This post is going to be split into two parts, probably running over two days, depending on how late I feel like staying up. These days, I feel myself gravitating toward a stricter daily regiment to accommodate some exercise, a full day’s work interrupted only by doctor appointments, chores at home and a full night’s sleep. Ah, motherhood: bring it!
Two separate incidents, both of which happened on Wednesday, prompted me to think about why some black women get so upset about black men who intermarry. We don’t all do it, but let’s be honest: for some black women, the thought of a polished and accomplished black man loving, cherishing and bestowing all of his worldly goods on a white woman makes us see red.
Let me start with Part I. Somehow, during the course of my workday, I needed to check up on Harold Ford, Jr., the former congressman from Tennessee who made an unsuccessful run for a Senate seat two years ago. He comes from a prominent political family and until last April, was one of America’s most eligible bachelors – at least in the political circles.
Well, his bride is Emily Threlkeld, an obvious cutie who caught his eye, kept his attention and if she hasn’t already done so, will most likely quit her job at Caroline Herrera to keep his house and provide more Ford heirs. Sorry to be cynical, but isn’t that the eventual outcome for women who marry guys like Ford? Even Michelle Obama and Silda Spitzer, the latter being the wife of disgraced former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, with their Ivy League law degrees and six-figure, influential careers stepped off of those tracks to support their husbands’ political careers. No offense to young Emily, but in the grand scheme of things, her job for a fashion brand is far less important than what Michelle or Silda did for a living. Their careers were high powered, whereas Emily’s is high gloss.
At any rate, they got married last April and there was a round of griping from southern Blacks who were inevitably peeved at his choice. Not to mention the rumors about her being a beard and all. (It’s I good thing I was too tired to read all about that). I didn’t have to read far past headlines or lead paragraphs to get the gist of their arguments: Ford’s choice was a slight against black women, he’s not black enough, blah, blah. I’m not here to talk about the latter, but I do want to ask readers about the former.
I have noticed that successful black men on Ford’s level have a tendency to marry white women. That’s called choosing a trophy wife and it’s not unusual. All things being equal, meaning that his chosen bride is smart, industrious and is a nice person on some level, what else would you expect from a guy in a prominent political family with aspirations for national office? Although the preference for marrying only for love has been around for ages, we all have to admit that in elite circles, there is an element of convenience and propriety in a lot of marriages, and when you are a guy like Harold Ford, Jr., black or white, you are thrown together with women whose families might be well-connected in business, society or politics – or all three. If the woman lacks those connections, then at least she is well-to-do and has the looks to play the part. Knowing the history of this country, she will very likely be white or a very light-skinned black woman. Maybe that’s the source of black women’s angst. When an accomplished man does not choose a black woman as his wife, then maybe it’s a reminder of the ways in which mainstream American society has shut us out, or more importantly, how hard it would be for us to get an equal footing in American society and not always suffer as the underdog. I guess if I dwelt on things in that way, seeing a black man with a white woman would sting a little.
Even so, I don’t see why anyone should get upset, feel slighted, pushed aside, dumped on, betrayed or what have you. Only if she were an outright ding-dong would I look at him with the face: ‘What in the blazes do you see in her?’ Any black woman who decides to take Harold Ford, Jr.’s marriage as a personal affront should ask herself: was he yours first? Did Emily conjure any hussy charms to work on him just as he was about to pick out your ring and your house? And are you willing to put up with the Tennessee heat and that boatload of Ford family drama? If the answer is no then settle down, already. And look at the bright side: if he gets back into mainstream politics as governor of Tennessee or Senator or whatever and makes a complete and public ass of himself, it will be her – not you – who has to stand there with a smile plastered on her overly made up face to conceal the previous sleepless, emotional nights. She, not you, will draw the looks of sympathy as she watches her husband make a semi-contrite canned speech about how he’s ashamed of his actions and now pleads for all to respect his family’s privacy. She will be the subject of post-modern feminist essays on why, in this day and age, women keep falling back into the traditional role of the good wife, even when her husband has behaved like a scoundrel. And you won’t have to be the one who plays – for the whole country to gawk at – the role of the sassy black woman who backs her man into a corner for a tongue-lashing the whole neighborhood can hear! And let’s not even talk about how you’d keep the news cameras from filming you as you turn all of his belongings into a raging inferno.