Who Stole all the Black Women from Britain?

by Emma Dabiri

There is no love left between a black man and a black woman. Take me for instance. I love white women and hate black women. It’s just in me so deep that I don’t even try to get it out of me anymore. I’d jump over ten nigger bitches just to get to one white woman. Ain’t no such thing as an ugly white woman… and just to touch her long, soft, silky hair. There’s softness about a white woman, something delicate and soft inside of her. But a nigger bitch seems to be full of steel, granite-hard and resisting…I mean I can’t 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. Everytime I’m embracing a Black woman, I’m embracing slavery, and when I put my arms around a White woman, well I’m hugging freedom (Eldridge Cleaver 1968:107).

No other group in America has so had their identity socialized out of existence as have black women…. When black people are talked about the focus tends to be on black men; and when women are talked about the focus tends to be on white women. (hooks, bell:1981).

Here in the UK, the visibility of black women in representations of mainstream Black British culture is such that you might be forgiven for thinking we are an endangered species. The near erasure of Black British women from this terrain, which is in the main dominated by black men and white women, is rarely commented upon, despite its prominence.  What is actually going on here? Is this some manifestation of the quite frankly ridiculous Eldridge Cleaver quote above. Or is it something else?

The (ahem) ‘urban’ (we know what they really mean) landscape that provides the basis of so much of Britain’s somewhat depressing representations of mainstream youth culture, borrows heavily from black culture, yet sometimes both seem almost entirely devoid of black women. The characters who populate these worlds are black men and white women. Access may be permitted to the occasional ‘mixed-race’ girl but beyond such tokenism, this is the white woman’s world!

From movies such as Kidulthood [1]to the presenters of the Kiss FM Takeaway show, who typify this phenomenon, the symbols of ‘Urban’ or Black British youth culture are routinely Black men and their white female partners.

presenters2Recently in conversation with a young black British man, I was surprised when he informed me that he “won’t date black women” the reason being that  “they (we) are too ghetto”.

This individual apparently saw no irony in the fact that he was saying this to myself -a middle class black woman- while his (blonde) girlfriend is white and working class.

Faced with the contradiction between the reality of the situation and a stereotype, this young man still succumbed to the latter, repeating the tired, black girls = ghetto, white girls = status, prestige, and success, narrative.This story is writ large within British popular culture, in which we can find a wealth of examples that illustrate perceptions of what differently racialised women represent. Wileys Heatwave video is a rich site for analysis. Here, the absence of black models- in preference of white- is stark, yet this is far from an isolated example, rather it is an all too common feature of UK Black British popular culture.

Within the binary thinking that underpins intersecting oppressions, blue-eyed, blond, thin White women could not be considered beautiful without the Other—Black women with African features of dark skin, broad noses, full lips, and kinky hair. Race, gender, and sexuality converge on this issue of evaluating beauty… African-American women experience the pain of never being able to live up to prevailing standards of beauty used by White men, White women, Black men, and, most painfully, one another. Regardless of any individual woman’s subjective reality, this is the system of ideas that she encounters. Because controlling images are hegemonic and taken for granted, they become virtually impossible to escape (Collins, 2000: 89-90).

Although Hill-Collins is taking about the African-American context, her insights are more then pertinent here.

Referring to Britain specifically, Mama informs us that this phenomenon is reflected in black men’s choice of partners.

As young women, many Black girls experienced rejection from Black males as ‘in white dominated situations black and white boys alike tend to conform to the prevailing aesthetic, and fancy white (if not blonde) girls more.” (Weekes 1997 cited in Mirza 1997).

black-women-hairstyles-for-a-weddingDespite all this, Weekes goes on to outline Black women’s agency in the face such oppression, and notes that rather than passively accepting hegemonic beauty norms many black girls reject white constructions of beauty. However she acknowledges that despite this rejection whiteness is still too often used as the yardstick against which other types of beauty are measured.

Given this a context, it seems remarkable that researchers and journalists alike would disregard such considerations in their interpretation of statistics relating to Britain’s increasing ‘mixed-race’ population, but this is exactly what they do.

Lucinda Platt’s 2009 EHRC Ethnicity and Family Report, generated a volume of media stories, all heralding the rise of ‘mixed-race’ Britain, a beautiful, brave, new brown future in which the scourge of racism has been vanquished. It would appear that post-racial utopia is achievable – all we need is love (if indeed love is defined as sexual relations between black men and white women).

Seemingly oblivious to the dynamics of relationships between men and women within black communities, and apparently unaware of any of the qualitative research carried out by black female researchers on the subject, the findings that at least 48% of African-Caribbean men are in “inter-racial” relationships, (usually with white women), are interpreted as hugely positive, a thermometer of improved societal interethnic relations, indicating a movement to a less racist society.

In the myopic and a-historical style that characterises contemporary discussions of mixedness, the report notes that ‘inter-ethnic relationships’ “have often been seen as indicative of the extent of openness in different societies and of the extent to which identities are adapting and changing over time”. Further ‘inter-ethnic relationships’ can be “taken to be a thermometer of ethnic relations in particular societies”.

I suppose they are correct, if you discount almost every example indicating the contrary. The slave societies of the Caribbean, North, and South America experienced ‘inter-ethnic relationships’ leading to the unprecedented levels of mixedness which characterize their populations to the present day, yet are not noted for their “openness”, nor their progressive achievements of racially harmonious societies. Likewise the Coloureds in South Africa are recognised as having one of the most mixed ancestries in the world but similarly South Africa is not usually upheld as a paragon of racial utopia.

slave_trade_1650-1860_b - www.slaveryinamerica.orgModern Britain is in large part the nation it is as a result of the slave trade and the subsequent colonial endeavour. These horrific events were the catalyst for the birth of the anti-black racism, unhappily now a feature of life across the globe.

However, with characteristic sleight of hand Britain inverts responsibility. Where there should be castigation there is instead self-congratulation.

Rather then the nation responsible for the savage kidnapping and life long bondage of millions of human beings, Britain reimagines itself as the nation that was central in the abolition. Rather then acknowledging the flourishing of a culture in which black women are routinely written out of existence, disregarded and undervalued, Britain reinterprets the evidence on mixedness to reinvent itself as the epitome of the progressive post-racial nation.

We live in a society in which damaging folk constructions of race, continue to position black women as less desirable then white, and black men as hyper-sexualised studs. This positioning is equally limiting and damaging to black men whom society attempts to force into a space, identified by Fanon, “fixed at the shifting boundaries between barbarism and civility” where the insatiable fear and desire for the Negro reveals itself “Our women are at the mercy of Negroes … God knows how they make love”; This is in many ways the manifestation of  a combined enduring fascination with, and  a “deep cultural fear of, the Black”,  which is “figured in the psychic trembling of Western sexuality” (Fanon, 1986: xxiv). Of course rather then any engagement with such complicated, and potentially uncomfortable, subject matter, sociologists instead inform us

race itself does not provide as meaningful a basis when selecting a partner, compared to other things young people may have in common like education, friends, attitudes and beliefs (Platt, 2009).

Whether such neat conclusions are wilfully ignorant or just naïve, they remain indicative of Britain’s almost pathological inability to engage in an honest discourse about race that might one day engender any real change.


[1] In Kidulthood, the actresses are in the main white, there is however one ‘mixed -race’ character. I have written elsewhere about how casting directors still seem reticent to commit to featuring darker-skinned black women. A convenient alternative is to employ ‘mixed-race’ individuals who serve the need to represent diversity but are still, less threatening, acceptable faces of blackness.

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Emma Dabiri is an Irish Nigerian writer and commenter. She is currently undertaking her PhD in the sociology. Her doctoral research explores the multiple ways being ‘mixed-race’ has come to be gendered. Her major passions include, African and African Diasporian performative and literary cultures, critical race studies, feminism and folklore. She is regularly invited to contribute to discussions on diverse issues ranging from performance, to race and feminism at various settings including the Africa Writes festival, Film Africa, UK Feminista, WOW Southbank Festival and BBC Radio 4. She blogs as The Diaspora Diva. Follow her on twitter @TheDiasporaDiva

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57 replies

  1. As a Malian French woman now living in London a lot of this resonated with me but this part just struck me as wrong –

    “Modern Britain is in large part the nation it is as a result of the slave trade and the subsequent colonial endeavour. These horrific events were the catalyst for the birth of the anti-black racism, unhappily now a feature of life across the globe.”

    In the Mali Empire slavery was the key feature of the economy and had been going on for centuries. It was only when the French got there that they stopped it, but Berber Touaregs still have thousands of indigenous Bella enslaved today.

    I have lived in Qatar and done business in different parts of the Middle East and their anti-black racism (being treated not as human, being called “abd” (slave) I can assure you that Britain was not the catalyst for any of this. Islamic Arab and Berber people had been enslaving natives of Africa for centuries before the British or other white people got there, and it affected how the whole of the Islamic world sees us.

    The reason this sort of talk infuriates me is that in London at anti-racist events I see Arabs standing with Black people in solidarity against whites and slavery yet I’ve never seen Arabs own up to any of this. Whites are an easy target. In Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States there is Kafa’ah (marriage equality) to establish that both partners are free from the “taint” of slave blood.

    When tribal members find there is African descent in one of the partners after the marriage has already occurred, the Kafa’ah is challenged. The “racially inferior” husband or wife is ordered to present “proof of equality” via proof of lineage – family trees, witnesses, historians, and If the couple is judged unequal, the Saudi Gazette reported, “Children’s custody is usually given to the ‘racially superior’ parent.”

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  2. I have a bigger issue with rihanna and beyonce being held as symbols of wonderful black women to aspire to be…by BLACK people.

    Also, interesting how you completely IGNORED East Africans vs West Africans? Or Carribeans vs Africans?

    This isn’t American. We do NOT have their history. We need to grow the f*ck up in this country where we ALL know where we are from and actually talk about OUR issues.

    I don’t see Nigerian men or women clamoring to date East Africans? Aren’t we too wet? And you guys too aggressive? What about West Indians rolling their eyes at Africans because we go on about ‘education’?

    I’m not sure how middle class you are but as we are talking about England, i surmise you went to Private school and there was no chance you would not go into University education because that’s the whole GD point of the middle class-aspire. So where on earth would you encounter black men who would say something so….stupid? Humiliating?

    Furthermore, we have given the world Naomi Campbell as well Lupita via Kenyan default plus the fact she lived here for TEN years on/off before 12 years……2 of the most iconic black women in the world have come via us, not across the pond with their bleaching products, weaves and fake eyes-yet what are you black female writers doing to make this grow? Cultivate?

    You dismiss our unique culture to mimic the mental culture of African Americans that is full of lies and mental gymnastics.

    Don’t fall into the trap-we are in a unique position that we don’t have their self hatred on skin tone; I’m proud to be British as I am from East Africa.

    I am attracted to whom follows MY characteristics. I don’t care if you are black but do you actually have an interest in Africa? I will take a white guy who has traveled all over Africa/World any day,then some black dude who only eats ‘his own food’, has no interest in history and is as tribal as anything. Next.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I concur with you; there is nothing better to me than a black man. However, when I start looking at my life and past experiences with black men, I become discouraged and disheartened. I will be 26 this year and I have not had a serious relationship with a black man. Yet I have been on numerous dates with black men, I am reasonably attractive (people do turn heads when I walk in a room), am intelligent and carry myself with respect. Black men do not want to take me seriously, must admit that there is a large number of white men that are willing to go pass my exterior and to know my interior. Now that I want to have kids and a family I am torn between my loyalty to black man and being with a white man who will be able to give me that.

    However, I understand that what is happening to me and many other black women is as a resulting of the white supremacy society. Hence, no matter how much resistance put on the white media, the white society is not ready to see black women, as they have been conditioned as such. As when black women are shown they are often depicted in a negative sense, I have notice that this has become even more prevalent (I believe this is just the beginning).

    The most worry thing about the whole issue is the self-esteem of black women. Feelings of not being intelligent and beautiful enough because they are black (If you do a google search you will see what I mean). The only solution to this problem is to rewrite our history, because the white supremacy society has done an injustice in regards to knowing who we are, what we have accomplished and also capable of. The only way I know we can be able to change our discourse is by reprogramming our mind-set.

    I am happy to see that they is a lot of conscious people there (eg Melanin, Pineal Gland,Mind Power). Most of our brothers are lost, they are gravitating to white because they do not what to be associated with black women because of the negative perception. We need to go back in history and re-educate ourselves; about the moors, melanin, white supremacist, history of black people and Africa before colonization and slavery (But from what I have read it looks like I am preaching to the choir, so we need to help our other brothers and sisters). For people that what to start this journey a good place to start is ‘hidden colours 1 and 2’, it really opened my eyes.

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    • I’m coming to this article nearly a year and a half after it being written but so glad I found it as it highlights what I have always felt and known. However, there is a much bigger issue here which is the devastating effect that this has on us as women. The rejection and invisibility begins early in our lives, it begins in school and continues throughout adulthood which harms self esteem and defines how we will feel about our womanhood. Crucially, I believe this can effect how successful we are in finding relationships. I am always alarmed at how many of my utterly beautiful black female friends are single in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s. Our white counterparts can find suitors at two a penny as can black men. Black women aren’t seen, we become invisible and irrelevant as potential partners.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. George Orwell wrote an interesting essay circa 1944 about nationalism in Britian, he categorised it into positive and negative, and in latter deals with transferred nationalism. He described various forms of sociallly transferred identification (mostly arising from self loathing) and this included colour identification within white society. Orwell noted the irrational tendency of some whites with regard to creating a mythology of blacks as hyper sexed others. Orwell felt this absurd, a consequence of white self masochism and frustration projecting a myth of prowess onto blacks. He further argued to suggest one ethnicity is superior in sexual activity to another is a ludicrous inverted racism, yet one that oddly is not called out for what it is.

    Orwell was profound intellectual and quite capable of spotting the crazy mixed up folks!

    In his Collected Essays book.

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  5. Thank you for this piece. As a black male, i find it fascinating, and i am often curious on colour blind love. It is sad that young black men in the western world perceive the white female to be a symbol of success, ‘swag’, coolness, etc, and the white female find the black male as a symbol of coolness, swag, sexual god. I often wonder whether they think us (black men) intelligent, or they choose to be with us solely on the above reasons. I think it’s got little to do with racism, but the societal perception of beauty. I wish more people could challenge this

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  6. I think this is a fantastic article that really represent what is going on in 2014. I am a young black female living in London where I have noticed that I find myself at the bottom of the barrel constantly.

    Whether it be in terms of a job or a relationship I am in search of I feel like the one left behind. We are not the face of beauty, success or interlect. When we have an opinion, we are aggressive. When we have a weave, we are fake. When we have our natural hair, we are primitive. Nothing the black woman does is enough. I can only talk from my experiences recently but it does seem as though the black man doesn’t want the black woman. What is even worse is that I don’t even think the typical black man realises that he is rejecting his own heritage. I don’t think they understand just how deep it cuts when they prefer this idea of the white female over the black woman. It has happened to me, where I have tried to get to know a man but rather than even want to persue me he prefers the blond haired woman. To say I’m not bitter and puzzled about it would be a lie. This woman doesn’t look better than me and isn’t smater than me but is still his preference.

    I agree that it is 2014 and we shouldn’t be fixated on race but I think this is all so easy to say when you’re not the one left at the bottom of the pile. Even the future generation of young children only see the value of white skin, again another experience I have witnessed all too well. We must learn to love ourselves and not allow our history and prejudice to dictate our future.

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  7. Ok, how fecund is this conversation, if not for the production of knoweldge, for how we understand “blackness”. So I am just wondering about the converse, “black women” and white men, in the context of political blackness and all the complexities sorrounding the multiple ways of being black? Do black women who end up with white men find them “easy”? Are they running from a particular image of the black male, positive or pathologised? I find it, at least intellectually disingenuous, patronising, and robbing of agency to make what passes for an argument that ignores the real choices that black men make, in all their guises, to be with women of their choice. And when is are complex realities reduced to heteronormative binaries of black male/white female. Where I come from there is a saying to the effect that one should not go witch-hunting when they have a goblin in their own claypot. After all, Frenchie said f#### ain’t conscious!

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    • And it is people like you that subconsciously add to the problem that no one wishes to discuss. This is a real issue. The choices people make are not random and are not coincidental. White is on a pedi stool white the black woman is seen as ugly, aggressive and uneducated.

      Black women have started to date white men because rather than end up alone and chasing men that don’t want us, we have opened our eyes and hearts to the potential relationships that white men can give us. The white men that I have dated are caring, considerate and do not judge me in the same way as the black men in my past have. Open your eyes and admit that there is a problem a lot bigger than that of choice and preference.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Good piece. It at least starts the discussion. We have to be mindful of making comparisons within issues of race and the US. The dynamics are different. percentage wise the number of mixed race individuals in a lot higher that in the states, and the communities are more diverse and have a more intricate relationship with Europeans than in the states. how the Caribbean communities in the UK see themselves is markedly different from how Communities directly from the Continent view themselves differs greatly. I feel this impacts on how people of African Heritage view ourselves in the UK. Regarding relationships and society and the media, Women & men of African heritage are marginalised to specific parameters. it is quite evident that The media in the UK fixates on successful black men and their white counterparts. If you examine this even further you will see that the premiership footballers and performers in music and on TV, with white female partners in high profile settings in the media, at a variety of functions and outings. What is not immediately apparent is that the high number of very qualified & successful females in professional and corporate Britain – not being able to find an intellectual equal amongst their male counterparts. The numbers of female both black and white entering university, studying law, medicine, going into the teaching profession increases every September. How do we feel this impacts on things? Does a young black male in inner city Britain feel when they cannot earn as much, converse with, intellectually & economically empower a black female? Even if they are successful in music/media or they have just signed a big contract for a top premiership club, does the means by which they earn their keep, reflect on how they feel they are perceived? Do they then feel that this educated/professional black female is beyond reproach? The way they approach a potential available black female has hidden barriers attached. The alternative white female from a lower socio-economic background at least has the passport of her race to elevate her whilst as long as he maintains his contract, keeps performing and preserves his positive status within the media, then he at least can ply his trade and keep his head above the parapet and not have to be concerned with the daily struggles of being black in Britain. The focus on image and having to compete with white females, to be accepted to black men – is what black females constantly talk about and discuss. However I feel the issue is more complex, we like to have a more informed informed discussion about these things. Only then can we address the real issues

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  9. Thank you for that excellent article. Some of the comments were interesting too. For example, edtitan states very sensibly that this is not about Black men v Black women but then goes on to make some very negative statements about Black men failing in this that and the other compared to whites and Asians, without any qualification and goes on to state Black have failed black women. Whilst this is partly true this statement cannot be made in isolation. This is not proffered as any kind of excuse, but as a statement of reality. Neither the white man nor the Asian man has had his spirit, culture, history and very self subjected to the barbaric and persistent assault from whites, Arabs and even Asians, as we have. The result of that relentless assault has been that we lack our spiritual focus, our sense of self, our self love and self worth. Consequently the weak amongst us do gravitate towards others in a misguided aim to validate themselves. That relentless assault has caused the weak, and even the strong amongst us for that matter. to suffer from self hate. Instead of loving our beautiful Black selves, we love the pale imitations of us.

    The relentless assault against our existence has been reinforced by the racist white media. It is not therefore surprising that media gives the impression that there are no Black women in Britain as your article alludes, as that media wishes to promote the image of (misguided) Black men with white women and indeed (misguided) Black women with white men. Despite the many criticisms one might make of Barak Obama, for me his most powerful asset is the beautiful, intelligent and strong black woman next to him, Michelle Obama. He absolutely got his choice of partner right.

    I am an intelligent, proud, professional Black Man who would not consider dating outside of my race. As the Right Honourable Marcus Garvey beautifully instructed when asked if he regarded himself as Jamaican or African, his response was to the effect ‘Why would I give up a continent for an island?’ As a Black Man who loves Black people, my people, why would I want to give up the first, the original, the most beautiful woman on the planet for pale imitations, all of which derived from her? I would certainly have had to have lost my mind.
    Those who have lost their minds include both Back men and Black Women. In a sense it is not entirely surprising, again given the relentless assaults made upon our very existence by others and sadly, by many without our very own communities. Much more could be said, but I
    might end up competing with the length of your excellent article.

    I was tempted to ask you after reading the article, whether your partner is Black or white. So I will. I await the response with curiosity. Blessings.

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  10. Let’s just cut to the chase shall we? This isn’t about black men vs black women this about the weakness and impotence of Black men. I can think of no other group on the planet that prefers the women of another group over their own to the degree that Black men do.

    Since the Black man is incapable of building thriving developed countries. Since the Black man is unable to match wits with the Asian and a White man. The only arena left for him is to cover the possessions of White & Asian men. They cover their cars, gadgets and women. The black man may not make much but heck if he has a non-black women on his arm well he must be about something.

    We are a weak people. Black women don’t be down on yourselves us men have failed you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Honestly, it’s people like yourselves who scare black men off.
      Go and read the Willie Lynch letter and you will understand why the term ‘Strong Black Woman’ subconsciously pushes away men. You’ll also understand that the more you complain and make noise and show stereotypical signs of strength by pushing away the males, the more that you play the role you are supposed to.
      Oh, and disclaimer: My girl is black, but she knows better to spend her life complaining.

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  11. The issue for black people is when did we lose our pride and self respect. We do not have a strong identity anymore and we do not have a strong sense of our culture. It is very common now for west indian people to treat each other badly and lose themselves in this society. We used to have some unity and provide support for each other. It is sad to see so many black men who have no regard for black women and act as if we are their enemy. We need to stop being brain washed and have respect for ourselves. There may be more west indian men with white women but the reality is that west indian men have the highest rates of unemployment, leaving their children and ending up in prison. They do not seem able to build stable lives with or long term security. We need to know that this is still a racist society that wants to see a divided black community and we must stop the rot now.

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    • We came from slavery. We never had pride and self respect back then, it was submit or die.

      As for bad treatment, have you heard of Sunni Muslims, forced marriage, death penalties for women who show thier skin and all other manner of madness and stupidity that East Indian go on with? We aren’t really as bad as they make out. Black on black crime is bad, but so is Latino on Latino in the US as well as Asian on Asian in the UK, and poor on poor in general over the world.

      Black men only shy away from black women if they have a reason to fear them. That quite often comes from school, where a small contingent of black women are quite able to bully and be aggressive to men and scare them off with their ‘badness’. That or social conditioning telling you black women are pretty. Tbh though, the former was the reason why I never touched a (fully as in not light skinned) black woman til I was 20.

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      • Love this. Too true bro, keep talking and showing the truths. We are scapegoats in the media, every race is its biggest killer!!!
        Willie Lynch Theory, Making Of A Slave is a brilliant book/letter too and shows/explains a lot, as does knowledge of Cointelpro, King Alfred Plan, Jim Crow laws, and the rest.
        Also I see much Black Love (Black women and black men in marriages and longterm and short term relationships) in every innercity I’ve been to in the UK!!!

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  12. Black dark skin women are responsible for building their own self/esteem like every other groups of people (I get that)…. But black men sure make it hard on us…its like a battle field daily for me….my core is always attacked because black men and women of all hues have such a serious hung up on the dark complexion……Im dark skin Get over It.

    I don’t look at dark, brown or light skin men anymore for a romantic connection.There’s just no point I’d rather keep hold of my sanity..they have too much hatred….Before any of u start…I have been told many times that im very attractive from all races including my own. I don’t look at white men either…I’d rather not be a fetish..

    I just focus on healing my mind from 28 years of manipulation…Men I’ve met are not strong enough to rid themselves of such discourse……But im fine with that knowledge….Acceptance is a blessing.

    In Britain the hatred always seems to come from Caribbeans….we know slavery has done them an injustice. But must they project that hate on to other black people? Keep that rubbish to urself. If I was a descendant of slaves I know who I’d be pissed with……but than again im a logical thinker who likes to learn about my melanin and how I can use it to better benefit me.

    Melanin+Pineal Gland=Mind Power

    But than again Im smart enough not to hate….because what hate u hold within, becomes u eating at u causing disease of many variations.

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  13. I first read this a month ago, and having read it again, I still find it to be a well written, necessary, and throughly provocative article. I’d like to comment (at length!) on two separate points that jump out at me from this piece.

    Firstly, the opening quote from Cleaver still perplexes me in terms of it’s perceived relevance to the rest of the article. Although highly intellectual, and fully committed to the struggle against government sanctioned terrorism, Cleaver was ultimately a manipulative, divisive, and deeply disturbed man. To use Cornel West’s phraseology, he was “maladjusted to injustice”. He was also a self-confessed prolific rapist and women beater. So, with this in mind, I doubt his statement that “there is no love left between a black man and a black women” can carry much weight beyond his own, deeply troubled personal context. After all – in the same year that Cleaver was first reading Malcolm X in his jail cell as a convicted rapist – Malcolm X was happily committed to a well publicised loving and healthy relationship with his beautiful black wife, Betty.

    My point is, in the words of Amiri Baraka, Eldridge Cleaver “copped-out”, so his writings and life must always be understood in that context. I only raise this point because, Malcolm X also suffered from self-hatred in his youth, and once held the same negative views towards black women that are alluded to in this article. However, Malcolm X nevertheless chose to “man up”, & he refused to “cop-out” (like Cleaver did), so he is therefore a prime example of the real agency all black men have, in terms of recognising & shunning the self-hatred that creates negative perceptions of black women.

    Having said that, my second point is with regards to the main issue raised in this article, I fully agree with the notion that black women have been “stolen” from the mainstream. I myself find it frustrating that black femininity is routinely contorted into the public psyche through the funnel of sports and/or entertainment. Im annoyed that the visibility of black women is routinely limited to the “Bitches” in Lilly Allen’s recent video, and exceptional athletes like the Williams sisters. I recognised this misrepresentation my whole life, and I have long known how damaging it is to the self-esteem of black women, and the concept of beauty in the eyes of black men. However, although black men are some-what more visible in the media these days, as a black man myself I still find mainstream depictions of black masculinity highly problematic.

    To be clear, I am not saying these problems of black male representation are worse – or even equal – to those faced by black women. Instead, I am saying that I still feel personally misrepresented when my likeness is never depicted alongside a black woman. The lack of black women on TV isn’t just an attack on my mother, sister, daughter, or partner, it is an attack on me, too. Although I have no problem with (healthy) inter-racial relationships whatsoever, I do have a huge problem with the media’s reluctance to depict black women and men together onscreen, as friends, lovers or as a family. So while I fully agree that black men are on TV more than black women (indeed, we are), I nevertheless view our lack of onscreen time together as an all-encompassing problem that effects both parties, albeit to different extents, admittedly.

    Thank you for a very thought provoking read!

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    • Very good comment indeed, interesting and definitely good commen sence first point, and I too live the second point, always feeling a little bit funny about rarely seeing black love/frienship/loyalty/trust between Black men and women on the TV, really isn’t good at all. Think we are more easily affected by stereotyping (our youth by internalised racism) and as a result the media (newspapers, literature, photos in magazines, the tv, music industry, etc are affecting the next generation more than the previous Generations.
      Our parents/Grnadparents came here like 60/50/40/30 years ago and had a lot of black love. Within a 50-30 year period this has nearly gone, very sad.
      However in the inner cities, and major cities of this country, there is a lot of black love, maybe not so much marriage and stability, buts absolutely lots of black boys with black girls, like black relationships. I have many friends in London/Birmingham/Manchester who have never had a white girlfriend before, and have black children. I think on a deeper note, this is what needs to be shown more, for the people in the towns and small cities of this country, as there is actually still a lot of black love in the inner cities come to think of it.

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  14. Fantastic article. There seems to be an interesting symmetry between the fetishisation of Black men and women. Where there is a perverse pre-occupation with the re-imagined sexuality of the black man and the black woman (black women are also hypersexualised), a racialised patriarchy privileges male sexuality at all costs. So, we have a situation where black male sexuality is exaggerated and controlled and thus marginalised, in so doing feminising and controlling the “black male” through the wretched “white male gaze” whilst the hypersexualisation of the “black woman” seen as a threat to a patriarchal system is ignored and made taboo in favour of a more “pliant” “white woman” who more easily fits the patriarchal space allotted to her. In its way an equally insulting and debilitating status as that given to the “black woman” despite the latter’s lack of visibility. In the context of your piece, perhaps another way of looking at it is that the “pliantness/easy-ness” of the “white woman” actually represents and is THE visual symbol of the denied and implied “strength” and non patriarchal conformity/threat of the “black woman”. So the “strength” of the “black woman” is perversely represented by its absence and is replaced/represented by a white female symbol of patriarchal conformity, “pliantness”, “easy-ness”; the patriarchal binary opposite to the “black woman”. No one wins in this scenario!

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    • Thanks for this thought-provoking comment. Some great food for thought. Particularly interesting is the idea of the white woman more easily fitting the patriarchal space allotted to her. I’m not sure I agree that white women are accorded an equally insulting and debilitating status however. While women period face oppression, I do believe the the ways in which black women are dehumanised, devalued and silenced have profound disadvantageous repercussions for their life chances, in everything from treatment in the education/criminal/mental health systems, to access to careers in various industries from publishing, to modelling/acting, media and many more.

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      • I also want to say I love your piece on masculinities. It was great, and had some really useful references!

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      • Hi DiasporaDiva

        You are right in terms of the word “equal”. If we’re looking at a patriarchal hierarchy “white women” are higher up on the ladder, so yes in terms of the real life consequences of being dehumanised, I only mentioned this point as a means of psychic resistance. A resistance where we begin to re-internalise the images that are there to demoralise us as re-positioned images of strength, hence the “white woman” actually being a substitute symbol for the strength and anti patriarchal strength of the “black woman”. In my mind, every image of projected oppression has a reflection. Representation is always double sided – who is being represented visually and what the visual symbolises (i.e. who is imposing the representation and why). So for me it is always important to re-frame/re-position a negative representation because it is exactly through re-framing that the image of the “black woman” became negative and oppressive in the first place (i.e. the historical (post slavery, colonial etc) strength of the “black woman” re-framed as a “negative” and represented by a “white positive” of pliantness). So let’s claim the “white representation” for what it actually is, a response borne out of fear. So from a “white woman’s” perspective, only being preferred on the basis of their “(com)pliance/pliantness” and lack of threat cannot feel very good – just a general point which in no way seeks to minimise the miserable state of affairs for the plight of the “black woman”. Thanks for feedback on my piece, by the way.

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      • Just as an aside…we are now seeing the same “image substitution” when the “white woman” is being replaced by the “Asian woman” for EXACTLY the same reasons, where the “white woman” is now becoming too independent and anti patriarchal so certain sectors of the system are putting the “Asian woman” on a pedestal of pliantness and patriarchal compliance. Again, a hideous state of affairs for the “Asian woman”. Within the patriarchal ecosystem, women will always be replaced or represented by less troublesome versions of “womanhood”. This is paradoxically not the same when it comes to the “black man”……

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    • I have to ask, whilst my traditional understanding of the patriarchal black female has always been a relatively strong figure, the modern role models for patriarch-compatible black females are virtually non-existent. Sure we can look at people like Oprah all day, but she makes for an incredibly boring role model as her life just sounds like hard work. In a modern generation that is hyper-obsessive over money, status, fun and fame, even Nicki Minaj and Rihanna look like far better role models. Why? Because, unlike Oprah, they look like they actually enjoy their lives, whilst being rich and famous.

      And that brings me to the subject of the Atlanta Housewives reality TV show. One part male horror story, two part instructional guide on being a gold-digger for our young ladies, three part showcase of fun, interesting lives that young brand-obsessed ladies can aspire to. These are the kind of women a lot of young girls now dream about being. Untied to any man, financially free, and swimming in designer fashion so that their friends love them and their enemies hate them. Many of these women see a husband as a burden that should only be taken in exchange for a large amount of money or a large upgrade in lifestyle.

      Many black women also share the fire that black men posses, and that in itself can be worrying. Black men never have to worry about a white woman setting fire to their clothes, or throwing their wardrobe into the skip whilst they are at work after an argument, but the media at least has made the ‘crazy black woman’ possible, and the women I have met in my travels have no problem trying to beat the media’s examples.

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  15. Hey, I think one aspect which isn’t really addressed in this article which is great by the way is the fact that consciously or unconsciously a lot of black males see black women as harder work, not just with regards to sexual relations but even dating, and getting to know. A lot of my friends say, its just harder work with regards to seeing a black woman they like and trying to step to her, this may be true or false but its definitely part of the reason why a lot of black males go for white women instead.

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    • Maybe they’re lazy? I’m sorry, I’m not a man so I can’t really understand the issue they have with black women but they do have mothers, sisters, nieces, female friends who are black. So why is it so complicated for them to relate and communicate with them on a romantic level if they don’t live seperately?

      It sounds like to me that black are so different from everybody else on the earth, even from their male counterparts…I don’t get it. it doesn’t happen in other ethnicities, why wwould it be the case with us?

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  16. Same in France and probably in other European countries as well.
    I’d like to know if there’s a post here that groups all the full British black sistas in the mainstream and less mainstream music scene.

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  17. Great piece of writing.

    I’ve grown up in London as a brown skinned male and I think this prejudice against dark skinned girls runs through many cultures (probably as a consequence of colonialism).

    Black males in wider society seem to have reached a stage where they are placed in a box; but dark skinned black women don’t even get a box. It’s as if they’re better out of sight.

    We really need more people to speak out against this racist attitude.

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  18. It’s frustrating 2 see the sheer ignorance on the part of some young black men and their flawed perception of black women, but i can assure you that there is a huge population of black men like myself who fully appreciate, love and respect our black women and nothing can change that

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  19. Really interesting article.
    While I agree with your claim that Britain’s ‘mixedness’ is being falsely held up as a sign of its success on race, I don’t go as far as arguing that the growing number of mixed race couples is in itself a bad thing.
    I completely agree that the depiction of urban environments largely ignores the role of black women.
    Thanks for writing this.

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    • You are most welcome! And I think you may have misinterpreted me. I am not arguing that the numbers of mixed race couples is in and of itself a bad thing. Far from it. Rather I am questioning the context in which it occurs and challenging the way it is interpreted.

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  20. Interesting article. There is still a general perception that ‘white is right’ however I want to throw in another factor – when your young the perception is white girls are ‘easier’. So black girls become effort and boys go after the easier option. Beyond any historical racial reasons, I think that’s a major reason why many black men go for white women

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    • Yep I agree. Definitely. But also other factors similar to why Asian men sleep with white women and marry their Asian women, white girls don’t carry as much consequences. Many black girls have a brother, father, cousin, uncle that a potiential male partner may know and out of respect for them not try to advance on that black girl. Ofcourse its not as brutal as in the Indian/Pakistani communities where honour killings are common, but still, a white woman can be a lot less headache in terms of family issues.

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  21. “These horrific events were the catalyst for the birth of the anti-black racism, unhappily now a feature of life across the globe.” I agree with most of the article, but take issue with the above comment as I have had it pointed out to me (on the Guardian no less) that the trans-Atlantic slave trade was not the catalyst for anti-black racism. Racism against black Africans was in evidence long before this particular trade started (have you read One Thousand and One Nights? I’m sure you are also aware of the mistaken belief that the sons of Ham in the Old Testament were cursed by having dark skin?)
    I definitely agree with you in your overall analysis about the celebration of multiculturalism and post-racialism in the UK and elsewhere being typified with mixed heritage couples which predominantly consist of a black man with a white woman. More recent examples: Halifax: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BtIDkDIn0Q#t=48

    Bim Adewunmi wrote a nice article in the New Statesman lamenting the racist vitriol that was posted underneath the Nestle advert of a mixed heritage couple on YouTube http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2013/06/despite-everything-television-still-has-extraordinary-amount-power

    and my personal favourite by Kooples:http://www.thekooples.com/en/couples.html#/page/2
    Fifth image down: Veneda and Nast have been a Koople for five months.

    It seems that countries like the UK are finally acknowledging in mediums like the media that the make-up of its society is slowly but surely changing. It will take a long while (and agency on our part) to ensure that all sections (and shades) of society are fully acknowledged and represented. Education and awareness are needed.

    Finally, I’d like to recommend a favourite film of mine that came out in 2007 called The Visitor. One of the main couples in the film are mixed race: he is Syrian and she is Senegalese. Their relationship is nicely captured: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0857191/

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    • I’m going to have to correct you. There may have been prejudice towards various people prior to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, but that period was the catalyst for anti-black racism as we know it today. It was also the time in which “blackness” as we understand it today was invented. The modern construction of race didn’t exist until that period, when it was socially engineered to foster a racial identity amongst disparate European groups (across class and nationality lines). At the same time diverse groups of Africans, came to be classified as black, and were ascribed the negative racial characteristics that linger to this day. Such classifications were used to highlight the relative inferiority of “blacks” to “whites” and to explain and justify the institution of slavery. The consequences of all of this remain with us to this day, and are manifest in the anti-black racism that continues to endure.

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      • Yep you are so right. We were classified by family name, tribe, etc but never colour alone.
        Also prior to the transatlantic slave trade there was plenty of race mixing happening, its always happened. Never not happened when there’s been more than one race living in residence.
        J.A. Rogers shows much examples of this in his Trilogy of books called Sex And Race.

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  22. Thank you for drawing attention to and deconstructing this horrible aspect of the self-congratulatory post-racial narrative in the UK

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    • Thanks for your comment. Yeah, I find the self-congratulatory schtick hard to stomach. Yet its rarely challenged.

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      • Indeed. I often hear people say ‘intersectionality is easy!’ but I don’t find it easy at all, because the way Blackness and woman-ness are constructed *in our minds* as separate deviations from the default makes Black women vanish. It’s a structural bug. What I’m learning is that I have to make a deliberate effort every single time I consider a Black issue or a women’s issue to specifically consider how it applies uniquely to Black women. This is uphill work against the bulk of cultural messages and my deficient education. We have to reprogram ourselves!

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