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Black Women, Athletes and Why Ocho Cinco Can't Win

Posted by JD on Thursday, July 15, 2010 , under , | comments (13)

Chad Ocho Cinco's new dating 'reality' show "Ultimate Catch" debuted last Sunday. But before it ever hit the airwaves, the fact that only two black girls out of the initial 85 were chosen to compete while the rest of the contestants are of white, latina, or ambiguous decent. [In case you're interested, the owner of Ethnicity Talent who casted the show blogged about what really went down on the set. Click here to read.]

Since the showed aired, the conversation about Chad's preferences has intensified with many black women expressing anger at Chad's seeming lack of interest in people who look like them.  As these conversations typically go, the subject starts with one athlete's preferences, then extends out to other athletes, then black male celebrities, then black men in general. Pretty soon, all the bases have been covered:

  • Date who you want as long as it's not a fetish
  • Date who you want as long as you don't put down black women
  • It's unnatural for people to have a preference for people who don't look like them, it's evidence of self-hate
  • Black men put women of other races on a pedestal
  • It hurts to have the men you desire (meaning black men in general) believe that you are somehow beneath them and other women are a prize 
  • Some black men think black women are good enough to make babies with but not good enough to marry [Note: All 3 mothers of Chad's children are black. Yes I said all THREE.]

Okay, got it.

I have two main issues with black athletes who typically date outside of their race being labeled as having a "preference" when, unlike Chad Ochocinco, they haven't themselves made any statement indicating that that is the case. Both issues relate to the ability or lack of ability of black women to be in the company of these men as often as other races of women are. 

1. Black women are dissed for pursuing athletes. When it comes to well-known black men, athletes in particular,  dating outside their race, it's interesting to see black women rush to stick up for other black women when they believe black women are being rejected. Too bad no one rushes to black women's defense when they are putting themselves in positions to meet these men. 

Any time there is a event or club appearance that is going to feature athletes, all of those women get lumped into the category of groupie or ho or golddigger. It doesn't matter that your intention may be to just go and hang with your friends, you're going to be painted under that umbrella and negative comments will follow. I have even seen people call women who have athlete boyfriends gold diggers even though they have no idea how they met. I was, quite frankly, appalled at the comments on blogs and on my twitterfeed about the Basketball Wives. I didn't like how comfortable black women were referring to other black women as whores and golddiggers having as yet no real insight into the relationships between those women and the athletes they dated.

When I've been out hanging with athletes I see more "other" types of women making a point to get close to these men. One night out in VIP at Mansion in MIA and you can see right away why so many athletes are stepping outside of the black box.

It must be noted that athletes are not the only types of men who have groupies. Many times athletes are groupies themselves [video model meet athlete, athlete meet video model]. Yet the black woman as groupie gets the lions share of attention and the blame for that belongs squarely in black people's hands. 

Conclusion: you want athletes to go out of their way to date black women but you don't want black women to go out of their way to date athletes. Okay. Gotcha.

2. Don't disregard the issue of access. Last summer, Chad was playing around on Ustream during training camp and discussing interracial dating with his then teammate Laverneus Coles. Coles, who at the time had a girlfriend I believe was Black and Moroccan (if my memory serves me correctly), made a great point about access to athletes. He said that when he's going about his daily routine, he doesn't see a lot of black women. 

Now, on its face you may think that's not true. But it absolutely is. When the Cincinnati Bengals played the Baltimore Ravens last year in October, I was invited out to dinner by Chad's then girlfriend. At the dinner Cincinnati staff, family, and friends (all white), and an HBO producer I believe from the Hard Knocks series (white). The black people were myself, Chad, and Coach Hue Jackson. 

That got me thinking...whenever I have been around professional athletic team staff they have mostly been white people and quite a few white women. Then I begin thinking of the PR people and managers that work with athletes and IF they are women they are typically white or even Latina. 

I took that further and applied it to college. I went to a predominantly white school that has produced quite a few professional athletes. At my alma mater there is a group of girls that  are delegates to the football team. I remember there being MAYBE 1 or 2 black girls working as delegates while I was there. I never even considered becoming a delegate and neither did any of my black friends. Additionally, not very many black women majored in kinesiology or sports management, degree areas that put you in close contact with future or present athletes. 

Conclusion: People largely date who's around them. Black women don't always enjoy the access to these men that other races of women do. 

To speak to Chad specifically, even had he not expressed a preference, there was no way for him to win this round with black women. Right now he's being bashed because he is appearing to "reject" black women. But if he would have had an all black cast of women, the criticism of him would have been "Why do you have all those black women on TV acting "ghetto." Why do those women have to represent us?" [If you want an answer to that question, just ask yourself what type of woman has 3 weeks to spare from work and no reputation to damage?]

To bring this all together...

I realize that this issue is deeper than Chad, deeper than athletes and deeper than Deepwater Horizon. I know that those black men who appear on TV are merely representative and that black womens' main concern about this issue is the regular guys that may have non-black preferences which they believe limits their dating pool. 

The problem with being angry about it is that if your contention is that a man who never dates black women may be self-hating, the next thing to consider is how that self-hate came about. Self-hate doesn't appear out of thin air. So let's say, there is a black man Terrell Owens  who doesn't date black women because he was teased growing up and black women gave him no play before he had money. In order for that man to change you would need him to 1. recognize he has a preference (easy enough) 2. Recognize that preference as a symptom of something deeper  (good luck) 3. Work to combat that preference (ah hell no).

With all the women out there in the world, asking a man to perform self-reflection on a choice that is non-damaging to HIM as an individual seems like a waste of time to me. And if you believe that the self-hate is due to socialization then it seems sort of unfair to single out black men for exhibiting this particular symptom. 

Lots of people all around the world are intrigued by what they consider to be exotic. The difference with black women is that we've been fed a line of "black men are special" all of our lives whereas black men have not received the same message about black women. If it's fair to ask black men to evaluate how socialization has impacted their dating choices, it's just as fair to question those black women who ONLY want to date black men (a choice that actually DOES have consequences). And no one wants to do that right?