Why I'm Still A Jill Scott Fan

My new friend is handsome, African-American, intelligent and seemingly wealthy. He is an athlete, loves his momma, and is happily married to a White woman. I admit when I saw his wedding ring, I privately hoped. But something in me just knew he didn't marry a sister. Although my guess hit the mark, when my friend told me his wife was indeed Caucasian, I felt my spirit...wince. I didn't immediately understand it. My face read happy for you. My body showed no reaction to my inner pinch, but the sting was there, quiet like a mosquito under a summer dress.
- Jill Scott

For me, going to the hair salon is fifty percent about actually getting my hair done, twenty percent about laughing with the other ladies at the shop, and thirty percent about catching up on all the issues of Jet, Ebony, and Essence that I've missed between appointments.  Which explains why I'm always so late when it comes to finding out about some celebrity "scandal" or "controversy," one example being Jill Scott's article on interracial dating in the March 2010 issue of Essence; I encourage you to read the entire piece for yourself.

In the article Scott discusses the internal sting felt by her and many other black women upon discovering that a handsome, successful black man is married to a white woman.  She emphatically denies that any of her feelings are rooted in prejudice toward any race or people group, but rather America's history of race, slavery, sex, and a Euro-centric standard of beauty.  The "wince" that Scott feels basically amounts to a sense of betrayal committed by black men against black women.  For black women to have served as the venerable paragon of the ride-or-die chick throughout history by literally and figuratively carrying the burdens, hopes, and pains of an entire people on our backs, a black man's "vote" for a white woman is essentially a "vote" against all of the black women who enabled him to become a success story. 

While I appreciate the historical context Scott provides in the commentary, the problem is that her story is incomplete.  Slavery is part of the African story in America, but it is not the only chapter.  Her article reminds me of a TED Talk given by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie entitled "The Danger of the Single Story."  The author recalls her first trip to Mexico and how American media coverage of the immigration debate wrongly colored her view about an entire country:

I remember walking around on my first day in Guadalajara; watching the people going to work, rolling up to tiers in the marketplace, smoking, laughing.  I remember at first feeling slight surprise, and then, I was overwhelmed with shame.  I realized that I had been so immersed in the media coverage of Mexicans, that they had become one thing in my mind: abject immigrant.  I had bought into the single story of Mexicans and I could not have been more ashamed of myself.  So that is how to create a single story: show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.

Similarly, to recall the history of blacks in America as only about race, sex, slavery, and a Euro-centric standard of beauty robs a people of its dignity and common sense of humanity.  So while it is true that "the Black slave woman was overworked, beaten, raped and farmed out like cattle to be mated,"  it is equally true that people, black and non-black "struggled together, mourned together, starved together, braved the hoses and vicious police dogs and died untimely on southern back roads together."  Personally, I am eternally grateful to the Washington, DC couple who gave a whole new meaning to the motto "Virginia is for Lovers." 

Scott's article received praise, derision, and claims of racism.  And while I disagree with the premise upon which she bases her opinion, I can appreciate her honesty and willingness to speak what many people think and feel but are to scared to admit out loud.  I am still a Jill Scott fan because she kept it real.  And this world could use a little more reality.


10 comments:

  1. I think that Jill Scott and many other black women need to concentrate on their own lives, and not concern themselves about black men with non-black women. That is their choice. We must stop being mammies, these men are grown. Wincing, crying and moaning will not stop black men from being with non-black women. Life is too short, far too short to concentrate on black men and what they do!

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  2. @ValeriesWorld
    Thanks for visiting and sharing.
    So while writing this, I came across an interview that Jill Scott did on CNN about the article. You can view it at http://youtu.be/72b5UupN-Nw
    I thought it was interesting that she doesn't feel this way when she's in London or Paris or Holland, just when she's in the United States. So I wonder if her critique has more to do with her feelings about some aspects of American society than her feelings about interracial love. Just a thought.

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  3. Usual cultural hangups concerning IR (or anything else) become a non issue when you visit another country. Everything would be so new, you'd be looking around to see the differences between your culture and theirs, not scrutinizing who's with who. I'm living in Ireland with my irish husband (I'm a black women) and I can tell you they have their own hangups to worry about. :-)

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  4. @Anonymous
    Wow, you're reading this from Ireland?! I'm touched!
    Thanks for visiting and for your comments, they really resonated with me. So many other countries have histories involving slavery, war, genocide, violence, segregation, etc. exacted by one group upon another and yet when we Americans travel to those places, we tend to have different feelings about certain social dynamics than when we're in the States. I think the extent to which you are truly embedded in another country and culture really makes a difference and helps you make more critical observations (rather than just passing through).

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  5. Your blog is so interesting...I'm really glad you've joined The High Calling. I can't wait for you to jump in to some of our conversations! :)

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  6. I found your blog this morning via TheHighCalling.org. I'm a white male and work for a campus ministry organization that cares about cross-cultural ministry (in all respects). I'm ignorant of so many things, but the topic draws me in, and with each new learning I'm able to rejoice that it isn't too late for me to find better understanding. This comment really struck me:
    "...a black man's 'vote' for a white woman is essentially a 'vote' against all of the black women who enabled him to become a success story."
    I've never thought of this, and I won't assume it's true for all black men who make this decision, but it does make me pause.

    And it makes me feel a bit insecure, since I've never been "voted" for by a black woman.

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  7. @Dena
    Thank you so much for such a warm welcome to THC. Looking forward to jumping into the fray too!

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  8. @Sam
    Lol. Don't feel insecure about that! You never know, someone could've been admiring from a distance!
    Thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to share your thoughts. If even just one reader comes away from this site laughing or thinking, then it's been a success.

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  9. Hello there, I sort of stumbled across your blog via beyondblackwhite's blog and I must say I am pleasantly surprised by your take on different interracial facets in America and Africa. I am Kenyan and I have studied, worked and lived in Boston and now I am in GA. I date interracially and my experiences thus far warrant a series of books. It's always refreshing to read and understand another's perspective when it comes to similar experiences. Your deeply introspective and delving tone drew me in instantly and I am now reading your older blogs, definitely my new addiction.
    About this piece I read a little bit about her take on interracial dating/marriage and took on the writer's opinion without taking time to read the entire article, and for that I am deeply ashamed. Seeing how you laid out her point of view and encouraged reading and listening to the interview in it's entirety, I applaud you. I can now see where she was coming from and truly I feel her "wince". I have no problem seeing white women with black men, as my experiences with race and racism are very different from those of black women in America who grew up with the scourge and vagaries of slavery.
    I agree with the whole philosophy of life being too short to be caught up in whom total strangers decide to date, but I will not disallow anyone's opinion or lessen their feelings on such a grave issue. Maybe one day soon the past shall be laid to rest and we will exist in racial harmony and lovingly and openly date whom we want?

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