My Ideal “Regular White Man”
**I don’t think this post is as controversial as the title suggests. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.
I was having brunch with friends Sunday and we were swapping stories about our bad luck with men.
I got real specific and complained about black men over the age of 30.
So one of our friends, who is in a relationship with a black man, but who has dated white men came back to the “Well, why don’t you date white men?” point.
My other homegirl quickly answered before I could open my mouth.
“Because, the kinds of white men we’d want don’t want us either,” she said flatly.
My friend looked at us puzzled.
“What???? What in the world do you mean?”
That’s when I had to elaborate.
“Let’s put it this way. The few white men who have approached me were almost always blue-collar (nothing wrong with that) and had grown up in predominately black, or impoverished areas, or have mostly black, blue-collar or underemployed friends (nothing wrong with any of that either). They aren’t what I’d call, ‘the regular white guy’.”
My home girl had to jump in and further flesh it out.
“Exactly. We’d still have nothing in common with them and would be more educated even though those types of white men are more willing to date black women.”
So then my other friend ran off the quick list of über successful white men who have ridiculously intelligent and successful and beautiful black women. (Mellody Hobson and George Lucas; David Bowie and Iman; Tina Turner…)
We countered that we didn’t have access to that.
For some reason, “regular white guys” who may match our education, our socioeconomic status are not checking for us, because we don’t normally run in the same social circles and they just may not be interested in black women or open to it.
Educated black people hang with other educated black people and they will also hang out with family and old friends who may not have the same status out of solidarity, out of genuine relationships and also not to be accused of forgetting where we came from.
And let’s face it, most of the “regular white guys” whose education and economic status that may mirror ours may only have one black friend who fits into their circle or probably none at all. That guy isn’t going to go to the places me and my girlfriends like to go. We would have to assimilate and go to their watering holes, activities and etc. But even if we did this, my homegirl pointed out we have to contend with competing with the traditional European standard of beauty, which by default became everyone’s standard.
“Girl, they don’t want to bring us home with weaves or natural hair,” she quipped.
The social anthropology roundtable continued as we pointed out how complicated it is for the “regular” “mainstream” white dude to openly date black women. They may even have more negative implications (passive racism from family, friends and co-workers) for it than their really rich or blue-collar counterpart.
The über rich successful white men my friend mentioned have the luxury of money and power to shut up any detractors.
The blue-collar, not-as-educated white man has the luxury to date black women without much ruffling of feathers because he seems to be more accepted by black people of the same status, and white people of higher status really don’t deal with him anyway. It doesn’t matter.
I feel the black women I do know who did end up with or married what we dubbed as the “regular” white guy, usually met that man through work, a grad school program, the military– opportunities that are tied to their status but that also forced both sides to really see the person’s intellect and talents and work ethic– very important things that people find attractive anyway. Those situations help break down exterior barriers and just let people be people, working collectively together where chemistry can build.
I think socially and in terms of dating, we still live in a segregated world. We do tend to cling to what we know and hang with friends we seem most comfortable with. I have friends of various races, but the majority of friends that I spend the most of my free time with are going to be black. We are going to want to go to clubs and bars and events where there are a lot of black people and things black people like. Being the black friend, I’ve felt that I’ve been more willing to go into predominately white bars with white friends to have a good time, than maybe a white person going into a club or party where they know they will be the only white person. And regardless of who you are, being the “only” can be uncomfortable, even if you are comfortable in your own skin and surrounded by friends, all of a different color, you- if no one is is acutely aware of the situation. Me and an ex boyfriend were the only two black people at a wedding of a good friend of his. We had a fabulous time, but yup. We knew that out of about 200 people, we were the only black people associated with the bride and groom. Doesn’t make them racist, but it once again proves that in our social circles the people we choose to have in our lives will more than likely look like us, have a similar set of religious beliefs or values or live in the same neighborhood.
Being the “only” and learning the art of “code switching” and knowing how that added to our success at predominately white schools and companies, people of color do it. White people will never need to know the movie School Daze or the television show “Living Single.” But to move in this world, to make our co-workers comfortable, to show them we are like them and we are safe, we wax poetic over “Grease” “Seinfeld” and “Friends.” They won’t know who Frankie Beverly and Maze is, but we’ll know who Paul McCartney and the Beatles are. We have to know.
But all of that aside, I was trying during brunch to come up with my ideal white guy. Someone who can appreciate my culture and acknowledge my differences, someone who does understand the concept of white privilege and not be offended by it, but recognize it exists and does not feel awkward, or start to mimic black people if he’s around a bunch of them.
I present to you Jimmy Fallon. Jimmy Fallon does not pretend to “act black” or talk differently with a whole lot of slang (unless it is an obvious joke). I don’t think I’ve ever heard him try to use or justify using the N word. He has a good grasp of the boundaries and potential faux pas. And that is a great benefit of having genuine friendships and honest conversations with people of other races. He genuinely loves hip hop, and his professional and off the clock relationship with his in-house band The Roots seems to be based on respect, mutual admiration and just straight up friendship. I like that. You don’t see him sagging his pants. You don’t see him putting down other types of music he likes just because he likes hip hop too. He won’t just strictly hang out with black men to prove he is cool. He’s just himself, but with an awareness he took the time to cultivate and felt it was important enough to cultivate.