By AVERY BRAXTON (@Ave_Braxton)
Photo credit goes to obsev.com.
After hitting the game-winning 3-pointer over Stephen Curry to propel the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Golden State Warriors, guard Kyrie Irving decided to celebrate with what Twitter is calling a “Milk Yacht party” off the coast of Miami, Florida.
The 24-year old guard from Australia seemed to invite only white women to the yacht party. A video from the party surfaced recently and shows Irving and friends among a plethora of white women in swimwear dancing, enjoying drinks and seemingly having an all-around good time.
It’s just a party, right? No big deal. Twitter seemed to think differently, particularly “black” twitter. Twitter users came out of the woodwork to either criticize or praise the young point guard. To get a taste of what the conversations looked like, here’s a look:
Pictures have since surfaced of black women at the party, but the damage was done. Irving heard about the controversy and fired back at haters and critics with a post on his Instagram page.
The controversy over what Irving did is not a new one. Granted, Irving has a history of dating women who aren’t black and has never bashed black women in any capacity.
The black community has always been passionate about the stance of its professional athletes, celebrities and its black men -- in general -- dating outside of race, particularly with white men and women.
Black men, in particular, have an ongoing stereotype that once they reach success and find money, they leave their black roots and find themselves a white woman. While it’s certainly not true in all cases, the reason stereotypes exist is because there is truth to them. The topic has been documented in conversations ranging from normal chatter to scholarly debates.
Pop culture, especially, can play a role in the debacle. Kanye West’s 2005 hit, “Gold Digger,” described the perceived problem perfectly: “And when he get on he leave you’re a** for a white girl.” West later put himself in the same box when he married Kim Kardashian.
Now, of course the question attached to that statement is: What’s wrong with white women? The answer, quite simply, is nothing. But if you ask many black women, the question will be, “What’s wrong with black women?”
The connotation tagged to a black man being seen with a white woman is that he is bashing his race, doesn’t appreciate black women or can’t handle a black woman. In a time where the black woman is perhaps the most celebrated while simultaneously hated on the most, seeing men of their own culture with a white woman is a slap to the face.
Alex Williams, 19, said it’s troubling to see because black men often times say they want a black woman that will stay down for them.
“It’s really frustrating because while we are young, black men love to preach that ‘ride or die’ mentality. They’ll have the girl, but when they’re reaping the benefits they drop her like a hot potato,” Williams said.
Williams added that with the way black women are treated on a daily basis, it’s hurtful to see black men not backing their own women. If they can’t reap the benefits from outside, they should at least be able to enjoy the comfort of praise from men of their own race, right?
The stigma around black women, however, is that they have too much “attitude,” that their expectations of what a black man should and should not be can be a turn off and that, in general, white girls are just more approachable.
Kelly Brooks, 22 and a football player at Mercer University, said that his preference for white women is simply a product of his upbringing -- a factor he thinks is in play for a lot of black men who enjoy a white woman’s company.
“I find them more approachable. I went to high school with them, so I’m more familiar with their ways,” Brooks said.
Brooks added that he does like black women, too, but is far more selective when it comes to dating them. His standards differ with black women because of the influences of his mother and grandparents.
“If I bring home a black girl, she has to have A’s across the board because my family -- being from the same race/ethnic background -- will relate to her on a different level than some nice Caucasian female,” Brooks said.
Brooks added that black women who see him with white women automatically assume he only dates white women. He says that is not at all the case.
They’ll have the girl, but when they’re reaping the benefits they drop her like a hot potato." - Alex Williams, 19
Black men have a tendency to take their parents’ opinion into account, especially their mother’s. Brooks said he’s never brought a white girl home to his mother.
“She’s the most judgmental person in my family. [I] love her to death, but it’s true,” Brooks said.
In a lot of black families, bringing home a white girl can be a cardinal sin. A lot of black parents -- read: black mothers -- disapprove of their child dating someone whose heritage and culture has brought a ton of strife to African-Americans. For black mothers, it can be a slap in the face -- a “why is someone who looks and acts like me not good enough for my son?”
But again, the question is why do black athletes have such a liking for white women? Nadine Benjamin, 56, said she thinks it’s just a product of being around something you haven’t seen before.
“Black men, historically, have been limited to the women who are available to them…You are limited to your immediate surroundings,” Benjamin said. “When you have significant improvement in your looks through athletics … or professional black men, as well, all of a sudden they have a wider variety of women available to them.”
Brooks, a football player, had a similar sentiment. He said many of his teammates come out of high school and are simply looking to step out of their comfort zone and see what else is available to them.
“I think it’s safe to say that. It’s kind of taboo and a little daring, as well, when your parents are opposed to it,” Brooks said.
When black athletes head off to college, especially those who leave poorer backgrounds, and are introduced to predominantly white institutions -- PWI -- they are placed in an environment where they are already popular and celebrated for the success they are expected to bring to the school.
In turn, the pool of fish -- read: white women -- available to them grows exponentially. In the reverse case, Benjamin said, white men have never had an availability issue.
“Everybody is available to them. They can truly go with whoever they fancy,” she said. “You make use of the opportunity if you’ve never had it before.”
Another log in the fire of black dating is colorism. For years, the black community has made it apparent, consciously or not, that having lighter skin seems to make for a better person. How often are light skinned woman praised for the “European features”? Lighter skin also typically means a smaller nose, lighter colored eyes --green or hazel, maybe even blue in rare cases -- and long, wavy hair.
While the black community will never admit to admiring these traits, our praise of light skin makes it obvious. However, that’s not to say the black community doesn’t love its own features and is sharply protective of what it feels it has cornered the market on “black features”: a nice butt -- read: fat a** -- full lips and hair extensions.
We are quick to cry out when a non-person of color adopts one of our trademarks and tries to brand it as something new. (Kylie Jenner, we are looking at you…hard.)
Dark girls often look to each other to praise themselves. Everyone else seems to fetishize light skin.
“It’s disgusting. People sexualize light skin and make it better than what it is,” said Thais Ackerman, 19.
Ackerman, light-skinned herself, thinks the obsession with lighter skin is ridiculous. She argued that the obsession is a reflection of what we see in the media.
It would seem that black athletes are simply following the trends that have gone all the way back to plantation-era America. Major sports writer Michael Dyson said the color phenomenon is the reason the media is so quick to praise Stephen Curry while simultaneously demonizing LeBron James.
While white America loves Curry, black America tends to have cause for concern. Dyson outlined it in an article for The Undefeated:
The politics of shade have shadowed black folk from the time we set foot in North America. Curry’s fame has upped the ante: Suspicion surrounds him because of his light skin, and because he’s been lauded by both the NBA and media establishments. The subliminal message has become explicit: Curry is a brother we may not be able to embrace because the powers that be embrace him too. Curry is not the first black man who makes some black folk uneasy because America loves him as much as we do, but he may be the most popular contemporary figure evoking that dilemma. And Curry’s color is at the heart of that dilemma.
The dilemma with black men dating white women is coded around the same argument. Black men have a tendency to idealize around lighter-skinned women and, more drastically, white women because it is forbidden fruit. A white-dominated media praises white women, and black men may be subconsciously enjoying something that is described as taboo, at best, in their communities.
At the end of the day, black women have cause for concern. Black men and black athletes dating white women does not seem to a trend that is going away. However, there is reason to believe that it is hyped up to be a lot more prevalent than reality suggests.
The first families of several leagues, particularly the NBA, involve black love within race. Stephen and Ayesha Curry have become the darlings of the league; LeBron James and his wife Savannah, like the Currys, have been together since high school.
As much as black love may seem like it’s in danger, the black community knows black love will never really die.