That headline may be a grossly oversimplified generalization, but it’s the quickest way to sum up this recent article on The Root, “Why Successful Black Men in Brazil Won’t Marry Black Women,” to which my first response genuinely was: the same reason successful black men in America don’t — the come up — what’s new? And just as has been evidenced in America, that come up, so to speak, in Brazil isn’t a financial one but a social advancement based on colorism.
In the article, Kiratiana Freelon notes that about 30 percent of Brazilians are in interracial marriages, which is double that of the United States, according to the most recent data. Furthermore, “The 2010 census in Brazil showed that out of all the women over 50 who had never had a spouse, a majority of them were ‘pretas,’ a term commonly used to refer to dark-skinned black women,” Freelon writes before adding “A study conducted of high-level black Brazilian businessmen in 2011 found that out of the 50 interviewed, 49 were married to white women (pdf).”
Blogger Fábio Chaves who runs the site Black Men and Women With a Lot of Pride sees this as a simple matter of like attracting like, telling The Root, “The black middle class lives in an environment where a majority of the people are white and in Brazil, and I believe in the world, we give preference to relationships with people who see us eye to eye, so it’s not just a question of color, but mainly the general social relationship.” Unfortunately, the trend being seen is far more complicated than that, as Freelon points out:
“The book Race in Another America: The Significance of Skin Color in Brazil found that in 5 out of 6 interracial marriages, the black spouse has the superior socioeconomic status. This suggests that when black people intermarry with white people, they are exchanging their ‘inferior’ race and superior socioeconomic status with a white person of lesser means. There’s a value applied to women based on their color, and data suggests that black women have the least value. Black women have the least options and spend the least time married.”
That sentiment is backed by Claudette Alves, a black professor based in Sao Paulo, who conducted research on 1,435 interracial marriages across classes in the Brazilian city and came to this conclusion: “It’s a phenomenon that is in every level of Brazilian society. It’s a way that black men protect themselves. In history, and in their lives, they are pushed to deny their identity.” And how do Black women feel as a consequence? “They had this feeling of sadness and they were revolted,” Alves says, “but they have hope that black men in Brazil will liberate themselves from this rule.”
Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Almost to the point of asking why is this regurgitated scenario news simply because it’s happening in a different country. Perhaps the goal was rooted in the sentiment misery loves company and black women were supposed to walk away from this piece with a feeling of “OK, it’s not just us,” but with no solutions being offered as methods for black men to “liberate” themselves, the conversation still has the the air of woe is the single black woman and, frankly, I’m tired of that.
I don’t necessarily believe the majority of black men are in interracial relationships because they hate black women — or themselves — but I do believe black men in America and abroad wrestle with self-esteem, self-hate, and colorism issues as much as black women and interracial dating is just one of many ways those issues manifest themselves. Unfortunately, that story is always told through the lens of black women being undesirable rather than focusing on why some black men believe (or were taught) marrying outside of their race and having bi-racial children is still the only way they can be accepted in society, despite their personal successes. That’s a conversation that’s newsworthy. That’s a discussion that can lead to healing and change; making black men’s issues black women’s problem is not.
Sure, we’re affected by this phenomenon but black men don’t need to take a long, hard look at their self-image issues just so more black women can get married and stop keeping the likes of Steve Harvey and Tyrese employed on the self-help book circuit. Black men need to address their self-hate because it’s their sh-t, not ours; because self-hate shows up in a number of destructive ways like needing to get high to make it through the day, or disrespect women in word and verse to fully feel like a man, or take another brotha’s life simply because he outshines you. I’m actually far more concerned with those manifestations of lack of self-worth than I am whether a black man is going to put a ring on my hand or Becky’s.
Marrying a white woman for the purpose of being accepted by society doesn’t lead to a black man accepting himself; it’s a mask. That man will always wrestle with his identity and, further, there are plenty of black men with black women who hate themselves and their dark skin as well. The real issue is self-love and the lack thereof, not interracial love. Until someone is going to delve into that matter in a meaningful way that doesn’t lead to finger-pointing and a tired debate between black men and women, but helps black men recognize the internalized hatred they haven’t been allowed to express in a safe space without judgement let’s table this entire interracial marriage discussion. It hasn’t gotten us anywhere this far.