Friday, November 30, 2007

Race Play and the Bedroom

All this got triggered by my friend Monica Jackson's blog entry on (mature) white women going on sex tours to Kenya. MSNBC story on the Kenyan sex tours here.

Of course this is no different than black men from the U.S. going to Brazil to have sex with Brazilians.

Or older (white) gay men going to Mexico... or Thailand... or heck, inner city Detroit or Philly... anyplace else where money talks... to have sex with underage/teen boys of color. (if someone can find a source to back this up, which we all know to be true, please share it in comments... thanks!)

Or that one of the roots of lynchings of black men in the U.S. was centered around the protection of white women's sexuality and honor.

It's all part of a larger area of scholarly research called Race Play.

ColorLines Magazine, which all culturally-empowered and progressive-minded folks should read or subscribe to, did a great issue about two years ago on the interconnectedness of race, sex, and personal choices we make, consciously or unconsciously, in our dating and mating lives. This story, Playing With Race by Daisy Hernandez, is one of the best I've read on this subject. And it's an area she has continued researching in her post-graduate work.

So most of are aware of the dynamics of exploiter on the exploited in many areas.

But what if, in the case of ethnicity and sex, it's the exploited who offers him/herself up on a "ring the dinner bell, come and get it" platter to the exploiter? This area has always fascinated me in my studies on ethnicity, class, and gender.

It got triggered earlier this week, when I read a small little story in the latest Frontiers Magazine, an L.A. based LGBT weekly. On page 80 of the magazine, at the bottom, there's a cute feature called "Boyfriend Material," where someone from the local LGBT community shares what makes himself boyfriend material.

This week's column featured an 18-year-old black man named Robert. He boasted as a little-known fact about himself, "I would say that something few people know about me is that I'm not attracted to my own race... In all actuality, I'm just a young black guy whom (sic) has always been attracted to older white and Latino men." He continues to say, "I know some may take that offensively but I mean no offense... Again I mean no harm, just being honest." (to you young scholars in-the-making, this is what could make those finals week papers more exciting to write about!)

That young man's statement struck me hard. Because, at 18, I was that young man. Thank God I'm not now. I imagine a few years of experience will evolve his opinion and identity. There are a number of factors I've been able to identify in my own identity and academic work over the years.

One, being dropped off in the middle of Missouri at 17, at Mizzou, with not a large institutional support for people/things black, I just tried fitting in with the majority. Then, me thinking that the black community had/would shun me because of being gay, I found myself in a circle of young white gay folks... but not totally IN the circle. I was the fun, black sidekick. The entertainment. The safe black guy. The window into "black" life that many of them didn't, nor would ever, delve into in or out of class. And, I also thought anything black was less than.

I always thank God for education, and having the privilege to study and learn about the cycle of oppression and the history of racism, sexism, and heterosexism in the U.S. and world.

That in-class work, coupled with me thinking about things my parents and grandparents shared from their experiences, shifted me out of that phase. Took a few years, some real-world experiences, to get me to where I am today... A culturally-empowered gay man of color who is unapologetically black, unapologetically gay, and who doesn't base my worth, or my dating, on a white/majority scale of acceptance.

That's the main reason I write the kind of novels I do... with culturally-empowered gay men of color. Because I don't want young gay men of color growing up with the "ooh, if I just get me a rich, white man all my problems will be over" mentality. Because the problems are still there. And you can't erase the black or brown of your skin, no matter how you try to blend in.

And you can't erase your mom, dad, and growing-up experiences you had. Nor should you be ashamed of how you grew up. It is what it is.

How does it, if at all, affect you? How have your identity and opinions changed or evolved over the years? What would you say to a kid like that Robert in Frontiers Magazine? Or your thoughts on how ethnicity, class, and gender are active elements in all the choices we make, personal or professional?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That type of mentality, though, is the kind that Frontiers has no qualms about promoting. If a black guy said that he's not attracted to white guys, he likely wouldn't have his quote printed in the magazine (or even be interviewed in the first place). He'd be called racist. But when anybody says they only like white guys, the gay (white) establishment will say it's just a preference and not racist. As long as they "benefit" from it, that whole notion is not challenged amongst the white gay media and establishment and they are in fact happy to find a black guy to promote that philosophy.