#AskCam: Decolonizing Desire And Desirability

Home Ask Cam (archived) #AskCam: Decolonizing Desire And Desirability

Welcome to #AskCam, a column where sex and intersectionality are not divided but welcomed together.

Dear Cam,

Am I a bad Black person for being in a relationship with someone who’s white? I feel like with everything going on in the world, it’s almost looked down upon that I have a white partner. How can I still be pro-Black and love someone who is not?

Not So Black and White


This is a really important question to ask, especially right now. It’s almost like every time we turn around, there’s another instance in the news about anti-Blackness. R. Kelly. The Breakfast Club. Charlottesville. Doesn’t thinking about these events already exhaust you and fill you with anger, because it does for me.

It can be hard to even think about sex and love, let alone engage in it when there’s so much work to be done fighting and dismantling white supremacy. But understand that by asking this question, you are fighting white supremacy. Wanting to have the sex and love life that you want is part of that fight, and I encourage you to remember that.

But you’re probably wondering: why am I mentioning this in a sex column? Because there is no separation. Our Blackness and our sexuality are intricately linked, and we have to be aware of that if we want to truly claim the sex lives that we want, as BIPOC.

I wrote a while back about Black men dating white women and if we should really be giving a f*ck, and I want to reiterate a point that I mentioned there. To answer your question directly, NSBaW: No, you’re not anti-Black because your partner is white. Being pro-Black is a personal, individual, ever-evolving journey that I don’t think anyone but you has the right to define. But I do think that it’s important to understand the ways that white supremacy play a role in your relationship, because whether your partner was white or not, that would still be the question I would point you towards answering.

As BIPOC, we’re taught to side with white supremacy in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. With desirability and attraction, it can be more subconscious that we’re upholding these things. A big part is the idea of preferences: most people think about “No fats, No femmes, No Blacks” on terrible racist Grindr profiles, but often preferences that are rooted in desirability politics look a lot more subtle than that. It can be in non-monogamous relationships when a BIPOC can be dating multiple people but centers or gives primary status to the white partner by default. It can be when we dismiss people as potential new partners solely because of their appearance — because the further away from Eurocentric beauty standards they are, the less desirable we find them.

These instances may seem obvious or removed from your situation, but they also reinforce the main issue with centering white supremacy in desirability — it establishes these things as the unconscious default when that’s not true. Our desire is a conscious, living, evolving entity that we can shift towards something that is more ethical than not. Most of us have never really sat down to examine where our desire comes from or how they play into upholding white supremacy, even if we are BIPOC ourselves.

It’s worth asking yourself the difficult questions about your relationship. I’m not invalidating the feelings that you have for your partner — I’m trusting that you do care about them, otherwise they wouldn’t be your partner — but examine the more subtle things about your relationship for a moment: When it comes to labor in the relationship — emotional included — is it equally shared or are you providing more without really thinking about it? Do you find other BIPOC desirable — even if they look drastically different from you or from Eurocentric beauty standards? Do feelings of superiority or x by having a white partner as opposed to a Black one? Do you ever feel that you have to “convince” your partner that you are more than just your Blackness

These are simply beginning questions, of course. But they can help you to begin seeing your desire as evolving and active rather than unconscious and default. At the heart of it, decolonizing desirability means taking away the individualism of desire and bringing it back to the collective. Desirability can still be a weapon to uphold white supremacy, and if we truly want sex and love lives that are removed from that, we have to do the work to actively decenter and disrupt it from our lives.

In a recent article on The Root it was stated that “there’s a difference between loving white people and loving whiteness”. You are not bad, or wrong, or evil, or self-hating for having a white partner. But you are not absolved from doing the work of ensuring that white supremacy isn’t the foundation of which your relationship is standing on, NSBaW.

There’s a lot of work to be done here, but you can do it.




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