Upon first reading this Salon article, I wanted to crawl through my computer screen and shake the woman who had written it. Not in anger, but just to wake her up. Why was she looking to white men to make her feel feminine? Why was she looking to white men for sexual validation? Why was she bothering with white men in any romantic capacity at all? Did she not have any clue as to how “Excuse me, miss? Can I talk to you for a minute?” coming from a black man can make a damn day? How a wink from a Filipino dude over a cup of hot chocolate can make you blush? How the simple syllable ma coming from a Puerto Rican guy could make you weak in the knees? And Lord, don’t get me started on Samoans.
I rarely get hit on by white dudes—so rarely that I just stopped expecting any kind of romantic overture from them at all. I expect them to see me the same way that they would see a man. Because they do. And honestly? The same goes for all Asian dudes who aren’t Pacific Islanders as well. I remember this moment back when I used to wear my hair pin straight. I got hit on by this South Asian dude and the sheer horror that overtook his face when I started speaking and he realized that I was black was hilarious. And I must admit that I was looking at him pretty strangely once he approached me too. How does this fool not know I’m black? I am so obviously black! What the hell is this fool trying to talk to me for?
Over time, I became John Mayer’s counterpart. His comments about black women didn’t even bother me. Who cares what white men think about black women romantically? How is that in any way important? I was too busy being pissed about how he had the nerve to declare he had a hood pass and felt comfortable enough to let racial slurs slip past his lips! That was the problem that needed to be addressed. Immediately.
But then I read the Tooles editorial a second time without being so quick to judge. And I understood how she felt. The isolation and invisibility can be heartbreaking. I happily solved the problem by just spending time around non-white men. But maybe that’s not an option for her. Maybe she wants all men to treat her like a lady. She has every right to want that. Because she is a lady, damn it!
And sadly, white men not viewing black women as women, as ladies, as individuals worth flirting with, or dating, or holding doors open for is a problem. Because it results in this. And this. It shapes how the media presents black women to the world. Because white men have one hell of a steel grip on the media. And that grip on the media distorts how people view black women. And results in this. And this. And this. Not good. How do you solve the problem? I’m not sure. Perhaps by loosening the grip? By letting a variety of people get that chance in front of the microphone or camera? By letting a variety of people present their words to the masses? Because that way, men like Mayer are drowned out by men of all races who love all beautiful women. And by the women who love themselves.