16/03/2018 12:18 SAST | Updated 16/03/2018 14:57 SAST

When Black Men Fetishise Africanness

“Take me back to the Motherland...”



"Take me back to the Motherland," he yelled as he came, and I responded to this ridiculousness with a chuckle. It wasn't so much that I was amused; I was taken aback by the sheer ignorance of a man who literally just graduated with a doctorate degree in African Studies.

This was not the first time I've had to deal with microaggressions while dating in America...

I am South African.

Yes, I am light-skinned.

Yes, there are light-skinned Africans.

This became my usual response to conversations on dating apps since my arrival in the United States. Preconceived notions of what Africans looked like or what we sounded like always seemed to be what dominated discourse on first dates, even small talk before hook-ups.


​​​"Did you say you were from Africa?" one man I met on Grindr once asked as he led me through his back door, pretending I was a Mexican handyman there to fix his tabletops so the neighbours wouldn't ask questions.

However, with a doctorate in African Studies – and a whole thesis that focused on the exact community that I am from in South Africa – I expected Mr Motherland to be more culturally sensitive (more #woke, dare I say).

Are African-American men the white men of black men? Maybe, maybe not.

I've seen it all during my year in Washington, D.C.: reluctance to give me their phone number and address, fearing I might be a scammer trying to steal their identity; I've been met with suspicion because I articulate myself "so well" in English; one boyfriend even called me "savage" because of my radical politics and progressive relationship beliefs – because I did not subscribe to Western standards?

What is ironic about my experiences, is that I've only had to deal with these types of microaggressions from African-American men, with whom I shared a history and heritage of marginalisation – yet I remained foreign to them, even in a climate of the new renewed black consciousness.


Actually, they seemed to get their thrills from dehumanising and belittling this well-educated and established African man, who was a guest of the United States government because of his unique expertise.

They acted like their citizen status trumped all of my credentials, as though citizen status was a stamp needed for validation. It was as if they believed that I was trading dick pics for green cards – because all foreigners, apparently, are only in it for citizenship.

But I suppose the type of crap black gays consume in the media does nothing for the African image – bravo, Black Entertainment Television – with every reality star on "Real Housewives of [insert random black stronghold]" dating some dodgy, rich African who is funding their trips to the Caribbean, spa days and girls' night out... lifestyles, even.

One time, for kicks, I sent a picture of me playing with a lion cub at the Lion Park to one such prospect and told him it was my pet lion, Mufasa. Not only did he believe me, but he responded with, "Omg I want one" – as if they sell them at the pet store down the road.


But as much as I try to make light of it, this kind fetishisation of my Africaness is just irritating, to say the least. It's like dating white men who "live for big black c*ck" – come to think of it, someone once said that was the only thing "black" about me. In fact, everything I have mention thus far could have easily have come from those white men who pervert blackness.

Are African-American men the white men of black men? Maybe, maybe not. But for as long as they keep expecting us to hop off the plane looking like Eddie Murphy in "Coming To America", they are surely as ignorant as them.