I always admired sistas brave enough to withstand the heavy dating tide of black men who secretly don’t love black women.
How treacherous it must be to think you’ve happened upon Mr. Right, only to discover he’s an undercover fraud. Men who claim to love their mama but in the same breath police and devalue women’s bodies. Men who say they want a black wife but don’t honor her unique place within the intersectionality of race and gender.
I’m sure, for black women, it can often look and feel like a war zone, where the men who look like them not only don’t affirm their humanity but rather terrorize them for simply existing.
It’s everywhere you turn. From perpetuating stereotypes of the angry black woman or the baby mama and its use to justify why black men date white women to relegating the black woman’s identity to what’s between her thighs rather than what’s between her ears. It’s something we see and hear far too often in hip-hop and popular culture.
To be clear, not all black men are guilty of such offenses. There are plenty of loving black men who not only adore black women but will go to bat for them in a world that persecutes them for the weighty duality of being both black and a woman. They are fathers. They are husbands. They are brothers. Those men should not only be celebrated but should be a shining example of the beauty in truly having your sista’s back.
And yet still, far too many women of color have a different, more turbulent experience with black men.
As much as I empathize with black women, never once did I think about how the toxicity of misogynistic oppression could impact my own dating life as a black gay man living in New York City. That was until I found myself at a crossroads, where another same gender loving man, whom I had been interested in romantically, stopped me dead in my tracks.
While out for brunch in Harlem, I was stumped when said guy went on an unprovoked rant about black women’s hair.
“This natural hair movement is getting on my damn nerves… it’s got to stop!” he said, referring to several women in the restaurant who were rocking their natural tresses. “The problem is that they need a damn comb ran through it.”
I was floored.
For one, I wasn’t entirely sure where his indignation was coming from. He had essentially declared war on every woman from the African diaspora simply for what grows out of her head. Even more, why does a man who doesn’t even date black women care about how she wears her hair?
When I peered around the restaurant, I saw no signs of “bad hair” in need of a comb. I saw beautiful queens with variant textures of ravishing hair, who wore them like crowns of honor. Not wanting to cause an argument, I disengaged the one-sided debate and kept my frustrations to myself. I was so caught off guard by his ignorance, and quite honestly, I was not in the mood to school a grown ass man about why his words were problematic.
Up until that moment, I considered him a strong dating contender. He was an attractive, educated man who seemed to have a good head on his shoulders. By most measures, he was a catch. But all that came crashing down when he opened his mouth.
In that split moment, I walked away knowing I could never date a man like him. How could I dare entertain the thought of dating a man who does not love black women? While it may have seemed like an obvious deal breaker, it was something I never thought I’d have to consider. Prior to this encounter, I had never experienced another black gay man who had such vitriolic feelings about black women. “Was this guy an anomaly?” I thought. “Or are there others who veil their sexism with a cunning smile?”
Very rarely are black gay men included in conversations of misogynoir and the sometimes volatile relationship between black men and black women. It’s usually assumed that the perpetrator is heterosexual, particularly because the relationship between black women and black gay men is often portrayed in media as one of friendship or kindred spiritualism.
But as I learned, intraracial sexism knows no sexual orientation. The black woman’s oppressor can easily be one who has no card or desire in her sexuality. He may shame her for how she looks or bog her down with gender stereotypes and also ignore the hypocrisy in his ability to acknowledge his own oppression but not the oppression of his fellow black woman.
The black woman’s tale of abuse and contempt is a heartbreaking one that dates back centuries. Once considered queens, black women have been reduced to their physical prowess, rather than celebrated for who they are and all that they’ve endured.
From the trans-Atlantic slave trade, when they were ripped away from their families, to present day America where black women are burying their men and children on a daily basis: despite this historical context of their abuse and neglect, black women are often abandoned by their male counterparts when they need them the most.
It is for these very reasons why I have no tolerance for a man — regardless of his race and sexual orientation — who shames a black woman over something as shallow as her hair.
It’s safe to say, I never again went out with the aforementioned guy, and my dating checklist now has an additional prerequisite. As a black gay man who comes from a long lineage of strong and beautiful African-American women, it is my duty to honor the black woman, even when it comes to who I might invite into my bedroom.
Because if you can’t love black women as unabashedly as I do, you’re certainly not the man for me.
Gerren Keith Gaynor is the Homepage and Opinion Editor at theGrio. Keep up with him on Twitter @MrGerrenalist.