I’m a little up-in-arms today.
I was minding my own business on Monday night when, as usual, Facebook destroyed my happy balance. Essence Magazine has a love/sex advice column, and this time around, they decided to tackle an interracial marriage.
So as to stop you from having to venture too far away, let me quote the “problem” letter:
My man keeps calling me a “nigger bitch” during sex and I hate it.
I have been married for a year and I am at my wit’s end. My investment banker husband is from a White old money family. I am a first generation Black-American woman whose family is from the island of Jamaica. We met at a reunion for the ivy league school we both attended, and he proposed in six months.
We have the picture perfect fantasy life. He wines and dines me and we travel and shop the globe. Unlike all of the Black men I dated in the past, my husband is generous, loyal, committed and considerate. He courted me and I never have to pay for anything. He said I could quit my job and I did. He makes me feel like a woman.
I am a little embarrassed to share our problem. The first time he let the n-word drop was during sex on our honeymoon. When I reacted negatively, he explained that a Black woman he dated in the past enjoyed being called racial slurs. Another time he joked that he had purchased my freedom. He also speculated about whether his family could have owned mine because I have “good hair.” Then he made jokes about my pubic hair. He called it my “negro bush” and referred to himself as a “nigger lover.” He says I am being overly sensitive because he loves me to death and should get a “Black pass” for marrying me.
I told him that I don’t appreciate these comments and he says that my friends and family probably use the n-word all the time. He also asked why Black people can use the word and he cannot. I don’t use the word or believe in the nigga/nigger differentiation. Neither does my family. I am too embarrassed to tell anyone about this because I know they might say: “That’s what she gets for marrying a White man.”
Every time we try having sex again, the slurs fly. Our sex life is pretty much over right now because I pretend to be asleep every time my sexy, handsome man wants to be with me. I feel completely turned off. I love my husband deeply so please don’t tell me to leave him because that’s not what I want to do.
My husband was my first interracial relationship. Please tell me racial slurs aren’t normal between interracial couples? I would like to figure this out before we have kids but I can’t afford to leave him and still maintain my lifestyle.
How can I regain my sexual attraction for my husband?
Black and Proud”
There are so many things wrong with this letter. It absolutely reeks of troll to me. You mean to tell me that you are not just college educated, but Ivy League educated, that you dated a man for 6 months who had this kind of fetish and he never said anything until after you were married, and that you are concerned more about your lifestyle than you are your dignity and self worth? Really? Are you telling me that you are a married to a man who calls you the most disgusting name in the book, you told him to stop, he refused, and you are worried about money? But for some reason you still sign your name as “Black and Proud?” Bullshit. It walks like a troll, it talks like a troll, it reeks like a troll because it’s a fucking troll. There was clearly an agenda here, someone clearly wrote something that would hit on all of the fears/issues that Black people have about interracial relationships. They weren’t even clever, or subtle or interesting about it. They just wrote it all down and put it out there. Furthermore, they degraded Black women in general when they wrote this garbage: That Black women are so stupid, such gold-diggers, so desperate that they would put up with anything if it meant that they would get money out of it. It painted us as whores, essentially.
And here is the thing. There are places in print media, and on the airwaves, and on the internet where I would expect these kinds of things to fly. But not Essence Magazine. Essence, the beautiful magazine that used to sit on the ottoman in my mother’s bedroom, full of interest and intrigue and advice and wisdom of professional Black women. Indeed, a certain kind of Black woman is the reader and target of Essence magazine. I have (had) a lot of respect for the publication. It has always, to me, denoted a particular class and caliber of woman, a woman who I have often tried to emulate (though, I admit, I’m not a subscriber of the magazine….but sometimes when I’m at Mom’s, I’ll thumb through the latest issue.) For Essence to run this, to acknowledge this kind of behavior, to me, is abhorrent and below the bar of what that magazine is and stands for.
And indeed, if you read the comments, it played into everyone’s fears: “Women who have self esteem issues are the ones who date outside their race.” “If you lie with the dogs, you get fleas.” “Of course White men are going to treat you that way!” “I’m not going to be part of a man’s plantation fantasies.” “Women who love themselves won’t date White men.”
When major publications choose to participate in ignorant insanity like this, nobody wins. Nobody wins when we choose to target people’s life choices, marriages and lives and demonize them in a very public way. Nobody wins when people who are supposed to be the gatekeepers of our culture, ambassadors for our thoughts and ideas and deeds, choose to air out all of our biases and ignorance for public view. Furthermore, for a publication that prides itself in the uplifting of Black women everywhere, to choose to add an element of fear to a viable option for some Black women (as in, choosing to marry a man that you love, no matter the color of their skin) seems like the total antithesis of the mission.
I’m utterly disgusted, and frankly, ashamed, by the choices that the magazine made this week. I’m sad, too, for the people who read that story and jumped right on the bandwagon. Blaming the “woman” who wrote the letter for hating herself so much that she should marry a White man in the first place, let alone tolerate his overt racism. I’m also sad because, as I constantly put up my support for marriage equality on behalf of my gay and lesbian friends who are struggling for their own marriage rights, it would seem that my own marriage is still under fire over 40 years after Loving. More importantly, I’m angry that someone at Essence didn’t think to wonder if they were essentially giving a green-light or thumbs up for people to just be overtly racist and stupid when they decided to run this article. It’s well documented that there are many in the African American community who have a problem with interracial (specifically, Black-White) relationships. Instead of dispelling, uplifting, and empowering, the magazine decided instead to do everything but. And why? Because someone wasn’t thinking about it or because someone actually harbored their own biases and problems, and chose to go with sensational. Was this about hits on a page? Interest in the magazine? Or was this someone who needed to “confirm” for the rest of the community that interracial relationships are perverted and dysfunctional?
I’m just saying that there was a lot of agenda here: On the part of the writer of the letter, on the part of the editor who let it run, and clearly no one had the good sense to think critically and decide that this was wrong.