(The Root) – A story about a Texas man who wants to marry anyone but a black woman is causing a bit of a buzz today, and it centers on Austin wedding photographer Larry Busby’s poorly written expression of that position on his website. His words are blunt, bordering on hateful.
I will not date a Black girl. I don’t care if she looks like Halle Berry, I will not ever date a Black girl. However, I will date any other race, Hispanic, Mexican, Spanish, Russian, Italian, French, European, White, whatever, anything except Black.
Most of all, they reinforce the values of a society that privileges whiteness, followed by anything close to whiteness, followed by blackness.
So, naturally, the story has triggered hurt feelings and frustration — even anger — because we all know that it just absolutely sucks to be judged and dismissed because of your race or any other characteristic you can’t control.
But despite the attention that the “Texas Man Seeks Wife, But Not A Black Wife” story is getting, I’d argue that the reaction is out of proportion.
Would it have been nicer if he stated only what he did want and just didn’t mention what he didn’t? Yes. Would it have been more polite if he simply didn’t respond to black women, or said he didn’t find himself attracted to them but wished them the best of luck? Sure. But it would have amounted to the same thing.
The headlines just as accurately could easily read: “Man Has Racial Preferences for Dating, Joins Majority of Americans.”
That’s not to say I don’t think Busby is racist. His explicit rejection of the infamous Halle Berry exception suggests that it’s not just that he’s been socialized to think that black woman can’t be conventionally attractive. It’s that no matter how she looks (and black women look a lot of different ways), and even if she’s been deemed one of the most beautiful woman in the world, he doesn’t want her because of the box she checks on the census and his biases against that box.
Which is dumb.
And also pretty common.
Dating — especially online dating — is fascinating in that it’s one of the last bastions of explicitly stated racial preferences. Whether by checking a Match.com box for ethnic preference, composing a Craigslist personals sentence doing the same or simply failing to respond to those who don’t have quite the right look (ahem, skin color), many who might claim not to see color among friends, colleagues or politicians don’t even pretend for a second when it comes to the search for love.
A 2009 study suggested that even when people don’t come out and say, “No black women” (OkCupid, the dating site that conducted the study, doesn’t allow users to check off explicit racial preferences), they act on it. The evidence: Black women sent the most messages, but got the fewest replies.
So, today’s story is another sad reminder about who gets the short end of the stick when people take to the Internet to look for love. But it’s just that. A reminder, not a scandal. It’s not even really an exposé of a uniquely bigoted individual. If anything, it’s just a portrait of someone who lacks compassion and fails to filter his biases.
It doesn’t make any more sense to be upset about this guy’s tacky list of requirements than it would to celebrate that this week’s other white male Internet antihero — Mr. “Babes, you’re 299 sandwiches away from a proposal” — was open to making a black woman his life partner and personal chef. (Nor does either man appear to represent a huge loss to women who aren’t in the running to marry them, but that’s another story.) Both are reminders that when it comes to a certain brand of Internet-fueled outrage, the best reaction is probably just to refocus, if you’re so inclined, on the underlying social realities that seem to be revealed.
And then be thankful that you can shut out the actors and their cringe-worthy discussion of life choices with a click of your mouse.
Jenée Desmond-Harris is The Root’s staff writer and White House correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.