‘grown-ish’ dating struggles in these streets: the parallels of black girls and black gays

This article was originally written for [Caged Bird Magazine]. 

One of the most significant qualities of Grown-ish — a spinoff of ABC’s black sitcom juggernaut Black-ish — is its relatability to college students in the millennial age as it tackles the issues that we face on the daily. Prescription drug abuse, race, sexuality, social media etiquette and student athletics are some of the topics that the series has addressed with each episode although done in a clunky manner at times (it is 30 minutes). Last week’s episode, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” talks about the difficulty black women face in the dating world. After watching it, I couldn’t help to see a parallel in romance life between black women and black gay men who in many ways both face oppression within the black community with the cis straight black man as the white male equivalent.

The episode begins with the show’s lead Zoey narrating her way through a bar, where her Breakfast Club-styled crew is living their life like it’s golden presumably on a Friday night. She talks about how statistics from dating apps like OkCupid and Tinder have shown that White and Asian women are the most sought after while Asian men and Black women are the lowest rated on the app. Albeit the episode focuses on the latter group as it cues to track stars Jazz and Sky (Chloe x Halle) with a line of black girls looking with envy as a attractive black dude (Diggy Simmons) is holding arms with a white girl. It mirrors the feelings some of my black female friends have from being curved by men in their community for women who aren’t.

Justifiably pressed, Jazz and Sky vent about their love drought amongst their friends whom most are either react with something ignorant and fails to empathize with the two. “Was there some event, some movie, some Drake song that said black guys should stop dating black girls”?, said Jazz. Sky adds on saying that “in high school, [in South Central L.A.] dudes were always checking for us.” The group’s reaction is mixed. Ana and Nomi are dumbfounded at this new information with Nomi suggesting they widen their dating preferences. Luca jokes sarcastically as the nonchalant person he is while Vivek preaches his appreciation for a sista.

The twins later break about the hierarchy of women and non-black women of color in the front of the dating pool by black guys — whether they are the ones who attending their PWI or the celebrities we know and love. White girls are No. 1 (the Kylie Jenners and Minka Kellys of the world). White girls with broken English are No. 2 (Gal Gadot). Women are described by many as exotic looking are No. 3 (Karrueche, Cassie, Chrissy Teigen). Latinas at No. 4 and lighter-skinned black women is at No. 5 as exemplified by Aaron’s infatuation with that group. How may you ask that black gay man match up to the dating struggles of black women? Social and political standards placed on African-Americans by whites from the day we have entered this country.

Quincy Jones spoke in a lengthy interview with GQ magazine back in January where his dating history was at question and interest. “Here’s what you’ve got to understand: The interracial thing was part of a revolution, too,” Jones said. “Because back in the ’40s and stuff, they would say, ‘You can’t mess with a white man’s money.… Don’t mess with his women.’ We weren’t going to take that shit. Charlie Parker, everybody there, was married to a white wife.” Stereo Williams, a writer for The Daily Beast, adds to the notion saying, “The proximity to whiteness became high currency, even among some of the more “progressive” black folks in scholarly and political circles.”

As far dating as black gay men, the omnipresence of homophobia in the black community is the most significant hurdle in our way. It goes back to the days of slavery where white slave owners would not only force Christianity on their slaves as a way to control (and manipulate) them but also emasculated black men in a violent and horrendous manner through rape or genital cutting. Moving forward, black men have tried to reclaim and prove their masculinity. The effect of it is the black community holding on to the bigoted values of the white man, one of them being homophobia as seen today as writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis puts it — “from womanizing rappers to moralizing preachers.”

 

In his 2008 tell-all Hiding in Hip-Hop: On the Down Low in the Entertainment Industry–From Music to Hollywood former MTV producer Terrance Dean writes:

“You’ll rarely hear people in a black family say anything about their gay child or sibling. Many of us are disowned by our families. Sure, it happens in the white community, but in the black community it’s a sin before God for a man to be attracted to other men.”

This sentiment toward black gay men becomes the catalyst behind “down-low culture,” where black men present themselves as a heterosexual to their community while being secretly involved romantically and sexually with other men. Does that not sound as familiar to the issue of a dark-skinned black woman who is good enough to be in bed with but not as a man’s arm candy in public?

Although Nomi suggests that Jazz and Sky date other than black, Sky strongly disagrees with the question: “…why do I have to open up? Why should we have to change what we want”? And honestly, I couldn’t agree more with Sky: I only like what I like. When I surf on gay dating apps like Grindr, and Jack’d, I see a majority black (and Latino) gay users who either have let homophobia cause them to be discreet with their sexuality and ones who explicitly state on their profile bio they are not looking for black men and or at least the ones who are femmes. But at the same time, I couldn’t picture myself being in a relationship with a white man.

 

Vanity plays a big part in my search for a partner. I love men with melanin and physical feature close to mine such as afro/curly hair and big lips. Second, comes the social aspect. As good as a white man could potentially be to me, he will never be able to understand or see the world the way I see it. He will never know what it’s like to deal with racism or racial bias on any level and maybe unbeknownst to black culture (and I’m not a teacher). The third chasm between me potentially dating white men is the fear of having in-laws who could be racist.

 

Do I want to put myself through possible microaggressions by my partner’s aunts, cousins, uncle if not by their parents?  I would not have to deal with that with black and Latino men — the latter faces the similar socio-economic oppression as blacks.

 

In the middle of the episode, Jazz and Sky become pissed at Nomi who is about to hint that black guys could be hesitant to date black women because of their so-called attitude and assertive. If a Latina does it, it is seen as a turn-on or with a white woman is it progressive and even praised. It speaks to society’s view of seeing black women in the same way instead of assessing each black woman as their person.

 

The double standard of black queer men is in close quarters with black women. Cultural appropriation. Regressive gender policing. The belief that we all have the same interests. Like a straight person, I want to be married with children one day. Like anyone I have a diverse taste in music: I can sashay to a Kylie Minogue track just as much as I can milly-rock and skirt-skirt to the newest Migos track. Like a straight man, I am not a fashionista. Like a straight person, I want to be able to have a career in the entertainment industry without giving up who I am authentically.

Wednesday’s episode was a reflection of society’s dismissal of the black woman, not so far off from black queer folks. However, if some people want to miss out on the magic, resilience, and beauty that black women and black gay man continuously offer to the world, then it’s on the next one. Someone will eventually come along and value our worth.