Littlejohn (left) is divorced and dating, while Karazin, whose husband is White, is happily married with kids. They teamed up to offer two unique perspectives and reintroduce the conversation to our community.
Why are so many Black women still so opposed? Are they looking for the “perfect Black man”? Are they afraid their families would never accept it? What gives? “Both of us had to open ourselves up to the fact that there were cultural reasons preventing Black women from looking outside,” says Littlejohn. “Because there’s too much of a burden put on Black women to procreate and continue to foster the Black family. Black men don’t have that same owness put on them.”
ESSENCE.COM: How did the idea for this book come about?
JANICE LITTLEJOHN: Christelyn had this idea to write a story for Elle Magazine about why she married a White guy. It was accepted, she was making rewrites on it and I had been helping her with it. It got caught in some sort of crazy labyrinth of editorial changes over there and it never ran. She said, “I took this idea and pitched it to agents and now I’ve got someone who wants a book proposal.” But then she says, “I don’t have a book proposal, could you write it with me?’… At first I thought, well, no this is your story. It was her story about how she came to marry Michael. But, what attracted me most to the idea is that Christelyn was very open to going beyond Black women and White men but to culture and faith too, and that was something that was intriguing to me…right around the time Christelyn approached me abut the book there was study that had come out that said Black women don’t date outside of their race and culture, and when they do, they do so less than any other gender or racial group. I really was intrigued as to why.
ESSENCE.COM: So how do you two know each other?
CHRISTELYN KARAZIN: We are both graduates from Loyola Marymount University and she was my mentor. Loyola is really good about setting undergraduates up with people who are in an area or profession that they’d like to go into. At the time, I wanted to be a journalist. I met Janice and she was just so impressive...She’s so disciplined, and I’m just like, whatever. She really helped to keep me in line. I was scared to write the book because I didn’t know if I had the stamina.
ESSENCE.COM: Were certain topics trickier than others?
LITTLEJOHN: We wanted to talk about sex. We really felt it was necessary to talk about sex in some kind of way because it’s such a big issue with Black women about White men can or can’t do, and what Asian men can’t do, or how they can or cannot satisfy the needs of a Black woman. So we wanted to go there, but Christelyn was like, “I can’t talk about that!” So, I wrote about that from my perspective.
KARAZIN: (Laughs) I was bashful.
ESSENCE.COM: What did you find most surprising about your research?
KARAZIN: The thing that really stood out to me is that there were so many people who really wanted to tell their stories. They were searching for a place where people were like mind and who were going through the same things. The questions I got about my relationship and the blog seemed to have a theme. Things like, “What’s it like to take your significant other home for dinner the first time?” or “What do you do if shit hits the fan?” or “How do I take my White boyfriend to a Black church?” Those were the experiences that I had in my relationship coming to terms with our cultural and racial differences. I felt like we were very thorough with this book. The other interesting thing was how many non-Black men are interested in Black women. More than [Black women] think.
ESSENCE.COM: How did you find the women whose stories you discussed in the book?
LITTLEJOHN: When we first started we had talked about starting up a blog and Christelyn really took charge of that and ran BeyondBlackWhite.com. We used a lot of people that she met through the blog. There were so many people who were coming to it and really vibing about what she was talking about. She was able to get a lot of feedback from not only just women, but men as well. I used social media to research. I even had friends and family reach out to their networks.
ESSENCE.COM: Is there something in the book for everyone?
LITTLEJOHN: Christelyn and I have very different chapters that focus on very different things. Her chapters are focused on the after part and when things get more serious. Mine are more dating oriented and about the beginning of the relationship. We wanted to talk to and write to our strengths.
Photo: Londell Littlejohn, II