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My Reaction to Chapter 4 of Colored Amazons

couldntthinkofanoriginalname's picture

I am not exactly sure how to express myself in this post and I am a little worried because the following thoughts will expose my judgemental side--but I suppose everyone is guilty of passing judgement at some point in their life. I stopped reading Colored Amazons mid-way through the 4th chapter because I got really uncomfortable and really angry. The chapter told the story of two black women who killed a white male farmer during the negotiation stage of sexual services. In the media, the women were portrayed as savages who ruthlessly killed a white man who was seemingly drunk and unknowing. However, the media failed to reveal a reality and hidden agenda of the parties invovled. To be blunt, the white man came to the women for sex and they were going to provide that service because, as Gross explained in an earlier chapter, black females were not protected by the law; therefore, their bodies were subjected to sexual exploitation and exoticism. I have never known this history in great detail but I, as a black female, have seen how the ripple affects of this history continue to haunt black communities, black females in my life and myself--my first boyfriend was a white boy. Therefore, reading this chapter reminded me of how uncomfortable and upset I get when I see interracial couples between a white man and black female (bring on the "love is color-blind, love has no limits"..blah blah, I have heard it all). Although I can recognize that there is, of course, legitmacy to these relationships, I constantly worry that the black female is being victimized, exoticized and is continuing the history of male domination over the black body. I have not figured out how to come to terms with the immediate reaction I have to seeing white male/black female couples but please know that I am also not comfortable with my judegmental reactions to seeing them.




Hummingbird's picture

Dynamics in Pop Culture

Esty, I love that you spoke your mind – and to be honest, I worry about the power dynamics as well – both in the white male/ black female relationship you brought up, and in the white male/ asian female relationship that Chandrea brought up. I see a lot of interracial couples in my neighborhood and part of the reason there is such a high number, I think, is the fact that my nieghborhood has a very high population of highly educated, highly liberal people. But despite the privelege and resources that my neighbors have, I can't help but wonder whether there is (as you and Chandrea both said) a level of exoticism or fetishizing of the female partner by her white male partner. In many ways, I don't think it even needs to be deliberate, but it can be. If you've ever seen the television show "New Girl," you might recognize the fetishizing in the relationship between Schmidt (a white man) and Cece (a south asian woman). Cece is a model and part of her appeal (both to Schmidt and the other hetero male characters on the show) is her darker skin and long black hair. She's not seen as a person with agency, but as an object to be won. In fact, when Schmidt finally convinces her to sleep with him, he's troubled by the fact that she won't let him tell his friends – and therefore prevents him from showing her off.

I'm excited by the fact that interracial relationships have become more acceptable. I'm excited by the number of mixed race children I encountered this summer when I taught swimming lessons. But I worry about the power structures at play in these relationships and whether interracial relationships will encourage racial stereotypes or defeat them in the long run.

sdane's picture

Collective memory

I'm really glad that you guys have brought up the fact that group experience doesn't fade just because the people who lived it are no longer alive.  In my Poli Sci classes we talk a lot about the politics of memory, usually outside the context of the US, but I think that it can very much be applied to how we understand racial dynamics here today.  It’s important to look at the ways both group trauma and group privilege are passed down subconsciously from generation to generation, and really do effect how we understand the world around us.  In other words, we all remember our histories, even though we weren’t there.  So, Estie, it makes perfect sense to me that you feel this discomfort with certain kinds of interracial relationships.  As we read in Colored Amazons, only a little over 200 years ago, “supremacist ideologies permeated the body politic, whites positioned themselves as superior not only to blacks in the United States but to all racial others across the globe.” So, the realities of today are not just about the incredible structural inequality that exists in the US, it’s about the memory of even worse political inequality in our recent history. 

I have to assume that the racism of the late 1800s that we’re reading about plays a huge role in our criminal justice system today.  The history of racialized incarceration is obviously a big part of that, but the history of racist media (plays, film, songs) has probably continued to “project taboo characteristics onto blacks.”  I’m really glad we’re reading this book because even though its only one small snapshot of a complicated, nuanced history, it provides some context to how our prison system evolved to where it is today. 

ishin's picture

Hey Estie,

All I want to say is thanks for speaking.  A major theme that's been going on in the past couple of days and readings has a lot to do with what is being said and what isn't.  Being silent on some things is important, but to shut up about others sometimes just doesn't point out the obvious.  To refer to Chapter 5 of The New Jim Crow, incarceration, the most obvious reason why black men aren't present in family life is never uttered in the dialogue of black family life.

What you and this reading teach me/us is two fold:  1) Not mentioning the obvious skirts around the actual issue.  You can't address the problem if no one identifies it as an issue. 2)  Sometimes, it's really not that obvious.  As Alexander mentions, while someone like me can see the two facts that "there are no black men participating in family life" and "there are a lot of black males in prison", I can't or won't put two and two together.  Making mention of things like this or your first impression of biracial couples, no matter how nerve-wrecking, brings things to the forefront issues that others may not have to confront in their lives, can't connect, or perhaps just choose to ignore.

I also can get annoyed when people try to hide behind the idea of love.

Chandrea's picture

Yellow Fever?

I can see why you would feel slightly uncomfortable seeing an interracial couple. I personally struggle with my feelings when I see a White man with a petite Asian woman on his arm. Sometimes I have moments when I wonder what the white man's motives are... or even the Asian woman's motives. Does he think she's exotic? Is she dating him to move up the social ladder? How much money does he make? Back home, it's not uncommon to see a Cambodian woman with a White man. I hear stereotypes all the time about the submissive and obedient Asian female. I can't help but think of this idea of White men with a creepy Asian fetish. But what makes me feel this way? Why do I feel uncomfortable? Love is love, right?