Racial Loyalty and Romance: Why Do We Limit Ourselves to Black Men?

Young, Urban and Beautiful

Martin and Coretta, Ossie and Ruby Dee, Bill and Camille, Malcolm and Sister Bettie, Will and Jada, Barack and Michelle…

I recently asked myself a few questions that had been lingering in the back of my mind for years. Why do Black women feel so loyal to Black men? Where does this sense of “ownership” over them come from and why don’t they appear to have the same feelings toward us?

The questions were stirred by a recent conversation I had with a close African American male friend of mine about his history of, and perhaps preference for, dating non-Black women. For me, the subject was sensitive, to say the least. But I tried my best to place my personal feelings aside and listen with an open mind. I braced myself, in anticipation of a slam session, one that would convict me and other Black women of emasculating our men or being mean, ghetto, overweight, etc. However, what I received was even more jaunting. He told me that his choice to date non-Black women had nothing to do with Black women at all nor was it the result of some self-hating preference for light skin or straight hair. He simply dated non-Black women because he could.

“I like women,” was his response. “All kinds of women. Beautiful women.”

Though I question his standards of beauty as leading towards the more Eurocentric, I must say that his testimony was truthful. Over the years, I have seen him date many women of different races, Black included, and they all had similar qualities, young, smart, attractive. Their race was not the driving factor.

I was shocked, not only by his simplistic response but by his concluding remarks that I too should date outside of my race. A Black man recommending that a Black woman date interracially. How many Black women would send that information the other way?

White men killed to protect White women, lynching Black men for centuries in protection of their honor. However, I rarely hear much aversion from Black men to the thought of their female counterparts taking on lovers of different races. And when I do, this is most often reserved exclusively for Black women dating White men.

To paraphrase Chris Rock, in his 2008 HBO comedy special, Kill the Messenger, the only people more angered by interracial dating than Southern White men are Black women. Rock goes on to assert that Black men are in no threat of losing Black women due to the fact that we are not attracted to White men. Is it that simple? Can we assert that Black women do not date interracially because we are not attracted to non-Black men? Taking this further, do Black men seem to not care because they are in no danger of “losing” us, our love, and our loyalty?

Do Black women lack attraction to men of other races? Of course not. I can testify to having found plenty of non-Black men very attractive. In addition, Black women do date and marry interracially. In fact, we are doing so at greater rates now more than ever before. But there are still many Black women that will remain single before abandoning their dreams of marrying their IBM (Ideal Black Male).

I was having this conversation with a girlfriend of mine, while at work when I received some interesting feedback from a very unlikely source. A White male colleague of mine, had been listening to our conversation and offered this as an explanation for our reluctance to date outside of our race, “Black women are the keepers of the culture.”
His words resonated with me because I, like many other Black women, had been taught this very thing. Maybe not explicitly but the message was definitely drilled into me at an early age.

Proof of this lays in memories of being taught to cook traditional African American dishes. Or the pride my grandmother has in going through old photo books with me and my knowledge that one day these albums will become my responsibility to maintain and expand. Not to mention flashbacks of the previous year’s family reunion and the fact that it is the elder women of our family that pull it together each year. I had been raised in this legacy. I was to learn these traditions; I was to maintain them. Not my brothers; me. The Black woman. This was not a responsibility I asked for; it was one that I inherited. The grave responsibility of maintaining a culture and the Black family.

And can the Black family exist without the Black man? Many Black women believe not.
Black women are not the only group that wishes to utilize intra-marriage as a means of maintaining their culture. I have Jewish and Asian friends that talk about their parents desire to see them married to “one of their own.” So many of my friends dream of marrying their Black American Prince, jumping the broom and dancing to Etta James’ “At Last” – much in the likeness of Barack and Michelle. I empathize with them in this dream. I just hope that the dreaming does not prevent any of us from living a fulfilling reality.


Philadelphia native, G. Ann Wilkerson is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and Indiana University. A youth worker by profession, but, writer by trade, her works include social commentary on Urban Culture, Black Women and Health and Wellness. She is also the Founder/Editor of The Learning Curve, an online publication for Black women seeking self-discovery, understanding and fulfillment. Follow her on twitter @G_AnnWilkerson.


  1. Prophetik Soul

    September 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    ‘Keepers of the culture’ is an interesting concept. I believe it is true. However, when you look at history, it is usually males who are the keepers of the culture. What do you make of that?

    • Melissa

      October 25, 2012 at 10:16 am

      On point observation Prophetik Soul. So true. I honestly think it is Black Men whom need to step back up & put black families together again. It is not the black woman’s responsibility, however it sure feels that way. Unfair.

      • Grace

        November 5, 2012 at 12:53 pm

        Hi. Good article. I think the ‘white man’ had it right. The keepers of the culture. Interesting..and logical.

        I do date outside of my race..and have found that men are men…good, bad and some indifferent. But, will not limit myself. I enjoyed the read.

  2. E

    September 24, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    “much in the likeness of Barack and Michelle”? Except Barack had a white mama. So maybe racially loyal African American women should look for biracial dudes with white mamas?

  3. Truth

    September 28, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Was this article a hit the first time you published it or was I mistaken to think it was polarizing, narrow and an excuse to fulfill your white boy fantasies?? To suggest that there is some undying loyalty black women have for black men is ridiculous. Go ahead and grab your white boy sweetie. I don’t think anybody really cares.

    • Maya

      October 15, 2012 at 6:28 pm

      Wow….you really must have some personal issues. This article was simply meant to offer some insight on the dynamics on interracial dating. The author does not bash anyone. The fact that you’re so angry over this post is probably because you’re one of the very women that she describes. Smh…..another angry, insecure black woman.

      • Ddre

        July 24, 2013 at 11:31 am

        Sounds more like a bitter azz black male to me. *shrug*

        To be truthful, black men collectively are not worth the blind loyalty that black women bestow upon them.

  4. Thoughtful Chick

    September 28, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    “So many of my friends dream of marrying their Black American Prince, jumping the broom and dancing to Etta James’ “At Last” – much in the likeness of Barack and Michelle. ”

    Actually I’m so thankful that Barack and Michelle’s relationship exists. Their relationship shines as a beacon of hope for what black men and black women are capable of in relationships (no matter who they chose to marry). In the media the stereotype is that the love acumen of Blacks is quite one-demential… even hopeless.

    The conversation for me isn’t whether or not to marry a Black man or if I should set my sites on exclusively dating Black men. In her DNC speech, Michelle gave a very clear outline to what a quality man is made of. He’s respectful, trustworthy, open, spiritual and willing to give back. It’s wonderful that we have someone like Michelle who can outline the qualities that she identified in a partner of merit.

    Saying that too many women are wasting their time hoping for their Barack and Michelle romance is a bit dismissive. But I’m biased because I’m one of those women. I’m holding out for the guy who has a vision for his life. Someone who is of quality character and sees the same in me.

    I honestly feel like the truly helpful conversation is the one that talks about the qualities and character of a solid the mate. Too many women are searching and trying to understand what they should be looking for in relationships. Conversations focusing on race but not character just makes things that much more confusing.

  5. AfterMath

    October 15, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I kinda feel like you’re putting too much pressure on yourself (or your gender). Its kinda like the guy said, you like who you like. And whoever you start a relationship with, there will be some differences that you’ll have to overcome – whether its because he’s from a different economic background, different region of the country, different educational values, different religious values, etc. I mean “as a people” we are a diverse people, and take we as inclusive or exclusive as you like. But once you’re together its gonna be you and him against the world.

  6. cb

    October 17, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    wonderful article, these days be happy with whomever you choose…we would want to please our parents to marry our own, be sometimes life comes in and changes everything…what can you do? please be happy