So a few days ago my favorite rapper/ musician, Childish Gambino a.k.a. Donald Glover, released a music video for his new song “This is America.” And let’s just say that the video set the world on fire because it’s being highly discussed even as I write these words down–probably even as you read them. I at some point had wanted to write about the music video and then stopped myself from doing so because A) there’s quite a bit to unpack and my brain wants to make a unified argument for it, but can’t because there’s so many wonderful threads and points to pick up on and B) I would never wish to do Donald dirty like that by trying to interpret his work. I love the man too much.
And all of this is great. I’ve watched “This is America” about seventeen times not only because I like the song, but also because I wanna figure out the music video and decipher all the layers going on. What I’m saying is that it’s an interesting music video with a deep message to it. Go and watch it. It’s become a trending topic in the US and worldwide. People love it. Fans have praised Donald, called him a genius. We’ve extolled him as “woke.” But the problem is that among my comment readings and general social media perusing, an activity I am wont to do despite the internet being a cesspool of vitriol, I found quite a few typed out criticisms that had nothing at all to do with the music video, rather they were about the fact that Donald is dating a white woman. And that somehow dating a white woman takes away his “wokeness,” it takes away the care, the love that he has for the black community.
Now this is something that I’ve dealt with quite a bit. And while I can easily end this post by saying that we, people not involved with Donald Glover’s personal life, unknowing of what his girlfriend, Michelle, is like, ignorant of any of the personal details of their relationship, should not at all discuss any manners of his relationship, there’s an issue with this. It’s that I wake up every day with the knowledge that I’m a black man. This issue will forever relate to me, even if I’m not currently dating anyone and my current preference is almost any woman that’ll date me. Sup ladies.
I was originally going to call this post, “In Defense of Dating White Women,” but that’s a whole bag of trouble that I don’t wish to touch. Instead I’d like to explore this topic of being a black man and dating a woman outside of blackness.
Back when I was younger, high school or so, my, let’s just summarize it as parents, would grill me for having crushes on or dating white girls. They would say to me things such as, With so many great black girls out there, why would you want to date a white woman? Or, She can’t use my comb, she can’t come to my home. Or, Why would you betray your race? And for a while I didn’t understand their argument, though it’s also because they didn’t give me an argument outside of those sayings. For a while I thought them to be too into their feelings. Or even worse, racist. So I grew up being petty and desired to date white women out of spite. But as I grew up, and slowly climbed my way out of my own sunken place (which I’m still not fully finished climbing out of) I realized the basis of their arguments. It’s a historical and currently mainstream issue.
For a long time and even now, people have praised Eurocentric beauty. Mainstream media had set straight hair as the precedent for hairstyles. Fair skin was the rage. Blue eyes or blond hair was favored over brown anything. Society has had a problem with essentially calling white, and nothing but white, beautiful. That left women of other minorities marginalized for a while and society is still working on that. Society slowly accepted light skinned women as beautiful and is just getting there with darker skinned women. So to parents, relatives and the like, me and my adoration of white girls had been a betrayal. It was me falling prey to a historical fallacy, going for what mainstream (or, let’s face it, White society) has told me to aspire for. And for a while I agreed with this argument and thought that I probably shouldn’t just like white women because there’s a history behind it, but I got even older and realized while even though I acknowledge the fallacy, I still enjoyed the company of and when given the chance to would date white women. What mattered was that I acknowledged the problematic aspects, but realized desires I had went outside of the fallacy. It’s just that the reasoning for my desires was problematic. Which leads to my point about people who are arguing against people mad at Donald Glover for dating a white woman.
At the end of my review of Get Out, I wrote, I wish I could go back to when I was fifteen and pursued white girls cause I was a nerd and black girls didn’t like me, but it’s too late. And though I loved that line, it’s a troublesome one. Too many times, in the defense of Donald Glover, have I seen the argument that he is probably with a white woman because black women weren’t digging him when he was just an unfamous, young, black nerd. It’s the whole black girls don’t like black nerds argument. And while for me my reasoning came from the fact that I’ve, on several occasions, been called white for my nerdy tendencies (I’ve even used that argument yesterday morning), I feel as though we should discard that. I, much like many other black nerds who were “done dirty” in the past, need to get over ourselves and out of our feelings. That was the past and it’s a generalization. Black male nerds shouldn’t blame their problems on black women, even if there was a time where our nerdy tendencies were called white or just attributed as non-black. It goes beyond black women calling black nerds white or this weird dichotomy of being black and a nerd (especially since we’re now at a point where being a nerd is fine–mainstream even).
The problem is that there’s been this weird code this odd criteria for cultivating our black identity. What counts as being black? For a while part of the “criteria” was not being weird or geeky/nerdy or doing “white” shit. White shit sometimes meant showing an interest in school, talking “white,” being preppy, or any attitude replicating mainstream white media. And for a while Donald Glover, Childish Gambino, was a corny rapper whose main demo was preppy white kids (and black weirdos like me). He wasn’t known for his bars or swag or general street cred. But as our “criteria” changed, so did Gambino. He made “Awaken My Love” and Atlanta. “Redbone” was featured in Get Out. His persona changed, and though at his core he’s still that corny nerd, he’s become a symbol for blackness. And this is the concern. This is my fear. That if I ever blow up and become famous (slim chance, my guy), I’ll be under the spotlight, because now that Gambino is a symbol for blackness, his every move is on display. Every action is loaded. Everything carries the weight of being black or not being black. And dating a white person is a move that apparently goes against blackness.
Before I get to my last point, let me just say that I realize that, historically, many white people have proven that they have not cared for black people. Get Out reinforced fears of dating white women. And issues of white people calling the police on blacks just breathing hasn’t helped with race relations. It’s only highlighted that things haven’t changed much and should change soon. And while I understand all of that, back when we were fighting for civil rights, there was also a fight for state bans on interracial love to be deemed unconstitutional. And this odd thought process that black people should only date black people pushes back progress. It reduces us, places a oppressive train of thought that we must only keep to ourselves in terms of love. I’d like to say we’re almost framing our own segregation via romance, but that’s a false equivalency. It’s just not right and as we progress, this isn’t a belief we should have. Black people dating white people doesn’t mean other black people are being discounted. It just means that particular person found love, dated, married, or maybe accidentally knocked up someone outside of their race.
And for my last point, not every move by our black symbols, famous black celebs or even just random woke normal black folk needs to exude blackness. Our history is loaded. Our history will always be there. But every move doesn’t have to be put under the microscope of blackness or else that just reduces us to our history. And we’re no longer allowed to be individuals. No longer allowed to be people. And as we progress, it’s good to acknowledge the history behind us or the history we’re still living through, but it’s also good to proceed as people. And maybe as we gain equal footing, we’ll be seen as individuals and not a collective. So what I’m saying is to let black people date/ marry/ have kids with who they want (as long as the people seem decent or haven’t yet proven themselves to be shitty). So black men, leave Serena Williams alone. And black people, leave Jordan Peele and Donald Glover alone. Let ’em live.
Also if there is any true criteria for blackness it should probably be to not be scum and not be Ben Carson or Kanye West. Cool? Cool. I leave you with Gambino’s performance of “Terrified” at the Grammys. Sorry for the rant. Later days.