Hi Emma, I’m a white male Dubliner who is very attracted to black girls. I’ve never been with a black girl, and don’t actually know any black women at all to be honest, but whenever I see a pretty black girl on the street or in the office, I melt. I’m trying not to sound too weird. I know it’s not good to exoticize. I do watch lots of black porn. I have had no chill on the few opportunities I’ve had to speak to black girls. I feel like flirting is hard enough, but with race, identity, etc. it all becomes overwhelming. What should I do?
We deliberated quite a lot as to whether or not this was a serious question or the work of a troll. However, as a black woman who grew up on the receiving end of attitudes such as yours, I am pretty convinced of its veracity.
The ideas about what blackness is that inform your “preferences” are centuries old, and sadly are not going away anytime soon. What I write should help you, although I have to admit that in this instance helping you is not my main priority.
Rather, I want to take this opportunity to expose the mechanics behind this way of thinking, and the ways in which these attitudes are damaging and dehumanizing to black people.
What is it about black girls that you find so attractive? We come in all different shades and sizes. Amongst all of the women who could be identified as black, there exists such a huge diversity of features and appearances that it is hard to talk about what a “black woman” looks like in any meaningful way, yet you reduce us to a monolith?
Think about what it is that you are attracted to. Is it a generalizable feature shared amongst all black women? What is that? You say you don’t know any black women, so I assume your attraction can be based only upon the physical, and beyond that, a potent set of myths and beliefs that have inscribed meaning onto black women’s bodies.
It comes as little surprise to me that you watch a lot of black porn. The objectification of women in pornography shares many similarities with representation of black women in the white imagination.
The idea that black women are sexually licentious and available has its antecedents in slavery and colonialism, so you are carrying on the enduring attitudes of that proud heritage. Black women were officially resigned to a status far below that of white women, yet black women were lusted after – and systematically raped on a widespread scale.
Many high profile white men, such as the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, had children with enslaved black women, and those children were then generally added to their slave stock. Win/win, eh?
While you might think that your attentions are complimentary, they are in fact a pernicious form of racism. If you are honest with yourself and unpack exactly what it is that you think you find attractive about black women en masse, are there any particular stereotypes about black female sexuality that influence your “preference”? I’d be staggered if not.
In her 2004 essay Irish and White-ish, Angeline Morrison discusses the particular tone of Irish racism: “The vast majority of racist insults had some kind of sexual overtones … this is a specific character of Irish racism …” The sexuality of immigrants, particularly but not exclusively, black ones, “has long been represented as exotic, taboo and dangerous”.
I have written elsewhere about being on the receiving end of exactly this type of attention and how damaging it was for me.
As a teenager, I lost track of the amount of times that pink middle-aged men sidled up to me and said things like “I like a bit of milk in me coffee”, or just a muttered “I love black girls”, and accompanied this with an expectant look.
So while I was perceived as attractive, it was complicated by race. I certainly wasn’t the same as the respectably pretty girl next door – there was something horrible and fetishistic about it. Racialised in this way, I was situated at a complex intersection – simultaneously valuable and worthless.
Since we were first enslaved and then colonized, black people have operated as a canvas onto which the white imagination can project its fantasies. Also, part of the way through which our oppression was justified was to attempt to reduce us to the status of livestock.
An important part of the process was the promotion of the idea that Europeans had intellect, while black people were valuable for their physical traits alone. Who wants a “slave” who can think? This overemphasis on the physicality of black people remains part of the process of our overt sexualisation.
While I have dated Irish men, if I ever met one who was “into black girls” I would run a mile. It’s incredibly objectifying, and the feeling that my individuality and personality is being erased is, funnily enough, a huge turn-off.
You wouldn’t believe the amount of fellas who would inform me of their interest in me by stating, “I’ve never been with a black girl before”, like being with one would equate to some type of predetermined experience, and all their erotic fantasies were about to be fulfilled.
And I’d be thinking, “I’m from fucking Dublin pal, why would it be any different from hooking up with any other girl? What do you think blackness is? What do you think it means?”
I remember boyfriends confessing to me that their mates were like, “Yeah, yeah so what’s it like, what’s it like, being with a black bird?” Shit like that. Constantly. In the very odd times I expressed discomfort or despair at these attitudes to my “friends”, they would tell me I should be grateful for the attention.
While black men and women are perceived differently to each other, ideas about the sexuality of both remain central to the stereotypes about us. The same lads I met with your point of view, often had huge feelings of inadequacy towards black men, who they seemed to feel extremely sexually threatened by.
And don’t get me started on the problematics of a lot of the white women who profess to only date black men, especially the ones who seem to really dislike black women. Hmm.
Don’t get me wrong, lots of black people are beautiful: melanin, lips, and hair like no others, we got that all on lock, BUT we are not all the same. My advice to you is when you meet a person that you genuinely like, regardless of their race, treat them as a unique human being, one with their own individual likes, dislikes and idiosyncrasies. Not a representative of some sort of one-dimensional figment of your imagination.
And in the meantime – until you get your head around all of this – if you are truly into black girls, please have the courtesy to leave us alone. We got enough crap to contend with.
In her regular column, Emma Dabiri fields your questions on race and identity in contemporary Ireland. Got something you’ve been pondering? You can send her your questions through this form.