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And when people do venture across the color line to date, they do so in ways that continue to affirm a social hierarchy based on race in which whiteness is prized. Despite the steamy scenes on ABC's hit show, Scandal and yes, I am a fan , most single black women are not dating white men and certainly not hunky white men who hold high government offices and are willing to risk all they have achieved for illicit love. I wish my male relatives luck and joy in their relationships, but I also feel a pinch when I watch them with their girlfriends. Another of my male relatives brought home a woman for Christmas who seemed like a modern-day, socially progressive southern belle. By the same token, black men who date white women are "trading up" on the American racial hierarchy.
White women are less willing than white men to date outside of their racial group, but heavier-set white women are more willing to date black men, because, researchers Cynthia Feliciano, Belinda Robnett, and Golnaz Komaie of UC Irvine posit, of "racial-beauty exchange theory" -- the notion that a white woman who is less attractive by the measure of dominant Euro-American beauty standards is willing to "trade down" on the racial hierarchy by dating a black man. For both these men and to be fair, they were not much older than 20 at the time and thus had plenty of maturing to do , white women were the pinnacle of womanhood -- the prize that they secretly coveted, the emotional weapon that they knew they could wield. In today's dating market black women are less preferred -- and here is the kicker -- sometimes even by black men. Race and the characteristics that have come to represent it -- like skin color, eye color, and hair texture -- would not be factors in matters of the heart. Nevertheless, these preferences have real effects. So when black men select white women and de-select black women, they are doing so in a context of charged racial meanings. This is the United States, where a deep-seated notion of racial difference has been the rationalization for oppression, the rallying cry for discrimination against people who are not white. Whiteness has been a privileged and prized identity in the U. So to all of the African American women out there who feel like your shine is not being recognized, who feel a little pinch of rejection each time you see an accomplished black man with a white woman on his arm: First Lady Michelle Obama is a glowing exception to these daunting data and a beacon of beauty in this skewed aesthetic environment. African American women are plagued by persistent, age-old stereotypes that represent them as too strong, argumentative and unfeminine. Romantic attraction is subject to the larger social forces of racial prestige and stigma that swirl all around us, and in this environment, black women are losing out. This is due in part to the unsettling evidence that many groups of men do not prefer black women. Another of my male relatives brought home a woman for Christmas who seemed like a modern-day, socially progressive southern belle. I recognize that many people form loving relationships across the black-white color line. Black people as a whole intermarry with whites less frequently than other people of color do; and black women intermarry far less than black men. By the same token, black men who date white women are "trading up" on the American racial hierarchy. She was blonde, full figured, outgoing, and outspoken with a saucy southern accent and friendly, expressive manner. And as wonderful as they are, African American women can never measure up to the narrowly defined beauty ideals based on Euro-American aesthetics that are so firmly entrenched in this culture. Sociologists also find that because white Americans as a whole are still the most powerful racial group in this country politically, economically, and socially , non-whites seek to marry into that group in order to increase their own social status. Social science researchers posit that black men's attraction to white women as evidenced by dating behavior and growing intermarriage rates is in part historically rooted. In a perfect world, love would be blind. But this is not a perfect world. This is a pattern that I have observed in my professional life for years: One of my male relatives brought home a date for Thanksgiving who could have been Barbie's twin sister. Last holiday season gave me plenty of food for thought on this all too familiar and often uncomfortable racially-tinged question. They are interested in moving up in the power structure, and one way you do that is through intermarriage with the dominant group.
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