White Guys, and Other Things I Hate To Love

by Imani Franklin, ’13


Let’s be real. You try to resist that Robert Downey Jr. white-boy-swag, coupled with the bang swish that only a true So-Cal white boy can pull off, and it’s a failed attempt from the start. A friend of mine can’t, for the life of her, understand why I like white men. She thinks they’re boring, like factory-made white bread: stale, tasteless, and a little problematic. I try to explain to her the appeal of white men for me and (dare I say) millions of straight women of color around the world. We’ve been simultaneously conditioned to see white men as some sort of prize (shout out to 400 years of old-school colonialism) while also taught to view our black, brown, and yellow skin as rendering us less desirable than our white counterparts. The result of all this: a lot of women of color who want what they believe they can’t have. Which, as we learn in Psych 101, only makes many of us want them more.

Now before you interpret this as some sad Pocahontas story, I should explain that this is a lot more complicated than me liking white boys because my mind is colonized. Lately, I’ve realized that there’s also a considerable degree of exotification in how I view white men. They’re mysterious. Whether they’re on the screens of romantic comedies or sitting beside me in math class, white guys have always felt far more distant than men of other races. I project my prejudices and idealizations onto them with few substantive interactions to prove just how unfounded my stereotypes about white men are. Even after dating a white guy during my sophomore year of college, my exotification of them didn’t lessen as much as it probably should have. This was largely because he didn’t actually identify as a “white man” in the classic Will Ferrell-loving, investment-banker-by-day, overgrown-frat-boy-by-night sort of way. To me, he was always distinctly different from “them.”

And even though boxing white men into a stereotypical mold is antithetical to my liberal ideals, I haven’t been able to stop. Theoretically, I know the answer to deconstructing this mental box:

Step 1: Spend time with white guys whom I previously would have pegged as walking stereotypes.
Step 2: Get to know them as 3-dimensional individuals.
Step 3: Success! They’re no longer mysterious and my slightly problematic fascination with them dies out.

Unfortunately, I haven’t started this process yet because, in addition to loving white men, I also hate them. I hate white men not as individuals, of course (I went to a predominately white school for far too many years to be an actual bigot), but as a concept. My understanding of historical and present injustices paints white men, or rather white manhood, as the engineer of oppression. The mastermind behind everything from South African apartheid, to the extermination of indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, to the construction of urban ghettos designed to ensure the perpetuation of poverty in African American communities. Nbd. It’s hard to reconcile my visceral disdain for the white male symbol of domination with my romantic fascination with them.

And then there’s the biracial children. First let me say that I love adorable, curly-haired biracial kids as much as the next single-race girl. But my immediate fear is that I would have kids who would say those statements that I’d never heard until I arrived to the Bay Area. Things like, “Excuse me, but I’m not black. I’m half white,” as if to be associated with that other half would be simply dreadful. To overcompensate, I’d raise them celebrating Kwanzaa, reading Malcolm X bedtime stories, and praising Jesus in a predominately black congregation every Sunday. My white husband, who naturally would be on board with all this, would insert his culture when he could and help me explain the Middle Passage to the little ones.

Up until a few months ago, I’d consoled myself that I could successfully have biracial kids who still knew how to be black and proud. But then I had this dream, a nightmare really. My biracial kids married white people, and then my ¾ white grandkids told me, “Grandma, we’re white. The Civil Rights Movement stuff you ramble about sounds cool and all, but we don’t see how that’s relevant to us….” I simply couldn’t take it. Waking up from my bone-chilling dream, I realized how much I want to see the vibrant black culture I was raised with continue in my family for at least a few more generations. Just another of the many factors that complicate my white-boy-love….

I try to explain these complexities to my black guy friends who scoff at me for liking white boys, but they don’t buy it. To them, I’m still that 7 year old girl who saw Titanic for the first time, fell in love with Leonardo Dicaprio, and has been taken with blue eyes and dirty blonde hair ever since. To them, my talk of colonized minds and exotification is a filmsy cover for my gut-level attraction to the white male phenotype. One of my black guy friends asks me if dating white guys makes me feel like a “race traitor,” particularly given my connection with Morehouse College. I don’t, mostly because I don’t prefer white over black guys, especially when all things are considered. I feel much more comfortable with the idea of marrying a black man, and I crush on black guys at least as often as white ones. However, while my conscious preference may be for black men, my subconscious instincts don’t always act accordingly. When I walk into a club, for example, I’ve noticed that I’ll start unconsciously scoping out the cute white men long before I notice the black guys in the room. This is not something I’m proud of, or even okay with. I’m just not quite sure how to change it.

One of my best black guys friends from home (who happens to unabashedly LOVE white women) tells me not to worry about all this. He buys into the school of thought that says, “You like who you like. Don’t read into it.” With all due respect Hamp, that’s bullshit. Ignoring the fact that sociological factors heavily influence whom we’re attracted to doesn’t make it cease to exist.

But for the most part, I don’t spend my days wallowing in guilt over liking white boys. The main time this whole hate-them-want-them dynamic becomes an issue is when I start trying to crack a joke. Thanks to my adoption of Boondocks humor, my comedy often falls along the following line: “The black man can’t do nothin’ right. Thanks to white baby Jesus for his graciousness.” For some, the fact that I actually do like white guys adds a layer of confusion to my jokes and dilutes the irony. Multiple times over the past week, I’ve had to stop myself from saying a racialized, white-is-right joke for fear that friends would take me seriously. For the record: I’m definitely more in danger of buying into Stokely Carmichael’s ideology than Uncle Ruckus’.

So to wrap up this litany of ramblings, I’ll just say this:
I’ve come a long way from being that confused little black girl in a sea of white kids who wondered why the white boys didn’t ask her to be their girlfriend when all the other 6th graders started dating. I’m far more confident (sometimes too much so) and no longer torment myself with the “white guys don’t like me because I’m brown!” train of logic. Let’s be real: if they’ve got anti-black color preferences, I wouldn’t like them anyway. My goal: to see white guys as just…guys, who can dote on you or not text you back just like men of other races. They’re not some prize, nor are they all budding Leopold IIs waiting to colonize my lands. But, unfortunately, I’m not quite there yet. Now excuse me while I go watch Sam and Mercedes make flirty eyes at each other on Glee.


Imani Franklin is a junior majoring in International Relations, with a minor in Arabic. She is the 2012-2013 co-president of Stanford’s Black Student Union and hopes to promote more meaningful dialogue between ethnic and race-based communities on campus. She In her free time, she enjoys attempting to cook peach cobbler from scratch and acting in theater performances. 

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17 thoughts on “White Guys, and Other Things I Hate To Love

  1. Don says:

    I don’t understand the need to have your children self identify in the same way you do. Aren’t biracial kids proof that people are people and that race doesn’t exist?

    Force feeding your children into this idea that they are part of a crapped on minority won’t serve them well. Doesn’t matter who you marry… let the kids be themselves. Teach them some history here and there, but allow them to pursue their own interests and for SURE don’t make them feel like victims their entire lives.

    However… since we are on the topic of dating and race. How do you think about Asian Guys? It just seems rare and I’m not sure why.

  2. […] White Guys, and Other Things I Hate to Love by Imani Franklin, ‘13 […]

  3. Anon says:

    Imagine the opposite…


    Let’s be real. You try to resist that Tay Diggs black-guy-swag, coupled with the bang swish that only a true urban black man can pull off, and it’s a failed attempt from the start. A friend of mine can’t, for the life of her, understand why I like black men. She thinks they’re brash, like ghetto-made-cornbread: bitter, stinky, and a little problematic. I try to explain to her the appeal of black men for me and (dare I say) millions of straight white women around the world. We’ve been simultaneously conditioned to see black men as some sort of animal (shout out to 400 years of old-school colonialism) while also taught to view ourselves as superior. The result of all this: a lot of white women who want what they are told they shouldn’t have. Which, as we learn in Psych 101, only makes many of us want them more.

    Now before you interpret this as some sad urban Othello story, I should explain that this is a lot more complicated than me liking black boys because it makes me feel rebellious. Lately, I’ve realized that there’s also a considerable degree of condescension in how I view black men. They’re dangerous. Whether they’re on the streets of inner-city neighborhoods or sitting next to me on the bus, black guys have always felt far more dangerous than men of other races. I project my prejudices and idealizations onto them with few substantive interactions to prove just how unfounded my stereotypes about black men are. Even after dating a black guy during my sophomore year of college, my exotification of them didn’t lessen as much as it probably should have. This was largely because he didn’t actually identify as a “black man” in the classic forty-sippin’, hustlin’-crack-by-day, aspiring-rap-artist-by-night sort of way. To me, he was always distinctly different from “them.”
    And even though boxing black men into a stereotypical mold is antithetical to my liberal ideals, I haven’t been able to stop. Theoretically, I know the answer to deconstructing this mental box:

    Step 1: Spend time with black guys whom I previously would have pegged as walking stereotypes.
 Step 2: Get to know them as 3-dimensional individuals. 
Step 3: Success! They’re no longer dangerous and my slightly problematic fascination with them dies out.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t started this process yet because, in addition to loving black men, I also hate them. I hate black men not as individuals, of course (I went to a predominately black school for far too many years to be an actual bigot), but as a concept. My understanding of historical and present social reality paints black men, or rather black manhood, as the engineer of society’s decay. The mastermind behind everything from the crack epidemic, to the general degradation of urban America, to the high crime rates and low literacy rates that are the product of our welfare state. Nbd. It’s hard to reconcile my visceral disdain for the black male symbol of laziness and violence with my romantic fascination with them.

  4. Anonymous says:

    If another race other than white people had become the most powerful force on earth from the 1500s to the 1950s, then that race (instead of white people) would have oppressed people. If Africans had become more powerful than Europeans, white females would be hating on the oppressive concept of black malehood.

    Being a white male did not make people oppress others; being powerful did. To suggest that being a white male did this is racist.

    A lot of minorities who buy into this super liberal BS are racists. Real liberalism, classical liberalism that flourished after the French Revolution, sees people as individuals–not as groups.

    By categorizing white people and white males in this way, you are being a racist. You are disgusting.

    • Imani Franklin says:

      Of course power is to blame for oppression. To blame whiteness itself would be illogical, shortsighted, and I agree, extremely racist. In the portion of the post that you critique, I’m thinking of whiteness as a proxy for power (not inherently so, but in practice). I assumed this was obvious, but if I’d known that some, like yourself, would take such a literal reading of this post, I would have thought to clarify. Thanks.

  5. Sammy says:

    This is what they’re teaching you kids these days? “in addition to loving white men, I also hate them. I hate white men not as individuals, of course (I went to a predominately white school for far too many years to be an actual bigot), but as a concept. My understanding of historical and present injustices paints white men, or rather white manhood, as the engineer of oppression.” Wow, if this is the kind of racist rhetoric you’re studying then it’s no wonder your conflicted. AS IF a “race” or a “gender” could ever be responsible for anything. If you’re learning this hateful crap in school, ask for a refund.

    • Anonymous says:

      I look white, yet I’m hispanic. I hate white men… All the abuse I have ever received in life has been from this cold, unfeeling race. They are not like us, that is what a friend told me when I insisted that I loved a white man, and yes, they were complicated but they were like us…. no their not. Many years later and alot of experiences later, maybe it’s just me…. no I don’t think so. So let the hate mail come, maybe it was just me…. no!

  6. aaxler2 says:

    Reblogged this on aaxler2 and commented:
    my inspirational, insightful friend.

  7. AK says:

    Imani thanks for writing this. Putting such an uncomfortable issue in the open will 3 dimensionalize it.

  8. Sophi says:

    My partner and I are both cisgendered, white, heterosexual people. We’re also both liberal feminists who care a lot about social justice and equality, and we spend a lot of time talking about our privileges, etc., and he doesn’t really conform at all to the typical White Guy you characterized. He’s from a working-class(historically anyway), Catholic, Italian-American background. It’s easy to say his race doesn’t matter to me at all, especially because I’ve dated people of racial minorities before, and it certainly didn’t matter then. I grew up here in the Bay Area, and I don’t really notice if someone is of Indian, East Asian, or Latin American descent. I also don’t really notice European/Latin American/African foreignness (i.e. recent immigrants or visitors). I feel very comfortable around these groups of people; I have been surrounded by and interacted with them my entire life.

    That said, I’ve definitely noticed a sort of hyperawareness of difference around my black peers, probably because I’ve never had a close black friend or spent a lot of time in a black community. For me, I think I have to feel comfortable around someone to feel attracted to them. That ends up translating as being disproportionately attracted to people from cultures that prioritize the individual and to people of ethnic/racial communities around whom I’ve spent lots of time. In some sense, it could be summarized as almost never being attracted to black men because I’m very caught up in the fact of their cultural unfamiliarity and the historical oppression of people of their race by people of mine (see also: Native Americans).

    I know more about slavery and Jim Crow than I know about actual contemporary black cultures. I feel like that holds me back a lot, because it becomes my only context for blackness while also problematizing my whiteness. Classic liberal white lady, huh? I’m working on it…

  9. thesnarkist says:

    The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, anyone? Issa Rae has a really interesting comic take on interracial dating (also: Stanford alumna, holla!).

    This is a quality post. Thanks for sharing honestly.

  10. anon says:

    Is the corollary to this that being attracted to men exclusively = being complicit with patriarchy? For me, it’s not hard to reconcile my attraction to only men (of many races 😀 ) with my desire to stop patriarchy, since I don’t buy into the idea of collective guilt (my partner is not responsible for all of patriarchy — hopefully not any).

    I can understand the cringe factor/desire to call people out when hearing someone say, “I’m mainly attracted to white guys,” but that seems inconsistent with the tendency for progressives not to call out a man for being gay / a woman for being straight / etc.

    I guess that’s why I see the idea that “you like who you like” as less problematic than Imani. My attraction to a particular physical characteristic doesn’t mean that I approve of everything anyone with that physical characteristic has done. I agree that attraction is largely sociological, but identifying the sociological trend that made me attracted to only men is ultimately limited to guessing at correlations since there wasn’t a moment I “decided” to be attracted to men. So while an environmental explanation for attraction might be there, it might not be particularly useful to investigate/critique as the cause of larger issues of oppression (racism, sexism).

    Just some thoughts.

    • esqg says:

      “I can understand the cringe factor/desire to call people out when hearing someone say, “I’m mainly attracted to white guys,” but that seems inconsistent with the tendency for progressives not to call out a man for being gay / a woman for being straight / etc.”

      You’re right, there is a tendency for progressives not to talk about sexual preferences enough but to unquestioningly accept them, instead of looking at sexual preferences as indicators of one’s own potentially problematic viewpoints. This post does the opposite: it’s incredibly brave of Imani to lay out this analysis, and really interesting.

      As you suggest it’s not productive to feel a lot of guilt for unconscious racism or other factors that influence sexual preference, it is healthy to be willing to admit (at least to ourselves) that we are not perfect, and not free of oppressive mindsets, and that sexuality is a part of that. We can improve our own mindsets, but not by saying “I want to be a good person, so this part of me must be just fine.”

      Here’s a post about why people should not treat sexual orientation as sacrosanct: it’s not exactly 101-level (to get the message in context, one should be familiar with the “born-this-way” arguments for queer rights, and it helps to be familiar with the “cotton ceiling” discussion about cissexism in queer women’s sexual preferences), but it’s really worth thinking about.

  11. Charlie says:

    but only white people watch Glee…

  12. bittercharm says:

    You Echo my thoughts.

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