Friday, February 11, 2011
What's The Tea on Black Love?
I always seem to find myself in the center of a debate on love. Love is at the core of my existence, even when I'm surprised to find myself suffering from a lack of it. I'm learning to live in the contradictions of life, especially as they relate to love. Some days you'll find my Twitter feed in support or defense of interracial love; other days I may go hard supporting Black love. It is important to understand what's at stake in love.
Love is a political act, whether we like it or not. Who you desire, who you choose to share your life with, who you love--all of these are informed by your upbringing and how you have grown as an individual. Having grown up in a racist, sexist, homophobic (and moreover, xenophobic) society, Americans have learned to embrace a one-model rule--thinking there is only one model of love, one "perfect" suitor, etc. But I can't help but wonder where the racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. find their way in...
While I realize it may come as a shock to some that Black beauty has been completely denigrated and devalued, it becomes an extremely pertinent conversation when comments like, "I'm not attracted to Black men" are perpetuated and celebrated within many communities. Now, people of all shapes, sizes, hues, etc. suffer from internalized racism and color complexes.
As a gay man, my exposure to it has been mostly within gay male communities. Visit any online dating site and you are guaranteed to find any number of profiles that read, "No Black men." Thus, Blackness becomes a barometer of the social climate, given all other persons can be examined against their distance from or relation to Blackness.
Being mindful I am operating within a binary of Black/white, this does not escape an examination of all other persons outside that binary. Race has been constructed in such a way that the closer to "white" you get, the more social power you are given. The closer to "Black" you get, the less. While it appears to exist in a binary, in fact we are operating on a continuum. Comments like, "Sorry dudes, not attracted to Black" highlight the pervasive affects of a society ignoring the beauty of Blackness.
Some will argue against their own racism with comments like, "My best friend is Black." Okay? The fact of the matter is, we are all operating with some element of racism within us. We live in a racist society. Consciousness becomes key.
If we examine sexuality within its relationship to race, we see that racial dynamics in gay spaces can be dangerous territory. Racism does not only operate in the minds of white folks. Racism permeates the minds of people of color as well. Notice, I did not comment on the perceived identities of the individuals making those comments. Color complexes exist in the minds of queer people of color and their relationships, seeking individuals with lighter skin tones. Some of my saddest days have been days when a man of color looks into my eyes and reveals his own internalized racism.
So, Marlon Riggs was giving us the tea when he said, "Black men loving Black men is the revolutionary act." Instead, I would argue it is a revolutionary act. Black women loving Black women is a revolutionary act. Black men loving Black women is a revolutionary act as well. There are all sorts of revolutionary acts operating. When society casts an entire group of people aside offering them no value, we need to learn to find the beauty in the individuals who find that value despite the many obstacles. Black queer love battles not only the devaluation of Black beauty, but racism and homophobia from both ends.
We should not demonize or plague love when it exists in a pure form, especially when the love in question is not a part of our own daily life. None of us should let the healing we need to do on a personal level interject itself into other's love lives.
There are ways to designate a healthy relationships outside of identity politics. First of all, by being mindful that society will have an opinion of your relationship the moment you step outside. We all need to learn to stay out of other people's relationships because that relationship is not ours. So like I said, love is political. Some of us feel a personal investment when we see a Black man loving an Asian woman, or a white woman loving a Black woman, etc. We cannot escape the historical injustices that have occurred to different communities and how it has a very real social effect, even today. Again, consciousness becomes key.
The next debate I get into over love will aim at incorporating the many nuances of a conversation on the politics of love. Interracial love is beautiful, but so is intraracial love; so is queer love and Black love--and especially, queer Black love! As my friend Chadd put it, "I smile every time I see a gay Black couple [in a picture]."
Love is beautiful. Love can be liberating. Love can be a restorative force. Even if we tried to escape our identities and what they mean [not only to ourselves but to society], at the end of the day, we each have our own individual criterion for what we want our relationships to look like. What's informing your criteria?
As my colleague Monika Black states, "Each of us have an inherently flawed set of criteria [because we are all inherently flawed]." She posed the question, "How do we identify our relationships in racial terms, especially if race is an important attribute for us?" Will it cloud our judgment? Will it blind us to the potentially healthy relationship in front of our face?
At the end of the day, we need to be finding relationships that work for us. Let others find relationships that work for them and their journey. Celebrate love. Don't promote the dismantling of another's love.
For me, I will never possess Black love but that doesn't mean I can't see the inherent beauty within it. Black love is beautiful, especially Black queer love.
For more resources on Black gay love, please visit:
NoMoreDownLowTV on Youtube
Trent Kelly's Hidden in the Open