Why There is a Big Difference Between Loving and Fetishizing Black Women

Is it love or something else?

Allison Gaines
Dec 31, 2020 · 12 min read
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Photo Credit | I AM & CO

America, Black women cannot assume that all lovers come in peace because many come to fetishize Blackness. The ancient Greeks created eight different words for love. They understood that this emotion came in different shapes and sizes. To distinguish between loving and fetishizing Black women, we must first consider the nature of romance.

Most romantic relationships involve Eros, erotic love. The attraction opens the door for a passionate relationship. Ludus refers to the playful love in a new-budding relationship dubbed the “honeymoon stage.” However, long-term relationships need more. A successful partnership requires Pragma — enduring love. Acceptance and forgiveness are keys to the long game, so we should add in Agape, unconditional love. Black women need more than all of these. They need Philia, affectionate love between equals.

Racial fetishizer have erotic love without the beauty of enduring, equal, and unconditional love. Using the Greek pantheon of love, we can file fetish-love under Mania — obsessive love. While everyone has different opinions about bonds, most people would agree that obsession is far from ideal. Motivated through racist-driven desire, they cannot create an equal, loving relationship with any Black woman.

Black women are subjected to the collective historical consequences based on the intersectionality of race, class, and gender that all tie into her continued sexual debasement (Holmes, 2016).

The dating pool is tainted with misogynoir. American society debased and dehumanized Black women, reducing their identity to their body — shape, free-forming hair, and skin-tone. Unlike white women, Black women have to consider racism when they develop relationships. Ignoring it will only lead to painful disappointment. Not every person that claims to love Black women does — many of them fetishize the concept of Black femininity.

The relationship between America and Black women is Manic. It rises to the level of obsession. Society loves to control Black women, judge them, mock them, and use them as a punch line for their scathing social commentary. This relationship is abusive, hostile, and inescapable.

Throughout the majority of American history, Black women could not even sue a white man for rape. They had to wait until the Civil Rights Movement to get that right. So forgive me if I am skeptical of all this “love” for Black women floating around.

While I have seen my fair share of successful, joyous interracial relationships, some have a dangerous undercurrent — racism. Many love Black women conceptually without actually feeling loyalty and affection to a particular Black woman. Love is not equal to fetishization, and Black women must navigate this terrain if they want a love worth having.

Racial fetishization is and extension and reproduction of white supremacist colonial racism (Holmes, 2016).

This fixation places Black women in danger. It makes her a conquest as opposed to a love interest. Love can be just as dangerous as hate if it is the wrong kind. Slave owners had Eros, passionate love for Black women. However, never hadPhilia, love between equals. You see, anyone can say they love you, but love comes in different flavors.

Many people think of Black women as over-sexualized, which is because of the history of abuse Black women endured. Because the colonial system used Black women as breeders, there is a reoccurring theme within American society — lust equated with genuine love. And before you think that having kids with a Black woman changes things, please consider that slave owners had many children with their slaves, still beat them, raped them, killed their Black men, and sold their children. If this is love, they can keep it. The sad thing is, it was love, but not the kind we typically consider.

Racial fetishism also contributes to the existing American rape culture, which tolerates and even validates sexual violence perpetrated upon Black female bodies (Holmes, 2016).

Many white men know they cannot rape Black women with impunity in the modern era. Many who would have raped when it was socially acceptable now find themselves in so-called loving relationships with Black women. They have kids and share homes together. Maybe the relationship seems abuse-free, but is it? When a white man discusses his love for a Black woman, does he grimace and ask, “Have you ever been with a Black woman? I have.” I wonder how many white boyfriends and husbands have had this “locker-room talk” while their Black woman lover feels that this man is different. He is not like the others — he would never say those things.

Black men are also guilty of fetishizing Black women, but it is less their fault and more indicative of a country created by white supremacist mandated slave labor. For hundreds of years, white people forced Black people into having sex with other Black people for procreation instead of love. As a result, many want to have sex with Black women, put a bun in the oven, and refuse to marry her. Love comes in different flavors, and each woman must choose which to prioritize. Just like a white man, a Black man can live with a Black woman for years, enjoying her love, and still think of her as a sexual object.

Racial fetishization is a practice of reproductive and sexual management that began before the slave era and has been reproduced in policy and societal norms throughout all of American history (Holmes, 2016).

Passionate, unconditional love between equals is ideal, but many Black women fail to get what they deserve. And I understand, not every woman wants to get married, and not all want to marry men. Still, Black and white married women’s raw statistical disparities tell the real story — Black woman fetishization is more common than Philia.

Fetishization isn’t just acknowledging someone’s race but fixating on it, novelizing it and making it the only part of their identity considered (McWilliams, 2019).

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What is Racial Fetishization?

Racial fetishization refers to a sexual preoccupation with a person’s race instead of their unique interpersonal qualities. It places their Blackness as the center motivating factor for participating in the relationship. As opposed to love between equals, fetishization mocks and dehumanizes Black women. People often view Black women as a hill to climb instead of people with thoughts, feelings, and depth of character. This perspective is the result of years of white-dominated social conditioning.

Racial fetishization is a practice of reproductive and sexual management that began before the slave era and has been reproduced in policy and societal norms throughout all of American history (Holmes, 2016).

Dating Black women is still taboo for many white men; some get a thrill from Blackness. Motivation matters because it will drive the nature of the relationship. Someone who wants to date you because you are Black can easily replace you with another Black woman. Relationships based on fetishization are fickle and can cause long term harm to Black women. American society treats Black women as exotic, even though most Americans derive from Eurocentric immigrants. Unfortunately, a preoccupation of exotica and erotica seem to go hand in hand, producing relationships that rely on fantasy more than reality.

When a man starts a relationship with a Black woman because of her Blackness, he undermines her ability to find Philia, Pragma, and Agape. While many think their preoccupation with Black women makes them anti-racist or pro-Black, more often than not, it perpetuates the very thing we should avoid — dehumanization.

While some people perceive racial fetishization as an empowering and respectful form of glorifying black female bodies, it is important to appreciate the historical routes of this phenomenon. Black women have and continue to be sexually sought after for their assumed hyper-sexualized body and behavior, which has been essentialized throughout history by the oppressor (Holmes, 2016).

Fetishization becomes a microaggression when Black women hear racist rhetoric. For example, “you are so beautiful for a Black woman. I love dark-skinned women. I’m not racist; I have a Black wife. My children are Black so I could not possibly be racist. You look so good but my family would not accept you.

If a man pursues a Black woman to check a box off his list, he is racist because he feeds into the Jezebel stereotype, which describes Black women as over-sexual. White men fetishize Black women out of curiosity — does her performance in bed live up to the hype? Black men fetishize Black women by keeping them as breeders and elevating light-skinned and white women.

In Kanye West’s song, “Gold-digger,” he said, “And when you get on, he’ll leave yo’ ass for a white girl.” This rhetoric is typical and reflects the inclination to use Black women as comfort women, dismissing them when someone “better” comes along. A Black man who willingly carries this narrative is just as dismissive of Black women as white men who use them for sexual conquest. Both participate in a white-supremacist patriarchal system that dismisses the humanity of Black women and women of color.

I realized I was his dirty little secret. Funny how he had no problem asking me for sex on the first date, but when it came to meeting his family, he was unable to give me a straight answer. Turned out, the black skin that he found so appealing in the bedroom was not so appealing outside of it (McPherson, 2019).

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Veiled Compliments

Fetishization is a completely different monster. It’s a micro-aggression disguised as a compliment, and it’s the most common micro-aggression I’ve seen in my experience at Colorado State University (McWilliams, 2019).

Racial fetishization is a micro-aggression presented as a veiled compliment. “You are so beautiful for a Black woman,” is the most common example. The inclination to include her race in the description of her beauty makes this supposed tribute inappropriate, condescending, and disparaging. Think about if someone told your mom, “You are beautiful for an older lady.” Black women can tell the difference between an authentic compliment and an underhanded diss.

In America, white women are the beauty standard, based on years of white-washed commercials, magazine covers, leading roles in film, and their omnipresence within pop culture. To counter that, many people want to tell Black women how beautiful they are. I can understand that. But, what they don’t realize is that by focusing on their Blackness instead of their inner qualities, the compliment becomes veiled. While there is no way to tell if men do this on purpose, many Black women consider this rhetoric insulting. This perspective reduces Black women to their physical qualitie.

Dating a Black woman does not guarantee solidarity

How unfortunate that these ideas about white desire are so ingrained that so many people continuously use sex as a lens for understanding racial solidarity and activism for Black lives (Brown, 2020).

Too many white Americans feel that sleeping with a Black person makes them anti-racist. However, dating a Black woman does not guarantee this person is down for the cause. On the contrary, they might just be getting their kicks from sleeping with someone different. They may use their closeness with Black women to counter the narrative of their racism. Who someone sleeps with and which policies they support are oceans apart.

Someone can sleep with a Black woman and have many children with her and still undermine Black communities. Too many people think that love heals racism, and it most certainly does not. That is not to say that a white man cannot love a Black woman. Many white men love the Black women they are with, but assuming they do is problematic.

It all comes back to the locker-room talk. Private discussions act as the litmus test for racism. If a man ever asked, “Have you ever slept with a Black woman” or answered “yes,” with a giddy smile, then he is a racial fetishizer. Getting a kick out of conquering Black women is a big problem. It means that the relationship is nothing more than subjugation.

White men also had grins as they raped their slaves and told their friends how great it is to be with a Black woman. Slavery is over, but it does not change the fact that many men still pursue and want to subdue Black women. It’s a sport for them, and that’s what makes it racist. Dating, marrying, or having kids with a Black woman does not guarantee solidarity because anti-racism is not about sex; it’s about advocacy.

My blackness is not a defect, nor is it to be fetishized McPherson, 2019).

The difference between love and fetishization

There is a big difference between loving and fetishizing Black women. What most women expect from a loving relationship these days is much more than Eros, erotic love. In a healthy relationship, the person will want you for more than your physical qualities. They may find themselves attracted to your outlook on life, your perspective, your joyful disposition, or a multitude of other wondrous qualities. When the person focuses on race, they are participating in fetishization. Too many people confuse loving a Black woman with lust for Blackness.

There’s a difference between attraction and fetishization. Attraction is being drawn to someone because of some of their features, their interests or their personality. Fetishization, specifically in regards to race, is being attracted to a person solely because of one thing: their skin color (McWilliams, 2019).

One red flag to look out for is if they say, “I’ve never been with a. Black woman before.” This tell indicates that they are excited, but for all the wrong reasons. Within their statement, there is an assumption that sleeping with a Black woman would be intrinsically different from sleeping with a white woman. This type of rhetoric exposes their inclination to focus on “Blackness” instead of the unique woman they date.

Black women must evaluate for themselves who loves them and who wants to benefit from the masquerade. However, an excellent way to understand someone’s intent is to listen to what they say and what their friends say about Black women. Do they crack a laugh at a racist joke, or do they assume you will be better in bed because you are Black? These red flags give women guidance to determine which type of relationship they find themselves in.

I am still rising and like my ancestors, I refuse to let myself become your prize; my blackness is not for you to conquer. My body is not your object to project your perverted fantasies (Vera, 2020).

Where do we go from here?

Racial fetishization is common in American society. Many want to experience the taboo of dating across racial lines. Others think that the cure to racism is interracial relationships. If that were the case, babies produced throughout the slave era would have solved the problem. Racism is a complex sociopolitical dynamic that infiltrates even the most intimate quarters of our lives.

The real problem with them is that they reduce a whole, complicated person to one trait, leaving you never really sure if the fetishizer likes, or even sees you, for you who you really are. And there’s nothing flattering about that (McPherson, 2019).

Racial fetishization is more than having a preference; it reduces someone to their race. Loving a Black woman means looking past her skin color to see her beautiful and unique character. Black women deserve Pragma, enduring love, Agape, unconditional love, and Philia, love between equals. And they will never get that from racial fetishism.

Author’s Note: After reading Sharon Hurley Hall’s story I felt inspired to write this article in the hopes of protecting more Black women from becoming subjects of fetishization. As a Black woman, I’ve had my experience of being the subject of someone’s fetish. I learned it’s best to read the writing on the walls.

References:

Austin, T. (n.d.). They Aren’t Just Preferences: Questions Around Attraction, Objectification, and Fetishizing. Retrieved December 28, 2020, from https://www.colorbloq.org/they-arent-just-preferences-questions-around-attraction-objectification-and-fetishizing

Brown, S. (2020, June 09). Don’t Conflate The Fetishization of Black Bodies With The Care For Black Lives. Retrieved December 28, 2020, from https://wearyourvoicemag.com/fetishization-black-bodies-black-lives/

Holmes, Caren M. (2016) “The Colonial Roots of the Racial Fetishization of Black Women,” Black & Gold: Vol. 2. — see below for complete report

Available at: https://openworks.wooster.edu/blackandgold/vol2/iss1/2

McPherson, A. (2019, February 18). I Dated A Guy Who Fetishized Me For Being A Black Woman. Retrieved December 28, 2020, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/fetish-for-black-women_n_5c630317e4b0a8731aeaad42

McWilliams, L. (2019, April 29). McWilliams: Fetishizing people of color isn’t a compliment, so don’t act like it is. Retrieved December 28, 2020, from https://collegian.com/2019/04/category-opinion-mcwilliams-fetishizing-people-of-color-isnt-a-compliment-so-dont-act-like-it-is/

Vera, C. (2020, August 21). The Weight of Racial Fetishization: I Am Not Your Porn Tag. Retrieved December 28, 2020, from https://cardiffstudentmedia.co.uk/quench/spotlight/bame-i-am-not-your-porn-tag-the-weight-of-racial-fetishization/

PDF Credit | Black & Gold | Caren M. Holmes

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Allison Gaines

Written by

Black Womanist‣MS Psych‣EIC‣ readcultured.com ‣ AllisonTheDailyWriter.com🗞JusticeCantWait.com ☕️ https://ko-fi.com/allyfromnola ✎ZORA‣Momentum ‣ CoFounder WEOC

The Pink

The Pink

Our mission is to empower people through stories that focus on Feminism & Equality, Love & Life. The Pink was created with the belief that in order to empower a community, everyone needs to be educated. Join The Pink community today!

Allison Gaines

Written by

Black Womanist‣MS Psych‣EIC‣ readcultured.com ‣ AllisonTheDailyWriter.com🗞JusticeCantWait.com ☕️ https://ko-fi.com/allyfromnola ✎ZORA‣Momentum ‣ CoFounder WEOC

The Pink

The Pink

Our mission is to empower people through stories that focus on Feminism & Equality, Love & Life. The Pink was created with the belief that in order to empower a community, everyone needs to be educated. Join The Pink community today!

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