Washington Redskins player Albert Haynesworth has been indicted on one charge of sexual abuse after a Feb. 13 incident at the W Hotel, in which he allegedly fondled a cocktail waitress’ breast. According to the indictment, Haynesworth told a security guard, “I didn’t touch her” and that the waitress was “a little black girl” and he “doesn’t even like black girls.” Later, according to the indictment, Hanyesworth told detectives “I know what this is about, she is just upset I have a white girlfriend. I couldn’t tell you the last time I dated a black girl. She was trying to get with me.”
Oh my. Despite obvious problems with such a “victim-blaming” defense, Haynesworth’s remarks touch upon a sensitive topic: interracial dating and black athletes dating white women.
This really came to the fore nationally at the height of the Kardashians’ fame, when two of famous sisters were dating black athletes. The women, who although aren’t technically white, were still viewed by many as fitting the stereotype of black athletes preferring white women to black women, spurring plenty of nasty comments.
But these are high-profile individuals. If you look at the country as a whole, interracial dating and marriage is becoming more acceptable: a record 14.6 percent of new marriages in 2008 were interracial. But, 22 percent of black men married someone outside of their race, compared to 9 percent of black women who did so. And white-black pairings overall only made up 11 percent of those 2008 interracial marriages.
Attitudes of people are changing, though. The Pew Center found that almost all millennials — 18 to 29-year-olds — are accepting of interracial dating and marriage, and this trend holds true of almost every racial group with no significant difference between them.
Analyzing individual relationships to make a broader political point can be tricky, as Ta-Nehisi Coates notes. He wrote last year that one big problem when talking about black men dating white women is the “kind of collectivist approach toward something as individual and private as marriage.” He continues:
I’m a black dude hooked up with a black woman–but I don’t sleep with ‘black people.’ ‘Black people’ don’t pay half of my rent. ‘Black people’ didn’t take my son to tennis lessons this week. ‘Black people’ didn’t support me while I was trying to make it a writer. An individual, with her own specific hopes, dreams and problems, did those things. Now it’s true that she’s black. But the qualities that allowed her to do those things–compassion, commitment, vision–are not ‘black’ qualities.
Again, I’m not trying to demean my folks. But we often take this abstract, hazy view of an institution that, like anything else worthwhile, is mostly about dirt, work and tedium. Relationships are not (anymore, at least) a collectivist act. They really come down to two individuals doing business in ways that we will never be privy to.