Maybe Black men protect white women because we see ourselves in them
What white women mean to us, as Black men, based on what it is we mean, to ourselves, in proximity to whiteness.
by Donnie Moreland
My crushes, in high school, were all white girls. I used to fantasize about asking them out, kissing them, fucking them. It was about the only way by which I judged my social value—by how many of them I was of interest to. In fact, the first girl to ever hear the words “I love you” from me was a white girl.
I was learning about something between me and white girls at the same time I was learning American history, in some acultural Suburb outside of Houston, Texas. At the same time, I was being told, from my peers, that Obama’s election somehow either meant white kids could say nigga or that someone who looked like me would be the “death of the country.” At the same time, the only other Black folks in school with me were those forced out of Louisiana, post Katrina, whose culture was so much the antithesis of white adolescent “decency” that I kept my distance.
I was learning something about me, my Black skin, and white girls that I wouldn’t wash off until I attended Prairie View A&M University, a Texas based Historically Black University and found out my skin and their skin meant something far different than what I had drawn up in my mind. The only thing that exists between cis-het Black men and white girls is a closer proximity to loss, for us, the more we walk the line into the confidence of white girls.
I’m not suggesting anything about interracial relationships here, given how little of myself needs to be imported onto the intimate happenings of others. I am talking about something to do with meaning. What white women mean to us, as Black men, based on what it is we mean, to ourselves, in proximity to whiteness. But no matter what we impress onto those bodies, they will be bodies of probable danger, as history predicts and has yet to be challenged.
Between 2018 and 2019, Black men such as R&B artist Daniel Caesar and Battle Rap pioneer Muda Mook came to the defense of social media personality, YesJulz, in the wake of her agitation of Black women, incessant acts of cultural appropriation and use of the word “nigga” in reference to Black men, as though it were her second language. Mook went so far as to argue the appropriateness of the woman using the phrase, given some falsified qualification of her ethic makeup.
YesJulz, to so many brothers, represents a closeness to whiteness that, for some, represents access to a world away from the “chitlin circuit,” so to speak. A white world where success isn’t framed within a small black box. Agitating this fantasy, no matter how disruptive to the lives of Black folk it may seem, is a line many cats are not willing to cross. But there is something we import onto white women which is far stranger than the mess we’ve made with YesJulz.
In his book, White Girls, Hilton Als describes, at length, the ways queerness, white womanhood and Black identity converge. The book is, partially, about the obsession we have with white womanhood—the performance of white womanhood. Als creates an argument centered around white womanhood as something to achieve, especially by Black queer men, in his experience—but certainly by any one of us.
As Als explained, in a 2013 interview with FADER, the question of white womanhood is more to do with marginalization, visibility and the space shared between these two antithetical ideas. When asked what do you mean when you say, “white girls”, Als states, “…..what if we had a book that was about a black man’s identification with a white woman? A woman who is marginal but still has some visibility. What if we inverted black maleness? Would we see white femaleness, or would we see something else?” Understanding the gendered condtionless-ness of Als inquries, it is as a cis-het Black man that I must acknowledge the face of white women which shapes when you turn us inside-out.
For cis-het Black men, we must remember, the search for place is often the search, again, to become white men. To sit at that seat of power and privilege. We must never forget that for white women, the search is often the same. To be unshackled from the, as Als would argue, limitations of marginalization and yet retain all else that comes with white flesh. Personhood, for both parties being nothing more than patriarchy in a new mask.
Look no further than the relationship between Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart, as evidence of such observation. On September 24th, 2019 Snoop Dogg via Instagram posted a picture contrasting Martha Stewart and rapper Tekashi 69, contextualizing the age old principle of “no snitching.” Snoop stated, “As we watch Tekashi 69 (or whatever his name is) snitch on EVERYBODY, I invite you all to remember Martha Stewart snitched on NOT ONE soul during her trial. Baby girl kept it 10 toes down and ate that prison sentence by herself, like the true baddie she is.”
Snoops comment speaks not of some romantic or sexual fixation, but to the privileges which he and Stewart shared—both hinging on their relationship to capital wealth—to either be acquitted of charges, as in Snoop’s 1995-96 Murder case, or be given a generously reduced sentence, as with Stewart’s 2004 five month fraud related sentence.
Snoop could have suggested something worthwhile, here, about the many disproportionately imprisoned Black women who’ve no choice but to serve aggressively severe sentences in comparison to their crimes, such as shooting a gun into the ceiling of one’s own home to protect one’s children from abuse. But Snoop doesn’t see in these women what he sees in Stewart. He doesn’t see himself—a capitalist wanting more to do with power than the bodies which lay in consequence (in Snoop’s case Black women) of the tactics used to arrive closer to white maleness than to anything else.
Snoop sees in Stewart, as many Black men see in many white women, his own face. Snoop is a white woman, in so far as white women want to be white men. As Black men can be, as many are, white women. But, white women are not, nor can be Black men because Blackness is inconsequential to whiteness, never the opposite.
Let us never forget the face of that little white girl smiling, with such glee, at Rubin Stacy’s lifeless, hanging body as detailed in the 1935 photograph of his lynching. Let us never forget that Carolyn Bryant lied, in 1955, about a child, Emmett Till, whistling at her. Enough of an offense that white men kidnapped this boy and proceeded to torture, murder and disfigure him. Let us never forget that on September 6th, 2018, then-officer Amber Guyer, stormed into the apartment of Botham Jean and riddled his body with bullets—his crime being her “confusion” of what apartment she was in.
Let us never forget the evidence of what actually exists between white women and Black men the next time we wish to play Superman to their Lois Lane, or find our soul in their smile. No matter what we believe about white women, and the mirror by which we would have them hold up to us, the fact remains that they can kill us with as much efficiency and impunity as the white men we wish to become.
Donnie Denkins Moreland Jr is a Minnesota based youth violence prevention educator and writer. Donnie holds a Master’s Degree, in Film Studies, from National University and a Bachelor’s Degree, in Sociology, from Prairie View A&M University. Donnie has contributed to Black Youth Project, A Gathering of the Tribes and Sage Group Publishing.