"The white man forbade me to have the white woman…I mean I can analyze it, but I know that the white man made the black woman the symbol of slavery and the white woman the symbol of freedom. Every time I embrace a black woman I’m embracing slavery, and when I put my arms around a white woman, well, I’m hugging freedom...”
-Eldridge Cleaver “Soul on Ice” 1968
I have always been obsessed with the idea of Black love, maybe it is because of the films I grew up on. All you have to say is Love & Basketball and that scene with Maxwell’s “This Woman’s Work” playing softly in the background comes to my mind. Or maybe the film Brown Sugar where Dre, confesses his love for his best friend Sidney over the radio. How about Love Jones? Darius and Nina…yes. Black love in these films was expressed so tenderly and so genuinely. This kind of love was not only portrayed in film, television gave us the characters of Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Martin and Gina from Martin and, my all time favorite couple, Dwayne and Whitley from A Different World. These relationships were unique and seemed to survive all the obstacles life threw at them. If you have ever watched any of these movies or seen any of these television shows, it is easy to see how one could become completely wrapped up in the idea of Black love.
So, what is “Black Love?” Is it when two black people come together, maybe get married and then live happily ever after? Is that all Black love is? No, it’s more than that. It is not a happily ever after love story. Furthermore my definition of black love goes beyond the love between a man and woman. Black love is the love and bond between a father and son, a father and his daughter, a mother and her children. It is the platonic love between friends. It is the love between a man and a man, the love between a woman and woman. Black love is the dedication and loyalty in the way we love each other. I always knew there was something special about the way we loved but I was not able to put into words and give it a name until I grew up.
Over two years ago I took a trip to find myself but I ended up having a mini revelation that gave me the urgency to celebrate black love. On my way to Thailand I had to stop over in London for a couple days, and in those few days I spent in London I hardly saw a black couple anywhere. I’m not talking about the older generation, they seem to have Black love on lock. I am talking about us “millennials.” We seem to be struggling in that department. While spending the day with a male friend, I asked, “Why are so many black men dating white and Asian women?” He responded jokingly, “To find black guys who love black women you need to go to south London”. We both laughed at his response but it genuinely touched something inside of me. Something that led on a crusade to single handedly bring back the celebration of Black love. There is a need to celebrate it, there is a need to make normal the idea of Black love. Trust me, I do not take this responsibility lightly. (You only have to follow me on twitter to see how seriously I take my responsibility.)
It is a fact that there are a significant number of black men that refuse to date black women and feel the need to constantly make it known. Growing up in Nigeria, an African country with the largest population of black people in the world, I did not realize the extent till I was in England for A-levels. At this time a lot of my Nigerian guy friends dating white or Caucasian girls. I perceived this as them experimenting until a male friend pointed out much later that it was more than that. He explained that there was a type of boastful pride that came with dating a white girl. Now a lot of these guys have moved back to Nigeria, which makes the dating pool predominantly Black women, so I will never really know if that period was just a phase or if there is a more significant meaning to it. With that being said there is a way to date your preference without feeling the need to bring down black women in the process. Not all black men, but enough black men feel the need to make derogatory comments about black women once they begin to date outside their race.
In university I had a friend, and I use the term loosely, who made it known that black women were not worth his time. He would always rely on stereotypes of black women to justify his sentiments, “black babes are too loud, too angry, have too much attitude, too hard to move to…”, you get the idea. I called him out every chance I got. There is also the fact that these negative stereotypes and stigmas are prevalent in mainstream media and justify the marginalization of black women in every aspect of society. We cannot even begin to delve into how much of a mess this becomes when you add colorism. It is even deeper when you consider the stereotypes of dark skin versus light skin, straight hair versus natural hair. These things have subconsciously shaped our alarming inability to love and respect each other when it comes to dating or in relating with each other. Did this so-called friend feel like he was embracing freedom every time he was with a white girl? How much does self-hate play into his dating preference?
Here are some honest truths; black women are never revered as exotic unless they are light skinned with curly hair and light eyes. Society views everyone and everything as being more beautiful than the African Woman. Society and black men will praise women who are not black with black features like Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian and Iggy Azalea to mention a few, and it challenges our understanding of beauty. True enough this commentary is not reflective of all black men, but this does not dismiss the truth. How exactly does black love evolve in such a climate? A climate where we no longer have Gina and Martin, Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv, and Dwayne and Whitley to guide us?
I wonder how many black men who hide behind preference feel exactly the way Eldridge Cleaver felt. How much preference is really hate? How much of the degrading preference to black woman is based off self-hate? How much of preference is based off mainstream media? I was scared that our generation was going to forget all about black love but it seems I am no longer a one-woman team. A lot more people are waking up to revive and celebrate black love. The twitter page @blackcouples_ is celebrating black love one beautiful picture at a time and quite frankly, you are doing amazing sweetie.