Monday, August 2, 2021
Dance For Me, Negro! Dance! (Are You a 'Mediocre' White Man Demanding Black Guys Tap Dance to Keep Your Attention?)
My friend Josh Rivers, who runs the Busy Being Black podcast, joked in an Instagram story once, "If I'm going to experience racism, at least let it be from nice looking white people who don't avoid the dentist."
He went on to point out that often what he describes as "mediocre whites" (to be fair in Britain, where their teeth may not be great), who - in his experience - often look down on amazing people of color and imagine themselves as superior to everyone else. And he encouraged other Black queer men to look to ensure that they aren't chasing these "mediocre whites," whose smiles look like a bag of nails...
THIS WAS A JOKE!
Now this was all a joke. But someone once said, comedy isn't about being technically accurate, it's about saying what's true. And at first, I thought he was being a bit harsh. But then the more I reflected and looked at this scenario, and I definitely thought this joke had a kernel of truth that was worth exploring. I haven't had an in-depth discussion with Josh about this. But Josh is an amazing human being, and both he and I have definitely had a similar experience of feeling confident in our abilities and what we bring to the table in terms of dating and having been left feeling devalued or less than by white men. First of all, he's drop dead gorgeous. Like mixed-race people are a nice looking people in general. But Josh stands out even amongst our handsome tribe. The perfect skin, the amazing bone structure, the rocking body... Damn it Josh, I hate you for being so much prettier than me, lol... But the man is beautiful.
Second, Josh is a true intellectual. Let me keep it real as a Harvard lawyer. I am NOT an intellectual. I'm super smart. But I'm not an intellectual at all. I'm way to ADHD. For me, learning new things, intellectual argument and reason is to solve a problem, so I can move on. Josh genuinely loves the journey of learning and discovering. Josh has confessed to me on a few occasions that he's mildly envious of the educational opportunities I have had. And yes, I have gone to some of the best universities in the world. And if I could magically give Josh a ticket to Harvard, I so would. He would have made far more use out of it than I did.
Third and perhaps more importantly, Josh has a calling to make a difference in the gay community. I love and respect this so much. I occasionally text him to just to thank him for making a difference. Now, think about this. He was a gay journalist. He now runs an insanely popular podcast that gives a voice to marginalized queer people of color. He writes poetry. He helps organize UK Black Pride every year, where queer people of color can have a space to celebrate and feel affirmed. Josh is just an amazing human being.
To my white readers who might look down on dating him or other amazing black men (or to those who have treated him terribly in the past), what have you done for the gay community?
Have you done any of this? I don't know. I'm sure some of you have and some of you haven't. But what Josh gave voice to, albeit perhaps flippantly, is that it can be frustrating when you -- as a gay black man -- know you have a lot to offer, you're confident in yourself, your intellect, your contribution to the queer community and/or your contribution to society at large -- and white men who haven't accomplished a tenth of what you have look down on you, because of your skin color.
Now, in theory, everyone can intellectual say "Well, that's wrong." But what Josh flippantly quipped may hold some truth that I'd like to ask my white readers to consider.
And yes, I accept that this is not a PC term at all. All human beings are of equal worth. And the term 'mediocre whites' was meant as a JOKE to provoke thought. And that's what it did. Perhaps, some might argue that I shouldn't use the term "mediocre whites" in this blog. And let me be clear, I AM NOT SAYING ALL WHITES ARE RACIST AND/OR MEDIOCRE. I'm not even saying the majority of white people are racist and/or mediocre. I'm sharing a pithy comment that prompted some soul searching on my part. And as a Black man who grew up in the American south, a lot of white people looked down on me and made me feel "less than." And yet, Josh Rivers had a pithy joke to both help me see my value, look to make sure I'm not chasing a guy who really isn't a good match for me, and yes, he made me laugh with some politically incorrect humor. If you have a more PC way of describing this phenomenon, let me know. (And that's not sarcasm, actually, do let me know!)
But let's be clear: we all look for "good qualities" in men we are evaluating as potential boyfriends. And yes, these qualities are extremely subjective. But some of them pop up more than others. First, I accept, men are more superficial than women -- as a trend. So let's accept that we all want to date someone we think is handsome. Career is also status symbol. Maybe it shouldn't be. But at the least, it can be a signal for some people. I'm not arguing that there are lots of contextual factors in dating. But a number of things tend to come up for most people when looking for a potential partner. And another is common interest, hobbies, activism, things like that.
But when I looked in my own life, I definitely saw something similar to Josh's experience. A number of white men, who didn't have my intellectual experience, credentials, career, or commitment to making a difference, still did things that left me feeling that they looked down on me or they didn't see my value as a human being. And yes, when you get into the realm of feelings, it's so much more subjective. And yet, this is my experience, too. So said another way...
Now the problem with this assertion, in theory, is that it's harder to prove. I can ask white readers "How many boyfriends have you had and were any of them people of color?" And this is a binary number. Alternatively, I can ask, "How many second dates have you had with people of color?" And those questions can be very revealing. By the way, I've already written a blog on how white men should look at their dating histories and look through their phones and ask themselves if they have an unconscious racial bias.
But when you get into the realm of bad attitudes or nonchalant texting, it's harder to make a solid case. But given that I've tried to really keep all my previous blogs in the realm of actions and spoken words, I think I've earned a little bit of leeway to discuss my feelings on interracial dating. And as I talk to other people of color, I find that these feelings are widespread.
White men -- who sometimes aren't even that hot or accomplished in their careers -- act as if they can just be barely interested in dating a person of color.
*The black or Asian man is ALWAYS the first to initiate a conversation online.
* The Black/Asian man ALWAYS asks the white man if he wants to go on a date.
* The Black/Asian man ALWAYS has to follow up to confirm the date, less the white man flake out.
*It's the Black/Asian guy who is ALWAYS asking for a second date or further commitment.
* It's the white man who always looks for the smallest of reasons to cancel a date or end communication
* It's always the white man who thinks he's right about everything - dating and racial
* The white man forgives very great flaws found in other whites, while condemning the minor flaws in people of color (Just look at Trump supporters if you want to see this on a macro level).
Again, I refer you to my previous blog post above on implicit bias if you want more ways to quantitatively see what kinds of men you are chasing. But I also have a more general blog on white privilege in the gay community as well:
Now some of this is endemic to the human condition. There are jerks of every race. Plenty of Black men can be flaky too. But if one race is held up as the "ideal", then might there not be an incentive or might society not allow mediocre people of the "ideal race" to get away with being jerks to people of the "undesired race"?
So I'm asking my white readers... Again, look at your dating history to evaluate whether you are giving people of color a chance. And even if you are, let me follow up with a second question: Are you acting disinterested or making amazing people of color chase you? And if so, are you genuinely that special? Or might you be allowing the way society values whiteness to stop you from checking your bad behavior?
Now often I find that white men have maybe been turned down by one Black guy who was - if we're being superficially inclined -- was WAY out of their league in terms of looks. And they use that as an excuse not to look closer at their dating trends. So don't just think of the one Denzel Washington who didn't chat to you on Tinder. Look at the men who were trying to get to know you.
And maybe I can't prove this theory in a court of law the way I can other blog posts, but it's my lived experience. And while I'm smart enough that I can see these signs early on, other Black and Asian men may not. I have zero qualms about calling out a white man who I think doesn't see my value. But other people of color might be hesitant to call you out for this. In your world, you might think you are super progressive, because you aren't ignoring the black/Asian man at all. But after a while constantly chasing a guy who isn't that keen is not fun.
TAP DANCING TO KEEP YOUR ATTENTION IS EXHAUSTING!
Let's suppose I was going to be a gay Judge Judy figure, as in an intelligent Harvard lawyer were going to give you (the alleged white guy who demands that people of color tap dance for his approval) a frank assessment as to whether you fall into this category... (And again, I'm not being sarcastic or hyperbolic - if you're white ask yourself if a smart Black guy were assessing me, what would he say?).. And I were to assess your credentials versus those of the person of color whom you don't seem keen to meet or interact with, what might my verdict be?
* If I was to look at his CV versus the Asian guy who keeps messaging you, who's got the better university degree or career? (Not saying this is indicative of your value as a whole. But I'm saying many people see this as a signal - including probably most of my white readers, and we're trying to figure out who is BF quality and who is mediocre...)
* If I was to look at the Black Guy's photo and rate his attractiveness compared to yours, even though you told him you didn't want a second date, who is hotter? (Again, white people have unconscious biases when it comes to what's attractive, so that's why I said imagine a person of color were making this assessment)
* If I was to look at his contributions to the queer community versus yours, who's done more?
* Who's making an effort and who is being lazy in the conversation?
What would I conclude???
So again, I have to ask my white readers, "Are you a mediocre white man asking Black men to do back flips to keep your attention?"
Maybe don't get defensive about it. But maybe ASK the people of color in your life whether you have left them feeling undervalued!
Because if every person of color you date feels that way, then there is definitely something for you to look at.
And maybe the real work that needs to be done is people of color need to begin to examine our own unconscious attitudes on race to where we, as queer people of color, stop interacting with white men who don't value us at all.
And by the way... Give Josh Rivers a follow! Instagram @_busybeingblack
And check out his podcast, Busy Being Black! https://www.busybeingblack.com