato juice because that was…yeah.
Why is Scandal so successful with BW? Outside of it being the first show with a black lead in for-damn-ever, it taps into the worthy/value piece. This woman’s identity is scrubbed clean of the others and it’s like this aspirational world where there was never a mammy or a Sapphire but we are really all the same and stuff. (Don’t get me started on the race problems. Like I said, ANOTHER BLOG POST.) And: this fine ass white man and this black man (who looks too much like Bill Cosby for me to take him seriously but I mean, yay Norm Lewis! I’m glad you have a job.) want her affections and IN WHAT WORLD HAS THAT HAPPENED ON OUR DAMN TV SCREENS?
I shall stop with this for now except to say that really, if Zooey D hooked up with Idris Elba I really would burn Sunset Blvd to the ground. KILL IT WITH FIRE.