4-27-05Nicholas Kristof says that the rise in white-black marriages is a sign that racial barriers are continuing to come down. That's certainly true, however, he ignores the fact that those same statistics point to continuing racism. White-black marriages are 2:1 more likely to be a black man and a white woman (rather than a black woman and a white man). This is almost certainly due to continuing prejudice and distorted views of the races and their sex roles. The preconception is that blacks are powerful, virile, dangerous, masculine, musky, potent, the whites are uncool, weak, compromising, responsible, chaste , and because of the continuing strong sexism in our society, these stereotypes are attractive only in one direction, with the man in the dominant role.
But is that sexism a bad thing? This is an old old argument that keeps being retread every year as one feminist calls for complete equality, and another calls for a celebration of the "female role" (vive la difference, the latest twist on this retread is to celebrate the sexism in other cultures, like continental Europe). Certainly a little sexism is the spice of a sexual relationship; it feels good for the man to be chivalrous, but also occasionally domineering, powerful. The ideal bodies in our era have almost a 2:1 weight ratio of male to female (strong 200 pound man like a basketball player or quarterback, and a 100 pound waif vixen), which means the sheer physical strength difference creates a tension of danger where the man could hurt the woman easily, even just by accident (though this is reduced somewhat by the trend towards fitter women). The best sex has a slight hint of physical danger to it, almost wrestling, flexing, the man hunting the woman and doing what he wants with his willing prey. This may be - but if this is the form of sexuality, it creates an undertone of inequality which seeps into higher forms of interaction. The "vive la difference" crowd will claim that you can have this in the bedroom, but still be equal colleagues in the conference room. They also claim that women can dress sexually and flirt at the office and still be respected. Not so, that's a fantasy. Even with the most well behaved people trying to not be sexist, as long as the dark secret life of passion is based on unequal roles, it will bubble up into ordinary life, and it will be even worse with people who's egos are not so well in control of their id.
Back to racism - Kristof also mentions Denzel Washington, who I've been thinking about lately after seeing a tiny bit of "Training Day" on TV. "Training Day" is just a horrendous movie, and Denzel does a really hillarious impersonation of a "street-smart thug", trying to talk like a black man from the 'hood or something. Denzel's abject failure to portray a stereotypical urban black male just drove home A) what a terrible actor he is, and B) how white-bread he is. And yet, Denzel is celebrated by all levels of society. He's doted on by women, admired by men, loved by the urban blacks and elite whites. It occurs to me that if Denzel were white, not only would he lose the acclaim of being a "black role model" or a "great black actor", he would simply be boring. That is, if you ignore his skin color, he's really just very bland, very ordinary, lacking any charisma or virility. All of his exoticism and masculinity derives from the color of his skin.