When will New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush pop the question to his girlfriend, Kim Kardashian? There were rumors he'd propose after the Super Bowl. The Los Angeles Times blogged in an allusion to the imminent engagement, "Kim Kardashian and Reggie Bush Ring in Valentine's Day in Las Vegas." Earlier this week, Regis & Kelly inquired of Reggie, "Why do you think all of America wants the two of you to get married so desperately?" Wait, not so fast, Ripa.
There are some black women who find Reggie's infatuation with Kim disconcerting. Essence Magazine discovered this when its message board was flooded with angry comments after Reggie was revealed as the February cover about men who love black women. (A far better choice would've been the white crooner, Robin Thicke, who is married to the black actress Paula Patton). While much of the criticism was fair, Kim and by association, her sister and reality-TV co-star, Khloe, who's married to Los Angeles Laker Lamar Odom, were accused of the following:
Using Black Men
Some have suggested that for as much as Kim and Khloe emote, they are really only exploiting their black men. This is a problematic premise in that it supposes that black men aren't lovable. Reggie and Lamar are attractive, rich and obedient little puppies. What woman wouldn't love that? If anything, the sisters, who've always had enough money to live in Beverly Hills, drive Bentleys, and eschew traditional work, have historically advanced the careers of their boyfriends. Kim garnered the dubious "Superhead" distinction after a sex video surfaced of her giving a blowjob (among other things) to her then boyfriend Ray J. The tape was perfect timing for Brandy's little brother, who was fighting gay rumors. As for her current lover, it is unlikely Reggie's mediocre NFL stats are behind his TV appearances, Got Milk? ad, and magazine profiles. Kim is keeping him relevant. The same can be said of Khloe regarding Lamar. Who outside of Laker fans and sports junkies knew of the forward before his quickie wedding to Khloe?
Perpetuating the Mandingo Archetype
When George Lopez asked Kim and Khloe, "What's up with y'all and the black guys?" he was likely hinting at the notion that the Kardashian sisters play up their partners' sexuality in an effort to play up the black man as stud persona. Historically though, white women, who have sought to use black men in this manner, have done so privately, perhaps taking a trip to the Caribbean or hosting a discreet Mandingo Sex Party. By contrast, the sisters have publicly professed love for and, in the case of Kim, had sex with, their black paramours, even though doing so carries a stigma, perhaps making them, in certain circles, less desirable mates.
Exploiting the "Black Men Are Running from Black Women in Droves" Myth
For some, the Kardashians symbolize the trend of black men, especially those with fame and fortune, flocking to birds of a different feather. While it's true that the 8 percent of black men who marry outside the race is double the 4 percent of black women who do, the 4 percent differential is low and hardly a reason to get one's panties in a bunch. There are far more Jay-Z and Beyoncés than there are Ice-T and Cocos.
Benefiting From The "High Standards For Black Women, Low Standards For White Women" Meme
The issue that seems to stick in the craw of women like my mother is this notion that marginal women of other races are preferred to exceptional black women. As she explained it to me, when a black woman walks into a room, she is fighting for her femininity. In preparation for battle, my working-class mother insisted on my having well made dresses, a standing hair appointment and regularly visits to the dentist and the dermatologist. There were also cautions against cursing, hollering and messing around with boys.
It is highly offensive to some that women who've been labeled unattractive, dumb, reckless and whorish -- death knells to black women -- managed to land black men who could score them invitations to the White House (Khloe accompanied Lamar on the NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers visit; Kim will undoubtedly tag along with Reggie when the Saints go marching in).
If there is fault here, it should not be charged to women whose knowledge of race relations likely derived from hip-hop videos. It is equally futile to harangue twenty-something athletes. Some might say that in an ideal world, Reggie and Lamar would conduct themselves in the manner of a Grant Hill, who followed the example of his father, retired NFL Pro Bowler Calvin. Both have wives who are brilliant, beautiful and black. Ultimately, though, these are all individual people who have the right to date without judgment.
I've heard black women snipe that Kim and Khloe date black men because white men don't want them. If this is true, it is a lesson from which black women can learn. Like most of the female persuasion, we spend considerable time, effort and money ensuring that we are fabulous. Best to focus our attentions on those who appreciate it.