In 2005, Kanye West articulated the perceived inevitability of successful black men leaving black women for white women in “Gold Digger”—a song 1) in which he was speaking specifically to black women and 2) that he created while he was likely dating either Alexis Phifer or Brooke Crittendon (actual black women). Considering Kanye’s present life, “When he get on he leave your ass for a white girl” might be planet Earth’s peak meta moment.
That line is also based on a very popular and very compelling lie. Despite Ye’s assertion, when we (black men) choose to marry, we overwhelmingly choose to marry black women, and this is true regardless of income or educational status. Still, there’s nothing wrong with dating or marrying interracially. Date the rainbow! Shit, date a pack of Skittles! I’m just here to bust myths and chew bubble gum, and I’m all out of bubble gum.
Anyway, we exist today at a time when many of our most prominent black male athletes are very outspoken about racial-justice issues. This isn’t a particularly new concept. In the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, men such as Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar regularly used their status and their platforms to speak out against racial injustice.
But in the ’80s, ’90s and early aughts, those types of political and polarizing stances from the most famous athletes seemed a bit less common, a dynamic best exemplified by the two biggest and most powerful black athletes in that time span: Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.
To be fair, this characterization doesn’t encapsulate what men like M.J. and Tiger did (and are currently doing) behind the scenes. And that’s kind of the point. What happens behind the scenes definitely matters, but that’s just not the same thing as speaking out publicly and putting your name and your income on the line in your athletic prime.
Today, however, when you list the black male athletes who are legitimate superstars with immediately recognizable names and faces and millions in endorsements—men such as LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade—none of them have hesitated to use their platforms to speak up. And then there are the men like Draymond Green and Michael Bennett, who aren’t quite superstars but are known to be extremely vocal about injustice. And then, of course, there’s Colin Kaepernick.
Of the men I just named, five of them (Bron, Steph, Chris Paul, D. Wade and Michael Bennett) are married, and each of the five is married to a black woman. According to the Googles, Draymond is engaged to a black woman, Durant, um, was, and Kaepernick’s girlfriend is the radio and television personality Nessa Diab.
Granted, I don’t know the relationship status of every prominent black male athlete, but I can’t think of even one today who is both known for being outspoken about racial bias or police brutality and also married to a white woman.
Now, I’m not suggesting that marrying a white woman renders a black male athlete incapable of being progressive and politically active. Nor am I suggesting that marriage to a black woman automatically makes a black athlete Chokwe Antar Lumumba (and a black man doesn’t have to be married or even straight to fight for the cause!).
But it does seem like the black athletes who make the choice to date and/or marry black women are more likely to be connected to and publicly supportive of racial-justice movements (and the white male athletes married to black women, too).
Of course, I’m referring specifically to these men speaking out against racism and police misconduct. The athletes cited here haven’t been as vocal about #MeToo and movements concerning sexual or gender politics. Now, speaking out about just racial bias and police brutality is better than saying nothing about anything, but I would like to see these men use their considerable platforms and influence to support issues that disproportionately affect women and LGBTQ people, too.
Are these men more active because the black women in their lives are urging them to be? Or did these men choose to marry black women because they were already community-minded? Who knows? It’s truly a chicken-or-egg type of question. I’m just glad that the answer today isn’t “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”