Cinema’s inclusion of the topic of Black men dating White women dates back to the days when television could only be seen in black and white. In 1969, Sidney Poitier starred with Katharine Hepburn in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” as their families react to the interracial marriage. The movie was released in December, just a few months after 17 southern states overturned laws that interracial marriages were illegal.
The notion that once some Black men reach success they trade in a sister for a White woman was all too real for Angela Bassett’s character Bernadette in the 1996 movie “Waiting to Exhale.” In the film based on Terry McMillan’s best-selling book, Bernadette coped with her trampled heart by blazing some of her husband’s prized possessions. After 11 years of helping her husband build his dream career, she found herself replaced, sending a message to many women to always look out for self and be prepared for the unknown.
In 2001’s “The Brothers,” lawyer Brian Palmer (Bill Bellamy), left, finds out that the stereotype that Black women are more aggressive and White women are more meek is just that in his “White women only” love life. His flip responses push the buttons of his latest conquest and her karate moves make him realize he can’t put women in boxes.
If the plot from “Obsessed” of a relationship brewing between a married Black man and a new White secretary at work sounds familiar, think back to Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever,” which hit theaters in 1991. In the film, Flipper Purify (Wesley Snipes) and Angie Tucci (Annabella Sciorra) actually begin dating, to the disapproval of their family and friends.
Our grandmothers are overflowing with knowledge, but when it comes to catching the attention of a brother their tried methods may not be as effective, says comedian and ESSENCE relationship columnist Finesse Mitchell.
“My beautiful Queens of Color, White women don’t have Big Mamas. When a White woman—let’s call her Becky (because we think they’re all named Becky)—likes ‘Marcus,’ she’s all up in his face, getting his attention. Becky takes the guesswork out of who likes who, and some men like that. If a Black woman likes Marcus, she telepathically sends him a message that he almost never gets,” says Mitchell.
Finesse points out that White women are sometimes more open to dating a Black man who happens to be a “regular Joe.”
“We all have standards—we know some White women have a rep for scouting out our Black talented athletes when they’re still in high school—but some White women give a Black man a chance who Black women wouldn’t give a second look,” he says.
Black men and White women are working the dance floor and Finesse encourages sisters to join the fun.
“My single Black female friends say all the time how they don’t like it when they see a good-looking Marcus walking around with a Becky at the club. I encourage my friends to focus inward, not outward. I tell them to just have a good time in social settings, and take the initiative to meet two new people. Black guys do it. White girls definitely do it,” he says.
The “angry Black woman” label is an unfortunate stereotype, says Audrey Chapman, longtime relationship therapist and author of the book “Getting Good Loving” (Agate Books). “The [mainstream] media does a lot to support this. Black women are naturally very giving, supportive and spend a lot of time taking care of others,” explains Chapman. She does add, however, that we are less likely than our White counterparts to go to the gym, spa or take a relaxing solo vacation that allows us time to unwind. “We can grow weary. That weariness can grow into frustration and ultimately anger,” Chapman reveals.
The idea of White women being more accommodating and docile than their Black counterparts is another unfortunate stereotype, according to Chapman. “I find that White women are actually more aggressive and strategic when it comes to relationships,” she says. “White women are more likely to have better support systems in place, like a nanny, so they aren’t trying to do everything themselves which might be the reason for them seeming less intense or frustrated with life,” she adds.
Many argue that Black women could afford to loosen up a bit when it comes to dating by taking the pressure off of themselves for finding a husband after date No. 3 and simply enjoying the company of male suitors. It’s a practice that Chapman attributes to the Black marriage being on a steady decline since the 1960’s.
“Black women are definitely more pressed [than their White female peers] to find a husband,” she says.
Both men and women have complained that many Black men stop dating sisters after they reach a certain financial and/or career status. Even Grammy-winning artist Kanye West expressed it in his 2005 hit "Gold Digger."
"This week he mopping floors next week it's the fries So, stick by his side... ...You stay right girl But when he get on he leave your a** for a White girl"
For many Black women, it isn’t the idea of a Black man dating a White woman that is unsettling, but the quality of the woman chosen.
“If you take a step down, it is something about us that is intimidating,” says Jeri of Baltimore. “There is nothing wrong with a White woman, but come on now, step your game up. I was definitely surprised to see Ice-T marry Coco.”
Interracial dating is nothing new and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. And for sisters looking for love, the best bet is to stay as open as possible to the many shapes and shades it may come in, from brothers and beyond.
“Black people need to give one another a break. We’re all a little jaded from past relationships, but that shouldn’t hold us back from being polite to someone new, even when we’re not interested. That person could later introduce you to someone God has made especially for you,” Finesse says.