In all the hysteria around the dating lives of single black women, there's always this discussion of whether white men, and to some extent black men, actually find black women attractive. Many factors, stretching across races and political ideology, are at work here. There is history--the corollary to the white supremacist notion of lazy and stupid black men, has always been overly masculine, coarse, unattractive black women. There is a peculiar, but human, reaction to demographics: interracial marriage has grown exponentially since the '60s, but black men marrying non-black women is still a relatively rare event. But we'd rather obsess over the motives of the eight percent of married black men who have non-black spouses, and pretend that those fictional motives say something about the remaining 92 percent do not.
This is the black version of the kind of hysteria that that tends to crop up in women's magazines ("13 reasons why you're inadequate"). And there's more--the lower marriage rate of black women, old angst between both genders, and the broader sense that the black experience is somehow different and perverted. But with all of that said, I think it's worth remembering that a relationship is work between two individuals, and that many of us have a bias toward minimizing that work.
I once had a white co-worker who in a candid moment, talked about a black woman who he dated for few months. He liked her quite a bit, but ultimately ended the relationship because he could not cotton to the idea of raising biracial kids--and thus black kids--in this country. It was work that, when he looked into his heart, he realized he just wasn't willing to do.
Though we came at it from different places, I instantly related to his story. As I said in comments last week, I like to think that if I were single, I would seriously date whoever. In fact, when seriously imagine myself dating interracially, the further I move away from black, the more work I imagine. To be crude, the scale runs roughly from Puerto-Ricans in East Harlem (a minimal amount of labor) to a blonde from Texas (Herculean). You think about the work of an ordinary relationship, and you pile on to it, the looks on the street, the awkward explaining to family, the extra weight of failure, and you just say "Why bother?"
I think, though I don't know, that for a number of white men looking at black women, there must be a similar thought process. The black-white chasm is unlike anything else in this country, hence comparing dating between whites and Latinos or whites and Asians doesn't do it justice. None of those relationships bring to bear the crushing weight of the legacy of white supremacy in the manner that black-white relationships do. It's intimidating to bring that with you into a relationship, and I suspect, while all the factors I listed are at work, equally at work is the "Why bother?" impulse.
Again, this is the kind of post that explains but does not excuse. In point of fact, all relationships are work. It's not clear that, say, getting past race will be any harder than getting past the fact that your spouse doesn't like to drink or drinks too much, or that he or she goes to church every week and you haven't been in five years. I tend to think that after a few months race likely recedes into the background and you move to the mundane work of building a life
But that said, I think women should remember that men--all men--are often fucking scared and intimidated. I know a lot of women are offended by lad magazines, but their subscription base says a lot about precisely how scared men are. And not "scared of a commitment" or "intimated by your success," but literally scared of women. No one likes rejection. No man walks into the bar and says "You know what will be awesome? If I strike out repeatedly tonight." Very often, men--no matter the race--don't approach the woman they're most attracted to--they approach the woman who they think they have the best shot at.
For the record, I think that's generally a mistake, but it's an understandable one. When we look at all these factors, and try to suss out what's actually going on, I think it's worth turning down the temperature a little and remembering that you're talking about human beings.
*The picture is of the French politician Rama Yade, who serves in Sarkozy's government.
Beginning in July of this year, most everywhere we look, there will be a giant number on our food. The change will affect hundreds of thousands of edible products, and, so, hundreds of millions of people. It will affect the way we think about food for decades. (This update is the first in more than 20 years—so long ago that the FDA earnestly describes its current label design as “iconic.”)
Current nutrition labels, legally required on all packaged foods, are to be be replaced with the explicit purpose of improving people’s health. As Michelle Obama said at the unveiling of the new labels on Friday, “Very soon, you will no longer need a microscope, a calculator, or a degree in nutrition to figure out whether the food you’re buying is actually good for our kids.”
The author Moira Weigel argues that the various courtship rituals of the past hundred-odd years have reflected the labor-market conditions of their day.
Love, it turns out, has always been a lot of work.
While every generation will lament anew the fact that finding love is hard, history seems to indicate that this particular social ritual never gets any easier or less exciting. In Labor of Love, a new book documenting the history of dating in America, Moira Weigel, a Ph.D. candidate in comparative literature at Yale University, confirms this lament: Since dating was “invented,” it has always been an activity that required a lot of effort.
As part of her research, Weigel read dating-advice books from the 1800s and hundreds of articles on dating from teen and women’s magazines over the years, and she found two common themes: First, there is usually an older part of the population that perceives dating to be “dying,” or, at least, as not being done “appropriately.” Second, Weigel found that the way people date has almost always been tied to the market forces of their era.
Petty political fights distract from the Vermont senator’s goal of a long-lasting movement.
Bernie Sanders’s beliefs have been obvious from the start. He thinks wealthy elites exert too much influence over American politics. He wants the U.S. government to lessen income inequality. He believes climate change is a pressing threat to the world. The clarity and overarching ambition of his agenda has been central to his appeal and expectations-defying political success so far.
If Sanders wants his political revolution to last, he will need to win widespread support for his ideas well into the future. Yet as the primary election draws to a close, the campaign has increasingly made arguments that may undercut the long-term viability of the movement that has coalesced around the Vermont senator.
Narcissism, disagreeableness, grandiosity—a psychologist investigates how Trump’s extraordinary personality might shape his possible presidency.
In 2006, Donald Trump made plans to purchase the Menie Estate, near Aberdeen, Scotland, aiming to convert the dunes and grassland into a luxury golf resort. He and the estate’s owner, Tom Griffin, sat down to discuss the transaction at the Cock & Bull restaurant. Griffin recalls that Trump was a hard-nosed negotiator, reluctant to give in on even the tiniest details. But, as Michael D’Antonio writes in his recent biography of Trump, Never Enough, Griffin’s most vivid recollection of the evening pertains to the theatrics. It was as if the golden-haired guest sitting across the table were an actor playing a part on the London stage.
“It was Donald Trump playing Donald Trump,” Griffin observed. There was something unreal about it.
The film, released 25 years ago, is best known as an icon of early-’90s feminism. But it feels just as fresh today as it did in 1991.
Thelma & Louise is a movie that, like The Sixth Sense and Casablanca and Citizen Kane and a handful of other classics, is best known for its ending. “Let’s not get caught,” Thelma tells her best-friend-turned-partner-in-crime, after their run from the law ends with their, well, being caught. “Let’s keep going.” And keep going they do—driving their dust-covered Thunderbird (worst-kept spoiler in history alert) right into the Grand Canyon.
Flight, ending in flight: It’s a satisfyingly symbolic conclusion to a film that is laden with symbolism—about feminism, about female friendship, about a world that can have such little use for either. As Callie Khouri, the film’s screenwriter, explained of that final scene: “They flew away, out of this world and into the mass unconscious. Women who are completely free from all the shackles that restrain them have no place in this world. The world is not big enough to support them.”
Why aren’t the critics comparing Donald Trump to a fascist acknowledging that the office he seeks is too powerful?
Wake up, establishment centrists: Donald Trump is coming!
After the Vietnam War and Watergate and the spying scandals uncovered by the Church Committee and the Nixon Administration cronies who nearly firebombed the Brookings Institution, Americans were briefly inclined to rein in executive power—a rebuke to Richard Nixon’s claim that “if the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.” Powerful committees were created to oversee misconduct-prone spy agencies. The War Powers Resolution revived a legislative check on warmaking. “In 34 years,” Vice President Dick Cheney would lament to ABC News in a January 2002 interview, “I have repeatedly seen an erosion of the powers and the ability of the president of the United States to do his job. I feel an obligation... to pass on our offices in better shape than we found them to our successors."
On the Colorado River, one of America’s largest reservoirs may be doing more harm than good.
Wedged between Arizona and Utah, less than 20 miles up river from the Grand Canyon, a soaring concrete wall nearly the height of two football fields blocks the flow of the Colorado River. There, at Glen Canyon Dam, the river is turned back on itself, drowning more than 200 miles of plasma-red gorges and replacing the Colorado’s free-spirited rapids with an immense lake of flat, still water called Lake Powell, the nation’s second largest reserve.
When Glen Canyon dam was built, in the middle of the last century, giant dams were championed as a silver bullet promising to elevate the American West above its greatest handicap: a perennial shortage of water. These monolithic wonders of engineering would bring wild rivers to heel, produce cheap, clean power, and stockpile water necessary to grow a thriving economy in the middle of the desert. And because they were often remotely located they were rarely questioned.
For centuries, philosophers and theologians have almost unanimously held that civilization as we know it depends on a widespread belief in free will—and that losing this belief could be calamitous. Our codes of ethics, for example, assume that we can freely choose between right and wrong. In the Christian tradition, this is known as “moral liberty”—the capacity to discern and pursue the good, instead of merely being compelled by appetites and desires. The great Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant reaffirmed this link between freedom and goodness. If we are not free to choose, he argued, then it would make no sense to say we ought to choose the path of righteousness.
Today, the assumption of free will runs through every aspect of American politics, from welfare provision to criminal law. It permeates the popular culture and underpins the American dream—the belief that anyone can make something of themselves no matter what their start in life. As Barack Obama wrote in The Audacity of Hope, American “values are rooted in a basic optimism about life and a faith in free will.”
Three Atlantic staffers discuss “The Door,” the fifth episode of the sixth season.
Every week for the sixth season of Game of Thrones, Christopher Orr, Spencer Kornhaber, and Lenika Cruz will be discussing new episodes of the HBO drama. Because no screeners are being made available to critics in advance this year, we'll be posting our thoughts in installments.