As much as I try not to, I often find myself spending more time than I care to admit watching reality television. I absolve myself from total responsibility for my actions. It is hard to avoid. Whether it’s 500lb little people parenting sextuplets or aged rockers engaging in mass va-jay-jay testing (or dating shows… whatever), no matter which station I turn to I find myself drawn into the absurdity and calling my girlfriends to engage in mindless banter about what such-and-such did or did not do. This Sunday night was no different when I nestled up with a big piece of cake and watched NFL player, Chad Ochocinco’s newest reality show, “The Ultimate Catch.”
Now, if you’ve watched dating shows before, the premise is no different from the rest. Through “dates” and challenges, Ochocinco must eliminate a woman each week until in the end, he finds his “ultimate catch.” Although the premise of his show is nothing unique, what’s sparking somewhat of a stir is the noticeable absence of black women in his dating pool.
Earlier this week, I was watching The Wendy Williams show and Ochocinco was a guest. The visibly concerned talk show host pointedly asked Ochocinco to explain the absence of black women on his dating show. After gratuitously professing his love for black women, the NFL player explained he loved all women, not just black women. And for what it’s worth, Wendy was sure to point out that Ochocinco was also the proud parent of four children parented by three black women.
For what it’s worth.
A little later in the week, I read an interview with Ochocinco on Essence.com in which he offered a much more defensive answer. In response to a similar line of questioning he responded: “I’ve never heard other races complaining about their men dating outside of their race besides Black people. I hate that we continue to pull that race card. Experience life in general. It’s not that there’s not enough of us because I’m going to deal with y’all anyway, I always have. [People] make it an issue because it’s now on camera.” He went on to say he understood why black women may take issue with his choice but “but I still can’t appease you. I have a preference. I’m not trying to appease you on my show. I’m trying to find happiness for me and it doesn’t come from just dealing with one type of woman.”
So, I would absolutely be lying if I say I did not get a little irritated by Ochocinco’s response. But not for the reason you may thinking. I grew up in a very liberal household where my mother often dated men outside of her race. My brother is married to a woman of a different ethnicity and in the heart of my teenage years; I had posters of everyone from Brad Pitt to LL Cool J on my wall. Although I ultimately married a black man, I dated outside of my race in the past and never felt like less of a black woman for doing so. Call me crazy, I have always had a thing for good looking men who treated me well. That brand of man can come in a variety of packages. Suffice it to say, I am not opposed to interracial dating nor have I taken a personal stake it who other members of “my” race decide to date. As a mom of two boys, my primary concern for when they begin dating is that they are happy. Of course I noticed that the vast majority of women on his show were not black; I am proud to say I see color. However, I just don’t feel this sense of ownership over him or any other black man. I resented the fact that he addressed black women as if we all cared what he did or who he dated.
One of my closest girlfriends is Hispanic and has dated predominately black men for the majority of the fifteen years I have known her. Although we rarely talk about it, she has mentioned to me the “looks” she gets from black women on occasion when out on a date. Conversely, my girlfriend who has been in a long relationship with a white man has mentioned the warm reception she gets from white women when out with her beau. I can’t help but feel somewhat embarrassed. Why is it that as black women we are building this reputation for being less tolerant? Why does an NFL player have to explain his dating preference to us just because he is black? Am I remiss for not wanting to jump on the bandwagon to hoard black men for eligible black women, or save our race from sort of impending destruction?