What do you think of when you hear the word “pro-Black?” Do you imagine dreadlock-having, dashiki-wearing Black men and women walking with signs telling stories of racial injustice in this country, the Black power fist strong and clenched in the air? Or is it following only exclusively Black artists, supporting only Black businesses?
The better question–is it all or nothing?
I can’t answer that question for you. I would identify as pro-Black, no questions asked. In a nutshell, to be pro-Black is to be for the uplift and support of the Black community, to see us into better days. For me, I have expressed that sentiment in trying to buy from Black-owned businesses whenever I can, supporting Black creatives, and undertaking projects to help my community. During college, I was a writer and, eventually, the student editor-in-chief for a Black publication on campus (excuse me, Grounds). I go out of my way to book appointments with Black doctors. I also recently started buying my hair care products from a new Black-owned beauty supply store in my neighborhood.
Making these conscious choices have been a means through which I can express my understanding of our struggles in this country, economically, physically, and socially. We have a lot working against and around us, and in being pro-Black it is my chance to connect with one another and say, I see you. It is unification, it is solidarity in various forms.
Recently, however, the question of “how pro-Black are you?” has been springing up on social media. And in the least productive way I can think of–dating.
My friend shared with me a tweet concerning an illustration by Watson Mere, posted on his Instagram account. The drawing was originally posted in 2017, but recently resurfaced on Twitter. In the tweet, the original piece is edited with the caption “Stop playing yourself . You can’t be pro-black and date your ‘oppressor’.”
As demonstrated in the comments of said tweet, some believe that being pro-Black is the question of all or nothing. If not all of your life is as Blackity Blackity Black as is possible, then you aren’t truly down for the cause. “Interracial relationships? BlaspHEMOUS. How dare our Black kings and queens be with anyone else but another Black king or queen! They clearly must be filled with self-hatred and don’t understand that if they truly loved themselves and their blackness that they would only want to be with other Black people!” More often than not, I’ve seen tweets and other social media posts appear usually around the time a Black celebrity is seen with a non-Black partner, or because everyone has an opinion that they feel we need to know about.
Let me be real here and say I think that logic is stupid and unproductive (I know, big words). I’ve dated guys of all races and still continued to learn about myself as a Black woman in American society, in Japanese society. There were definitely negative connotations ingrained into my blackness that I had to unlearn. When it came to romance, my family never forced me to eat “Black men only” soup. I attended majority Black and Latinx high school, a PWI, and for a few months a Japanese college. Love, attraction, for me, never had a color associated with it. Whomever I meet has to respect me for all of me–my racial politics, my spirituality, my all–and respect has no color.
That said, 12,359,638,285 times of out 10 I hear this idea the most from Black men when a Black woman is dating, engaged to, or married to a white man. Serena Williams, Meghan Markle–both Black women married to white men. The Black woman in Mere’s drawing is natural, tatted, reading the works of Marcus Garvey, and the man she’s sharing a bed with is reading about good ol’ Robert E. Lee. What’s ridiculous about the post is those two people would never be in bed together, and the artist’s explanation that the piece “has nothing to do with interracial relationships.” Sure it doesn’t. Sure that picture has absolutely nothing to do with interracial relationships, with critique of Black women who date outside of their race as “sleeping with the enemy.”
Another argument that comes up a lot is that because Black women marry and have families with non-Black men, she isn’t pro-Black because she isn’t creating and raising a Black family. And I just–
So we’re cool with reducing a Black woman’s purpose of existence down to creating children? What about women who can’t have children, who don’t want children? Are they not pro-Black? And have you guys forgotten that those mixed children will still be Black, even if only half? If you’re not fully Black, are you then excluded from the pro-Black club?
I need answers to these questions.
Black men have continued to be the hypocrites of our people. They love the idea of Black women–not us. They will love our bodies when our bodies are shaped a certain way, lips full a certain way, our minds and souls devoted to them a certain way. God forbid we critique them at all!
Yet somehow these sort of divisive conversations never crop up when the tables are turned–white women and Black men. A Black man’s pro-Black identity is never put under a spotlight when he decides to date outside of his race, despite Black men constantly slandering Black women at any chance they get, blaming us for their emotional detachment and self-hatred. No, no, that’s not how it works.
I agree–one’s self-hatred should definitely be addressed. It takes time to unlearn the negativity we’ve had instilled in us. It takes time to learn to love and celebrate and appreciate ourselves. But I am tired of Black women receiving the flack for interracial dating. I am tired of Black women constantly having to justify and prove ourselves worthy to men who don’t respect us anyways.
You can be pro-Black and still date outside of your race. I don’t understand why that’s so hard for some of you to understand. I will support and uplift my people in any way that I can, but I will not force myself to date Black men just for the sake of. I will date him because he pushes me to be better, takes interest in all of me, respects all of me.
The whole rhetoric–trash. Throw it away.