Friday, April 18, 2014

It’s just my preference: iso charming white southern gentleman

by Germar Derron

Wikipedia, Author: Connormah
In July, I made the mistake of my life and moved back to the Deep South.  Before I jumped into the DeLorean, and traveled back to 1960s America, I lived in current day L.A., Denver, and Tucson.  Things weren't perfect there, but they weren't like this. Instantly, I got used to getting used to being single. Suddenly, my jokes were less funny. My bank account and credentials felt less impressive.  My charm, height, muscles, and IQ somehow dwindled somewhere over Mississippi. In my western past-future, I could walk into any bar, or party, and be called “the life of it.”  Now, when I enter, I feel . . . like I finally understand that whore-in-church analogy. My Spidey-sense tingled. I turned to Craigslist, as I do, when I land in any new spot.

Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images
Craigslist is the fastest way to get a feel for any town.  Find your town on Craigslist, click on "rants and raves."  Now you know that your neighbors hate Mexicans.  Browse "casual encounters" and you might see your husband naked, and looking to party with other men – right now (there was no conference in Seattle).  As I suspected, Craig and friends did not prefer my dark skin.  Making use of my statistics course, I completed a simple study to verify my suspicions. 

Before I began the study, I lived here for seven months.  I mixed and mingled.  I attended speed dating and other ridiculously-themed singles’ events.  Unlike many residents here, I can compare this to similar experiences in modern day America.  But my mom might read this one day, so I won’t.  There is a quantifiable difference in my dating life and friendships. 

Maybe the Bible Belt practices some of what it preaches. That might explain my lack of luck. But this feels Jim Crow-y. We laugh together and root for the same team; I still enter through the back.  I can teach their grand-kids; I cannot date their daughters. I thought I would adjust, but Mr. Crow’s remnants have metastasized.  Here, eligible women, of all 57 skin varieties, no longer date black men.

They say, “It’s not racism, it’s just my preference.”  It’s strange that so many people, in one region, share this specific preference.  Actually, it’s not strange.  It’s predictable, oppressive, and shameful. I asked a friend if she’d ever “been” with a black guy.  I choked on Nutella when she responded “no.”  What about a kiss? “No.”  Her response mattered, more than most, because she often regales me with her infinite tales of sexual conquests. I realized that she’d do anything, with anyone, male or female, unless they were black . . . .   She responded, “That’s just my preference!” That phrase again.  Do they teach that in polite racists’ school?

Craigslist shares her sentiment:

I documented the first 200 women-seeking-men Craigslist personals. Only 93 women specified a racial preference.  Fifty-seven of those women preferred white men, four liked brothers, four requested Latinos, and two preferred white or half-white men.  Ten women left the bedroom door ajar for anyone but black men, while two others welcomed all races. The remainders said country boys, which is not explicitly white, but may be code.  After reading hundreds of these personals, I know that muddin’, fishin’, country music, quaddin’, and huntin’ equals white guy.  If that’s true, then 90% of all women posters only date white guys.  Apparently, for me, there are not plenty of fish in the sea. Or fishes, like most things here, are allergic to dark meat.

This might make sense, if it matches the demographics of the local population.  It does not. And it should not make sense for [fill in the blank] people, in 2014, to exclusively date [fill in the blank] people.  I contacted a random sampling of the women that failed to indicate a racial preference. I crafted perfect responses, and attached pictures of the most attractive black men on the internet.  For women that had no interest in "me," I politely asked for an explanation.  Only two women responded: “Sorry, I’m not attracted to black guys.” This confirmed another suspicion. 

Most of the women that did not indicate a racial preference, were not necessarily open to all races.  I felt the awkwardness oozing through my laptop screen.  It felt like, “I didn’t think black guys would respond.”  The odds are not in my favor. Only four women—all black women—specified black men.  If this is a reflection of the region, then only 2% of women consider me dating material (possible considering partnerships and gay women).

Perhaps black women don’t use Craigslist!  They do, and at a rate that reflects local demographics:
Throughout the study, I casually questioned friends and acquaintances.  Two of my close female friends dubbed their friends “too innocent” to date black guys. A bartender suggested that I try the local strip clubs. Casual Craigslist browsing depicts a clear hierarchy, with white guys at the top and black guys at the bottom. Surprisingly, bi-racial seems to be a better or more preferred category than black.  A family member said that she knew tons of white women that date black men, but called them “ghetto.”  I got that response a lot.  Many of these “ghetto” white women tend to have bi-racial kids. 

I didn't use the "casual encounters" section in the study. There is a non-negligible uptick in the number of women who prefer black men there.  As I surmised, in this region, black men are not taken seriously as fathers, husbands, partners, intellectuals, or even friends.  We are relegated to a distinct class, and no one seems to care.  Debate the causes, and possible cures, but don’t deny it.

I admit my naivety.  When I walked across the stage with my third degree in-hand—and thought of all the awards, positions, and accolades—I never imagined this reality.

To prefer something means that when given multiple options, one option is most enjoyed.  Here, women use preference to mean minimum qualification.  At a minimum, people I date can be anything but black. Without a doubt, I will leave this place and never return.  I won’t feel bad for the 98% of single women that reeled in the line, smirked and watched, while a great catch swam by.


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