Dating and the Black female
I have noticed a certain level of unconsciousness lurking in the air
of the Bowdoin community. As an African-American female, I wish to explore
a certain level of daily discomfort that Black women feel when submerged
in a predominantly white community.
Before I go any further, I feel it necessary to make lucid that African
Americans are not the only minorities that experience racism in Bowdoin's
social arenas, and females are not the only minority longing for justice.
Rather, my method here is more sophisticated than pure discourse.
That being said, this is my attempt to explore the position of Black
females on Bowdoin's campus and how they are affected by the cultural
images constructed by the privileged.
I conducted a survey, asking students of Black, White, Asian, and Hispanic
origins whether or not they felt there was a fair amount of interracial
dating at Bowdoin.
Only two students said that Bowdoin had a fair amount of these types
of relationships; most said that such dating isn't happening. Many of
the White students stated that the College is not particularly diverse,
which allows for little interracial dating. Only 20 percent of the White
community expressed concern that there is little dating of this sort.
Though I am sure that these students mean well, their explanation just
doesn't do it for me. In the surveys, 100 percent of Black females acknowledged
that a problem with the interracial dating scene exists. None of the Black
females surveyed had dated outside their race at Bowdoin. Listen to some
of their reasons:
1) I haven't been approached by any men outside my race at Bowdoin.
The majority of interracial relationships between Black students on campus
involve Black males and White females. Many times I find myself wondering
why Black females get the short end of the stick. Why are Black males
"considered" in the dating pool, while females are not?
I would like to make sense of this absurdity, because many people on
a campus "committed to diversity" suffer from it. In answering
this question-which I hear bellowing from the mouths of many other African-American
women as well-I have found understanding within historical imagery.
The cultural images that embody Black females affect the ways in which
we are perceived by non-African-American men. One of the most pervasive
images of Black females is the mammy-the large-statured domestic whose
position ranges from cook to nanny. The mammy's disposition is inconsistent
and dependent upon the person she is dealing with. She is submissive to
the white boss, but is crude and sometimes talks down to other Blacks,
particularly males. She exerts power over her own kind in order to assume
an authoritative position in society. Her overly exaggerated breasts and
buttocks are attempts to desexualize her and make her less of a threat
to White female counterparts.
Sapphire is another example of a cultural icon constructed by the privileged
to embrace Black female identity. In From Mammy to Miss America and Beyond,
K. Sue Jewel says that Sapphire is characterized by "her sassiness,
which is exceeded only by her verbosity....Because of her intense expressiveness
and hands-on-hip, finger-pointing style, Sapphire is viewed as comedic
and is never taken seriously."
The final, most pervasive cultural image of African-American women is
the jezebel, also delineated as the bad black girl. She can be either
an African American with a light complexion or a mulatto. She has overwhelmingly
Eurocentric features including a thin nose, thin lips, and straightened,
lengthy hair. The jezebel conforms to a Eurocentric beauty standard and
is considered attractive by both White and Black men. The only problem
is that even though she is attractive enough to get the White man, her
blackness hinders her from keeping him. She is the exact opposite of the
mammy/Aunt Jemima figure in that she is hypersexual-her goal is to constantly
engage in some type of sexual activity.
With the existence of these negative stereotypes constructed by the White
majority, it is no wonder that we as communities suffer without education
of our true images. These images' roots lie in the early 20th century,
but I can see their poisonous remains in the modern Bowdoin community.
So what do we do about it? Is it the fault of the White community? Is
it the responsibility of Bowdoin's African-American women to speak up
for themselves and deliver the message that we are neither desexualized
While I may not have the answers to such questions, my inclination is to beckon a general consciousness of social dilemmas that African Americans face every day. It is my goal to collapse the distance between the particulars of racial consciousness and the opaqueness of the "Bowdoin bubble." Black women have long been ostracized from that "cult of true womanhood," and it is time now to undo that venomous trend.