Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Discussions in Black History Month: Sex and Community

It's a bit late in the day really considering that Black History Month is almost over, but I've had a few thoughts on themes of social justice, and community development that I might want to get out of my head and onto the blog in the next week or so.

My first post in this vein touches on the consistently emotive subject of interracial dating. I've a particular antipathy to the arguments used to cast aspersions on the authenticity of those who profess a desire to see black people succeed and their respective black communities develop, while having a non-black partner. While there are a few variations, the underlying premise is that a non-black partner is a sign of a lack of self-love or love for the black community. If one were really desirous of black success, one would select a black partner.

I really do understand the feelings behind the reasoning. When you live in a society that daily broadcasts the message that you are a problem, that your features are undesirable. A society where you are no one's knight in shining armour, you're no one's "face that launched a thousand ships", rose to be cherised, or beauty to be protected, worshipped, and adored. Seeing a black-non-black couple can add to the feeling of rejection, as it can be seen to symbolise the wider mileu. Moreover it resonates with such anti-black tropes as, "even your own men don't want you". It's easy therefore to think that the choice of a non-black partner is due to an internalised social bias against black people.

However, who's f*cking whom in the boardroom is more important than who's f*cking whom in the bedroom. The only black people with anything resembling a case for making the symbolic gesture of having a black partner are politicians. Barring politicians, or community organisers, I see no imperative for pandering to strangers' needs for symbolic gestures.

Given the existence of black men and women with black partners, like members of the Congressional Black Caucus - who seem not to give primacy to the interests of black people - I think that there are much better indicators of how desirous one is of black success than who they are sleeping with. The President of the United States happens to be a black man with a black wife, and he would not be given a perfect scorecard on pushing for policies that benefit black people. His score would likely be even worse if he were evaluated on his effort for policies specifically for African Americans.


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  3. Apologies for the deleted posts above but I was having problems.

    Given your conclusion about the president it would seem that the issue of who is in the boardroom could be interpreted as likewise, merely symbolic. The question of the character of the young people being prepared to occupy these spaces ought to be raised in a very serious way. A black wife/husband and the title of CEO doth not progressive politics make. Perhaps the problem lies in how we are brought to think about the project of our development. By this I mean to point to how far our imaginings take place within the framework of the very racist and capitalist logics that inform the practices by which we are oppressed. Perhaps we go too far in imagining that all we need do in order to change current circumstances is occupy the sacred spaces of CEOs, Senators, and Presidents.