I was a bit inspired to write this blog after reading Umar Lee’s blog, On Being a White Muslim in America . I also read a few blogs where the authors stated that black women wanted to have babies by white or Arab men in order to have light skinned and curly headed babies. Sure, I know some ignorant black women who have said similar things. But for the most par, my friends are conscious and wouldn’t spout of some nonenense like that. On the other hand, I have heard a few educated black men say that they want to marry a mixed girl because mixed girls are prettier. I have also heard a few black say that they wanted to marry someone white, Asian, or Latina so they would have pretty babies. As one author stated in the comments, it was often hoodrats who stated that they desired a non-black baby’s daddy in order to have babies with good hair. But more than blackpeople, I have heard these statements from members outside of Black American community. In fact, I hear about the desirability for pretty-brown-mixed-babies from liberal white, Asian, Arab, South Asian, and Pacific Islander women. So, if we are going to analyze and critique the ethnic self-hatred of some African women and Black American women, we must analyze and critique the reasons why some women want to adopt African babies or have bi-racial babies who do not look anything like them.
Is it ethnic self-hatred? Is it admiration for African features? Is it a vision of a racial utopia where we are all shades of brown? Or is it something else. I would argue that some really problematic constructs underly America’s fascination with mixed babies.
Keep in mind, I am not saying that all people involved in interracial relationships hold these views. But there are some tendencies that are problematic. I am not saying that mixed people are not attractive. I think all groups and ethnicities are beautiful in their own light, including multi-racial babies. And being in a multi-cultural environment, I enjoy seeing little blonde babies and little Asian babies, as well as little chocolate drop babies, and the curly headed brown babies running around. However, I just find it problematic when you assume that multi-racial children are more attractive than mono-racial babies. And while this might sound liberal and progressive, especially if you are a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant who is rejecting white supremacy, it is still supporting white supremacy because you imply that an African person is only beautiful if their genese are diluted with European, Asian, or Meditterranean genetics. This is problematic in a European dominated society with European standards of beauty. It has had disastrous effects in the Black American community. And it is the reason why we celebrate Beyonce, as opposed to Kelly. For those of us who are phenotypically Africa, these notions are especially harmful, as they affect our self image. But my focus is not on why African women and women of African descent (Black American, Black Latina, and Carribbean) and their responses to European standards of beauty in a global order that is dominated by Europe and the West. I am talking about women, and perhaps some men, who are not members of the African Diaspora who want to have ethnic babies–especially black babies. I see it as part of fetishization and there is something about fetishizing black-ness that is deeply disturbing. Then on top of the fetishization, the celebration of those who are not-quite-black or nearly-white over their darker skinned counterparts.
I live in California, the Bay Area that is. There is a lot more racial mixing and there really isn’t a middle class black community anywhere in sight of Northern California. So my experiences reflect the product of my environment. In California mixed families and bi-racial people are common. More often than not,it is the mother who is non-black and a black father. Few of my black friends were single mothers, but many of my non-black friends eventually did have mixed babies out of wed lock and at young ages. I often see white, Asian, Latina, etc. women (and teenage mothers) pushing a stroller with either a clearly bi-racial child or an ambiguous child. I have pretty good ambiguously black radar because so many people in my family are light skinned, multi-racial, and racially ambiguous. Sometimes it is the subtleties that you notice, but I digress. I grew up in a terribly racist elementary school. I was subject to a lot of racial discrimination because I was the only black girl in my school. But now when I look back, there were a few mixed children in my class who just passed. They were not subject to the daily enslaught of racist jokes and cruelties such as “let’s play segregation today.” On the other hand, my brother’s experiences in Santa Clara were different because many of the white and Mexican American girls pursued him. Black men were cool, they were the athletes, the dancers, the popular kids. But for black girls in integrated environments, it tends to be a lot harder. We are often overlooked by our black male counterparts and the non-black men will not take a second look at us.
Now that black is in, a lot of women who are not black want little curly headed brown babies. Someone noted that in Belgium and Amsterdam, there are European women who get pregnant by African men and raise their children on their own. I don’t know much about this phenomena, but I thought it was interesting. But this leads me to reflect on the kind of ideologies that non-black mothers tell their children. Some of the ideas the ideas are really messed up. Some believe in the racial essentialisms. For instance, one bi-racial man told me that because he was black and white he reflected the merging of two distant strands of humanity. This made him more powerful than either because he was a bridge between the two races. Of course, this is bullshit. In fact, there is more of a genetic range in East Africa than anywhere in the world. In fact, European and Asian lines are really a small recent branch off of a long and ancient family tree. Some bi-racial families like to tell their children that they are extra special (as if Black Americans are ethnically or racially pure) and that they bi-racial people saviors to the world. Some claim that racial mixing is the solution to the world’s problems. But they often fail to look at the case of Brazil to see that social stratification and racism exts there, despite official policies that encouraged racial mixing. All one has to look at how white the government looks like to this date. Some of the racial essentialisms serve to create dangerous color hierarchy that only serves to reaffirm white supremacy. They try to teach their children that the world is color-blind, but many fail to teach their children the complexities of their heritage (especially the Black heritage that has been silent in historical record). The desirability of having brown babies often has little to do with affirming this rich heritage or linking up with the struggle of people of African descent.
At times, it has to do with the ways individuals would like to construct themselves and the fantasies that they have about the black “other.” It can be a way of rejecting white privilege. A white woman with a brown baby is not accepted into white elite circles. Nor are Asian women accepted in their communities and Latina women are often ostracized by their friends, families, and associates. Many are disowned for dating or marrying outside their race (On the other hand it is rare for black families to disown their sons or daughters. And they often raise multi-racial children and treat them well). Having brown babies can serve as a way of advancing an agenda or affirming a new constructed ethnic identity. They can participate in black culture because they now have a rightful place as mother of a black child. However, many women who only date black men and have brown babies would not change their own ethnicity. They do not want to be black women at all. They comletely enjoy their privileged place as desired/objectified other in a community that is so rife with self hatred. In fact, many non-black women feel superior, while at the same time, they often resent black women. I have heard several non-black women talk completely disparaging of black women, our looks, our hair, our body shape, our attitudes, and intelligence. (I am sure that many are regretful that they disclosed to me their off the cuff thoughts. But they have been extremely insightful). This is especially the case when they are competing for the attentions of a black man, or trying to bolster themselves up when comparing themselves to their partners’ exes. I have always wondered why some of my friends and associates felt that confortable saying such statements to me. Perhaps they were looking for me to validate their views. And I take responsbility for not challenging them on their wack statements. It seems as if many non-black women who are into urban/hip hop/black culture hope to raise new brown/black women who will accept their authenticity and be color blind. Having brown babies seems to be a complex social phenomena that I think we have only begun to unpack. We should look at what’s going on to understand how colorism is being reproduced in our community and how the ultimately can have devastating effects on those who are phenotypically Black.