Review: "Don't Bring Home a White Boy"

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I’ve recently had conversations with four of my friends about the lack of dates, mates or love in their lives. They are attractive, educated, active and fun.  Three are well-traveled.  They are heterosexual.  They are black (as in African-American).  They range in age from mid-twenties to sixty.  (The 60 year old friend was featured in Essence a few years back because of her fitness and active lifestyle.)  In each conversation, the idea of dating outside the race has come up.  It is an idea they consider but most have not practiced.

 The statistics are dire.

“…although the most recent census available reported that 80 percent of black women are single, black women have the greatest resistance to marrying out” of the race.” (11)

One doesn’t need census data to recognize the fact that a majority of black women of all ages who are single, heterosexual and interested in being married find themselves uncoupled.  Many haven’t been in a serious relationship for years or even dated. 

From the title of the book -- Don’t Bring Home a White Boy -- I thought it was going to be a breezy, light-weight book, filled with opinion rather than data. While the book makes compelling reading, it is definitely not light-weight. 

The author Karyn Langhorne Folan, a graduate of Harvard Law School and a former law professor, has been married twice.  Her first husband was black.  Her second and current husband is white.  She had a daughter with each. 

This book is not anti-black men, although she addresses some serious issues and concerns between black women and black men, not least of which is black women and the black communities protectiveness toward black men even when they are violent against black women.  Rather, Ms Folan is pro black women having the opportunity to have companions, lovers and husbands in this life-time.  Don’t Bring Home a White Boy dissects all the arguments many black women have for not marrying outside the race as well as the cautions and protectiveness that cause many black women not to even try to do so.

A quick run-down of the chapter titles gives you an idea of the breadth of coverage of this book:

Notion 1 – After Slavery, I Would Never, Ever Date a White Man

Notion 2 – I’m Looking for My Good Black Man

Notion 3 – My Family Would Never Accept Him – and His Would Never Accept Me

Notion 4 – I Don’t Find White Men Attractive

Notion 5 – White Men Don’t Find black Women Attractive – Unless They Look Like Beyoncé

Notion 6 -  What about the Children?

Notion 7 – He Must Have Money: Black Women as Gold Diggers

Notion 8 – You’re a Sellout: Perception of Black Women Who Date White Men

Notion 9 – We’d Be Too Different

Notion 10 – It’s the Same Story Around the World

While I don’t think there are as many white men out there interested in dating black women as Ms. Folan does, I do concede that she makes powerful points.  If I had read this book when I was dating, I’d be more open to dating non-black men than I was in the past.  (For the record, I have gone on two dates with white men – once in high school and once with a colleague from work in my early 30s.)

That this is still a topic for discussion in 2010 may surprise some. 

 Folan writes:

So much has changed for black women in a mere half century that our identities are struggling to catch up.  In one way, it’s easy to understand why so many of us black women cling to the notions of generations past.  History, after all, is wt grounds us.  It gives us a connection to place and people.  It is a part of who we are.  But history is, by its very definition, the past.

The present realities are that the old-fashioned notions of white = oppressor, black = victim aren’t as clear-cut as they used to be.  The present realities are that black American women are more powerful, more relevant, and on more equal footing with men of all races than ever before in history.  The present realities are that sexism presents as great a stumbling block for black women as racism – and that man of all races can be guilty of it.  The present reality is that black women are more likely to face sexual violence from black men than from white men, and that black-versus-white thinking keeps us from fully addressing that problem in our community.  Finally, the present reality is that black women are not limited to men from only one race;  we have the option of choosing our romantic partners out of the entire global village of men if we so choose, based not on their race but on their individual qualities and characters.  (18-19)

In 2010, it seems to me that good people should be looking for other good people and those good people will come in different nationalities and packages.

One of the strongest sections of the book looks at children from interracial relationships and discusses how racial identity is developed (through a child’s interactions with others) and the issue of “racial confusion.”  Folan addresses the legacy of slavery with its one drop rule (as in one drop of black blood made one black).  She also tackles the notion that “mixed-race people are often considered suspect” and lacking black “cred”.

“What are you?” is the question that mixed-race children have to be prepared to hear and that we, as their black mothers, have to prepare them to respond to.”  (136)

The book offers a lot of resources throughout its pages including several blogs where interracial dating is discussed. Unfortunately, these are not listed at the end of the book in a convenient format so be sure to have paper and pen in hand when reading the book.  One resource to note is the website BlackGirlTravel.com and its tours of Italy where there are activities planned that allow black women to meet Italian men.  There is a bibliography at the end of the book.

The weakest section of the book was the personal stories of black women and white men who were dating or married.  While the stories were illuminating, more space could have been devoted to them, a wider selection of couples would have been more useful, and more information about how the interviews were conducted, how the couples were selected, how many were interviewed, and what questions were posed should have been included.  Ms. Folan also didn’t include an interview with her husband, therefore we never hear his side of their relationship story in his own words, instead, we only get her view in the introduction.

Some years ago, I wrote a short story the issue of interracial dating called, “The Right White Boy.”  It is attached to this post, and you can click below to read it.  I’d welcome your feedback.

I recommend this book because it is informed, provocative, and direct.  Even the painful sections, as she explores stereotypes about black women and examines why black men are so comfortable with dating interracially despite the historical costs of those choices, are worthwhile.

Related:

Eve Sharon Moore has compiled essays and commentary from her blog into a book, Black Women: Interracial and Intercultural Marriage Book – Essays and Commentary.  Her blog is Black Female Interracial Marriage: Urging black women to choose quality mates from all backgrounds and make long-range choices that promote and protect their interests ‘First and Foremost.’

(The long-winded sub-title gives you an idea of the style of the blog, which is poorly-designed graphically, but there’s good information there. Ms. Moore is passionate about black women dating from the global village.

Another provocative blog is Black Women’s Interracial Relationship Circle blog by Halima Anderson.

http://blog.candelariasilva.com

Good and plenty!

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