Myths About Black Men That Make Interracial Dating Hard

Support for interracial dating and marriage has been on the rise for decades, and Millennials are particularly accepting: 88 percent of those surveyed by Fusion last year said they were open to dating outside their race. But the reality is that only 54 percent said they had actually done so.

Since many young people lack experience dating a person from another racial group, that provides fertile ground for stereotypes to persist. In my own life, I've encountered my share of dating myths about Black men; here are a few that make interracial dating challenging:

1. You aren't racist if you date him.

Dating a Black guy is not some silver bullet against being racist.

Racism is a beast whose tentacles touch everything, from public policy and interpersonal interactions to academia and the Academy Awards. People interact with that monster in various ways, including ways that reinforce white supremacy.

The fact that you are Black and your partner isn’t doesn’t mean she or he isn’t prejudiced against other people who look like you or that your partner can't commit racist acts. A person could hold on to racist beliefs and still believe that “you’re one of the good ones."

I met my first girlfriend during my sophomore year of high school. She was white. Race wasn’t the only reason why we broke up within weeks, but the fact that I was a Black boy certainly didn’t make things easier. She felt like she had license to make mean jokes about Black women. She depicted them as loudmouthed, unintelligent, tacky, and undesirable. She argued that she was just keeping it real, basing her observations on girls at her school, and views gleaned from other Black boyfriends she had in the past. From time to time, she also performed an annoying shtick that involved "acting ghetto" that she thought was hilarious.

When I told her she was being pretty racist, she grew indignant, and said the fact that was with me was a defense.

Needless to say, we didn’t last long. Looking back, the whole episode left me with a lot of shame for even being with somebody like that and with a lot of distrust that discouraged me from dating outside my race for years.

2. He doesn't like Black women.

All Black guys who date outside their race aren’t doing it because Black women are too much to deal with or because Black women aren't beautiful enough. This is a touchy topic, as Ernest Baker wrote in Gawker:

"There are self-hating Black men who date white women for contrived and pathetic reasons, and I hate them. They're so up front about their exclusive attraction to white women, and they'll give you a list of reasons why. It is deliberate for them. They smugly go out of their way to put down Black women based on stereotypical notions about their attitude, or hair, or something equally stupid, and it's corny and disgusting. That's one of the issues with interracial dating. Any time a Black man walks around with a white woman, he's giving off the impression that white women are his specific preference and that he has a problem with women of his own race, and because that applies to some Black men who date white women, it becomes a label that all of us are subjected to."

Black women suffer from stereotypes that paint them as too aggressive and unattractive, in contrast to white women, who are painted as the epitome of beauty in our society.

A year ago, when my relationship fizzled with a strong-willed Black woman — who is still one of the most beautiful, successful, smart, and compassionate women I’ve known — a white male friend of mine suggested I’d do better with “a nice white girl," since my ex was so bossy, in his opinion.

The idea that I deserved better than her — and that better was “a nice white girl” — still gets under my skin. I assured him I had no qualms with dating Black women and that I actually have a thing for bossy women. The idea that being bossy is unattractive in a woman also exposes sexist double standards.


3. Race doesn’t matter if you love him.


Rudeness from strangers on public transportation or in restaurants. Conversations between lovers about race that expose conflicting worldviews and experiences. Condemnation from friends and family who disapprove of interracial relationships. These are all examples of how race issues create a lot of stress and anxiety in, and bring baggage to, interracial relationships. Love is strong, but it takes more than love to overcome the obstacles that can stand in an interracial couple’s way.

You have to be open to addressing the weirdness head on — together. Don't just sweep issues under the carpet and assume that love will conquer all.

4. He's packing.

Scientific evidence that Black men have bigger penises is lacking. This myth seems harmless and like a positive stereotype. But the idea that all Black dudes are packing has more sinister roots than a lot of people realize.

The myth is part of the sexual stereotypes about Black people used as justification for oppressing them. It's been suggested "that the sexual stereotype of Blacks" is a major factor that helps maintain racism, as Gary L. Davis and Herbert J. Cross wrote in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

"Black females are thought to have a near insatiable sexual appetite, and Black males are thought to have an oversized penis and to be more sexually potent than white males. ... Along with this ascribed Black male potency is a fear of Black male aggressiveness. Whites are allegedly fearful that white women may be raped by Blacks because of the Blacks' ungoverned sexual appetites. This fear is an implicit reason for segregation. History is replete with instances where Black males were lynched for supposed sexual indiscretions with white females; and not only were they lynched, they were castrated. Castration-lynching in this society has been directed primarily at Blacks and has been interpreted as direct violence on the sexual potency of Black males by whites, because of the threat of Black sexuality."

And as Woman Musings pointed out, "fetishizing someone because of their race is not a compliment."

"It assumes a monolithic identity and evidences that what is truly desired is not an equal relationship, but a caricature of what is understood to be natural based in race. Each racial group has their own disgusting stereotypes to negotiate by gender: Latino men are said to be full of machismo, Asian men are overtly feminized, and Black men are constantly reduced to large roving penises willing to please. When embarking on an interracial relationship, one never knows for sure if the interest expressed is because the potential partner believes that you are attractive, intelligent, funny, and great to be around. Before a person of color enters any room, let alone a relationship, race enters and brings with it a load of assumptions. Dating outside of one’s race opens the possibility of not just having one’s heart broken, but dealing with the fact that in some cases, what the person really wants is not actually you, but the stereotype they assume you embody."

5. He wants you to be "down."

You don't have to get fresh cornrows, start listening to trap music, or attempt speaking African-American Vernacular English just because you're trying to date a Black dude. Personally, you'd get more points from me for if you can quote James Baldwin or if you're knowledgeable about or genuinely interested in learning about my culture beyond popular trends and stereotypes.

Don't try too hard. Be yourself. And remember, there's a difference between appreciation and appropriation, as Maisha Z. Johnson wrote for Everyday Feminism:

If you mean to appreciate part of Black culture, that has to include learning about the history of what you’re appreciating and about the struggles and achievements of the people you’re borrowing from. Then you’ll be the kind of ally who’s informed enough to honor our culture in a way that supports us — instead of just taking what you like and hurting our community.