Analyzing Black Women’s Love For Chris Evans

Illustration by Monique Jones. Photo of Chris Evans and Regina King at the Vanity Fair Oscars afterparty by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

A few days ago, I came across this video of The Fantastic Four era Chris Evans successfully chatting up a Black girl.

Most of the commenters didn’t let me down as far as bringing the humor, but there was also a level of pride among the comments as well.

Apparently, this video has been around for years, but resurfaces every once in a while. I’d never seen it before, and after watching it and reading the hilarious comments, I became curious about what others have said about Evans’ dating history.

I learned that not only has Evans’ penchant for dating Black women become a supposed fact of record, but Black people, men and women alike, have joked profusely about it, most of them writing their jokes as some kind of badge of honor.

Of course, with this type of discourse, the flip side is sure to come up. For the sheer amount of people who were all about Evans dating Black women, there were a few who were calling those who were enthusiastic everything save “race traitor.” Some even brought up the term “bed wench” in relation to the women who were excited that they could fantasize about Evans with the security of knowing he could reciprocate if the opportunity every presented itself.

Similar ranges of positive and negative emotion happened regarding other videos of Evans showing love to Black women. First, there’s the infamous video of Evans helping Regina King up the stairs to collect her Oscar for her supporting role in If Beale Street Could Talk. 

Then there’s the recent video of Evans lightly flirting with Danai Gurira at the Avengers: Endgame world premiere in L.A. From what I gathered from Twitter comments, Evans was ribbing her for an answer she game during an MTV News press junket game about if she and the other Avengers stars could identify their co-stars solely from pictures of their body parts. (She said she didn’t want any one to know about how she could identify Evans’ butt.)

Again, the same type of discourse occurred–many Black women being over the moon at Evans displaying joy at the sight of a woman as notable as Gurira and others calling said women bed wenches and white man apologists. And a lot of calling Evans a Black woman’s whore as a compliment, which makes me a little uncomfortable. Like, I get Twitter’s penchant for hyperbole and meme-like behavior, but we can relax a little bit on this front.

The back-and-forth regarding all three of these videos got me thinking about the root causes of everyone’s strong opinions regarding Evans’ interactions with Black women. To me, the reason why there’s such a strong reaction is laced in the complicated, interwoven history of racism and poor societal standards. Let’s dive into it.

The error of using the term “bed wench”

Photo credit: ABC

The most common pushback I’ve seen against anyone saying they are all about Evans liking Black women is, “don’t be a bed wench!”

The term is one that is laced with tacit knowledge within the Black community as much as it is a violent epithet, a slur that can follow a person for decades. But what does it actually mean, and is it applicable to something as simple as liking an actor who plays Captain America?

According to Wiktionary, the historical definition of a bed wench is “[a] low-status concubine, often a slave or captive.” The second definition is how the word has been turned into a slur against Black women. “A Black woman who dates white people, often accused of seeking privileges.”

For even more context, let’s turn to one of the internet’s favorite sources for information, Urban Dictionary.

Urban Dictionary describes a “bed wench” in both its historical and slang terms. First the historical terminology. “A bed wench or bed warmer was a slave woman whose job was to sleep in their slave master’s bed, keeping it ‘warm’ so that when the slave-master was ready to have sex with them, they would be readily available.”

Now for the slang version.

“[T]ypically, a term applied to females of African descent (but technically can be applied to all non-white women of all colors…) who gives herself to white men of high status sexually in exchange for privileges, promotions, etc. at the expense of turning her back on the people in her community. The term originated from female ‘house slaves’ back during American slavery.”

The slang definition also has character examples of possible bed wenches in pop culture. “The character Sheba who plays Leonardo DiCaprio’s mistress in the movie Django [Unchained] is a bed wench. The character Olivia Pope played by actress Kerry Washington on the TV show Scandal is a bed wench.”

I’m sure there are Olivia Pope fans who are angered by Olivia’s name being mentioned in relation to this word, and in truth, there are a lot of people out there who do label Olivia as an incendiary woman who is bringing down the cause, if you will, by sleeping with President Fitzgerald “Fitz” Grant, a white married man. After Fitz, she went on to have a relationship with Jake Ballard, another white man. But is Olivia really a bed wench just because she has some white men in her sexual past? No. Because the term “bed wench” implies that the woman in question is there against her will. In today’s landscape, such a term can’t apply since Black women have free reign to date whoever they want.

Very Smart Brothas’ Damon Young broke it down expertly in his 2017 post about how ridiculous the usage of “bed wench” has become in modern Black lexicon.

“During slavery, many enslaved Black women were raped by the men who owned them. Sometimes children would be a result of these rapes, leading some people, even today, in two thousand fucking seventeen, to refer to those women as their masters’ mistresses. An act which either minimizes our outright ignores the fact that ownership obviates sexual agency…Negro Bed Wench is a reference to that; insinuating that 1. These women voluntarily gave themselves to the men who literally owned them and 2. Black women today who happen to date White men and/or possess the temerity to critique patriarchy and hotepity are the metaphysical descendants of those women.”

To bring it back around to Olivia, Shafiqah Hudson wrote about Olivia being compared to Sally Hemmings, Thomas Jefferson’s slave who was forced to copulate with him and give birth to children. In her 2013 article for Ebony, Hudson blasts the term and its usage in the modern day, linking author and thought-leader Tariq Nasheed to a lot of the term’s popularity in recent years.  As she writes, he also discusses the historical context of the bed wench. But Nasheed also asserts that “some…embraced this role and all the comparative privileges it brought. Worse. Some ‘Negro bed wenches’ even imagined that they were better than the rest [of] their enslaved brothers and sisters, and used their (once again, COMPARATIVELY) privileged positions to thoroughly ingratiate themselves to their owners.”

“The contemporary ‘Negro bed wench mentality,’ therefore, is displayed when a Black woman—suffering from ‘Stockholm Syndrome,’ according to Nasheed—accepts and even acts to further White supremacy. The ‘Negro bed wench mentality,’ while still implicitly sexual in name, no longer requires a Black woman to have sexual contact with a White person to manifest,” she continues. “According to Nasheed, she’s the Black female counterpart of the ‘Uncle Tom.’”

As far as Olivia is concerned, Hudson wrote, “Fiercely independent and unquestionably fabulous, the ONLY thing Pope’s character has in common with an enslaved woman is sexual contact with a White man…but apparently that’s all she needs. And that’s what this term has boiled down to: a Negro bed wench is essentially a Black woman who, through her feminism, her success, and/or her dating options, challenges the institution of Black patriarchy.”

So with the avatar of Olivia Pope, let’s take a look at the majority of Black women who have expressed a desire to be with Evans. If a free Black woman is able to choose a male partner from the bevy of men out there in America, and it just so happens her choice is a white guy, does that make her a bed wench? Absolutely not. What it means is that she is a woman who has the freedom to choose who she wants to allow in her personal space. As to why she chooses a certain man is another matter entirely. But regardless, the choice is hers. Female slaves, on the other hand, never had the type of autonomy we experience today.

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Consequently, by using the term “bed wench,” aren’t we therefore blaming Black female slaves for their own sexual trauma? Are we saying that they willingly participated in keeping their own race down? Are we really going to believe the narrative that an enslaved Black woman got up one day and said, “I want my master to rape me?” Because that’s really what we’re saying when we use the term in a derogatory fashion. We are dishonoring those women who suffered at the hands of their masters by implicitly assuming they were complicit in their own tragedy.

And let’s say a slave woman did allow her master to have sex with her. It was still a decision made as an act of self-preservation. Perhaps some felt it was better not to resist. And if their act of non-resistance did earn them some increased status, at least, they might think, they could possibly better themselves and make something out of the hellish existence they were living in. As PBS affiliate Thirteen.org writes, some women did acquiesce in the hopes of becoming free and to protect their children. In other words, it’s still not as if the “choice” to copulate with a slaveowner was one made with complete consent. It was a choice made in a sea of bad outcomes.

I think we should retire the use of “bed wench” from the lexicon, since all it does is blame our female ancestors for the crimes committed against them. Instead, I feel like there’s a conversation to be had about how feeling desired plays into the various preferences some Black women might have with regards to dating. We need to understand how self-esteem, negative societal messages and misogyny both within and outside the African-American community have contributed to Black women searching for desirability both within and outside of their race.

Black women’s deferred femininity

Betsy wears a tan tignon with a rosette in the middle. She also an wears expensive-looking black dress with lace ruffles and gold jewelry. She also wears a rosette of pearls at her neck.

Portrait of Betsy by François Fleischbein (1801/1803–1868), oil on canvas.  Public domain.
The Historic New Orleans Collection

Now that we’ve established that the Black women who are part of the Chris Evans fanclub 1) aren’t owned by him and 2) actively see him as an object of desire because of their own sexual inclinations, let’s get into some of the reasons why Evans’ apparently well-documented love for Black women has become a lightning rod for some people.

The first truth we have to address is that Evans successfully chatting up a girl, helping King up the stairs at the Oscars, and subtly flirting with Gurira all present one very low bar that all straight men have the ability to jump over but many, amazingly, fall at the starting line. That one simple bar is acknowledging that Black women are women and therefore viable for dating.

If we take out all of the hemming and hawing over who is a supposed “bed wench” and whose supposedly bringing down the race, we’re left with the fact that Black women are routinely dismissed as women, much less dateable ones. Just take a look at how many Twitter commenters have made a point of talking about how Evans recognizes Black women’s beauty:

This type of conversation usually only happens when Black women are involved. We grow up wondering if the person we like would like us back solely because of our race. This is the reality of this situation. People are praising Evans for simply showing us the decency to recognize our femininity.

Don’t misconstrue that last sentence as me being extremely happy about the state of things. We shouldn’t be in a society where folks are fawning over a man because he finds Black women attractive. But regarding how long America has denied Black women their femininity, it’s no surprise as to how Evans’ gold status among Black women has come about.

America’s fascination with destroying Black femininity has been going on for ages. Ever since slavery, Black women have been seen as objects. As we’ve already established, white masters and overseers made slaves into “bed wenches” or came into slaves’ quarters and raped women simply because they could. To excuse their guilty conscience, they came up with pseudoscience explaining how Black women’s libidos were overcharged, meaning that 1) Black women were somehow animals who were always in heat and needed an outlet and 2) raping the Black woman was a way to provide that outlet and “care” for the Black woman.

“Throughout the period of slavery in America, white society believed black women to be innately lustful beings,” states Thirteen.org. “Because the ideal white woman was pure and, in the 19th century, modest to a degree of prudishness, the perception of the African woman as hyper-sexual made her both the object of white man’s abhorrence and his fantasy. With in the bonds of slavery, masters often felt it their right to engage with Black women.”

This violence was carried out in the name of Christianity, believe it or not, and the fake science that excused it—such as “drapetomania” as an illness that caused slaves to run away, or how Black people were supposedly on the same level as monkeys and other animals due to the supposed size of their craniums—allowed the violence to continue. For example, according to The Washington Post, Samuel A. Cartwright presented his diagnosis of drapetomania to the Medical Association of Louisiana in 1851. He said the “disease” was curable through submission.

“Negroes, with their smaller brains and blood vessels, and their tendency towards indolence and barbarism, Cartwright told fellow doctors, had only to be kept benevolently in the state of submission, awe and reverence that God had ordained. ‘The Negro is [then] spellbound, and cannot run away,’ he said.”

The champions of this type of racist science also asserted that Black people felt less pain than whites, therefore making slavery useful and excusable. Combined together, these ideas led to a host of ideologies that still reverberate today, such as how too many doctors still believe Black people feel less pain than other races, leading to dangerous and sometimes fatal misdiagnoses or blatant disregard to a patient’s present symptoms.

Elizabeth Kennedy touches on the effects of scientific racism, racist criminal law and stereotypes in her article for The Feminist Sexual Ethics Project “Victim Race and Rape”:

“In the antebellum South, the rape of enslaved Black women—by enslaved men or by white men—was commonplace, but it was not a crime. The law simply gave human property no protection from sexual assault; even free Black women had little recourse, as the inability of Black people to testify in court or to serve on juries would have made successful prosecutions of their assailants impossible,” she wrote. “Some of the same stereotypes that justified slavery in the first place—that Black people required civilizing influence of subjugation to tame their sexual appetites—were pressed into the service of rationalizing these rapes: because the rape laws of that time denied protection to all unchaste women, Black women, according to the stereotypes employed by their white masters, could simply never fall within the law’s ambit.”

Indeed, according to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), several cases Black women lobbied against white men fell through because of the stereotypes surrounding Black women’s sexual appetites and ownership. The EJI cites an 1855 case in which Celia, a 19-year-old Black woman, killed her owner after he tried to rape her. “Missouri law allowed a woman to use force when in ‘imminent danger of forced sexual intercourse,’ but the judge ruled an enslaved woman had no right to refuse her ‘master.’ Celia was convicted of murder, sentenced to death, and hanged on December 21, 1855.”

Black beauty was also dismissed and cut down. Black hair, for instance, was often ridiculed and called “nappy,” referencing the fuzzy layer of a textile, particularly cotton, the crop many slaves were forced to pick. Black hair was also seen as yet another supposed link between the animal world and the “civilized” world; according to a 2007 Boston Globe op-ed by Zine Magubane, French anatomist George Cuvier said Saartjie Baartman’s “short, curling hair” and “enormous buttocks” meant she could be the “missing link.”

In the time before the Revolutionary War, laws were installed to differentiate Black women from their white counterparts. As Khanya Khondlo Mtshali wrote for Timeline in 2018, “The purpose of this legislation was to entrench the superiority of Europeans and an economic system that exploited the labor of African slaves. Under British Rule, South Carolina passed the Negro Act of 1735, which provided stipulations on the type of clothing Black people were allowed to wear, outlawing anything more extravagant than ‘Negro cloth, duffels, kerseys, osnabrigs, blue linen, check linen or coarse garlix, or calicoes, checked cottons or Scotch plaids.” In Louisiana, then a Spanish colony, Governor Esteban Rodriguez Miró “passed the ‘Edict of Good Government’ which required Black women to wear ‘their hair bound in a kerchief’ or a ‘tignon.’ Additionally, Black women were prevented from wearing the same ‘jewelry or plumes’ as women of European descent.”

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Jameelah Nasheed goes into further detail about how Black beauty was denied via the edict, also known as the Tignon Laws, in her 2018 Broadly article.

“In the late 18th century, new economic opportunities and growth led to an increase in the free African and African-American populations of New Orleans. This was because some people of African descent were newly able to make money, buy their freedom, and subsequently increase the free Black population. And with that came an increase in interracial relationships, to the dismay of colonial authorities.”

“During this time, women of African descent were known to wear their hair in elaborate styles (yes, we’ve been fly for centuries),” she continued. “By incorporating feathers and jewels into their hairstyles, they showcased the full magic and glory of their gravity-defying strands, and appeared wealthier than they actually were. As a result, these enticing styles attracted the attention of men—including white men.” This led to Miró enacting his edict, hoping it would show how the Black women “belonged to the slave class, whether they were enslaved or not.” According to Nasheed, historian Virginia M. Gould hoped the laws would “control women ‘who had become too light skinned or who dressed too elegantly, or who competed to freely with white women for status and thus threatened the social order.”

“In response to the laws, Creole women did cover their hair, but they did so with intricate fabrics and jewels. As Baton Rouge curator Kathe Hambrick put it in a recent interview with The Advocate, ‘they owned it and made it a part of their fashion,’” she wrote. “Instead of a cover-up, the wraps became a symbol style. And, of course, the women continued to attract men with their extravagant hairdos.” Eventually, the headwrap became a symbol of resistance against white oppression. But its original purpose—to further separate Black women from the feminine experience—is still something we must contend with today.

Modern misogynoir

Future in a screenshot of the Mask Off music video.
Epic Records/Screencap

In contrast to all of this, think about how white women are often portrayed in the media. Whereas Black women are still fighting to get recognized as love interests in films, every Hallmark channel movie features the same white woman of mediocre talent and beauty somehow earning the affections of millionaires, princes, bankers, writers, and anyone in between. While Olivia Pope, as annoying as she is, is incorrectly called a bed wench for sleeping with a man with dubious morals, tons of other white characters in the media are allowed to explore their sexuality for better or worse and, quite often, it’s looked at as “character growth.”

Mainstream rap has a problem with misogyny, too. Even though the genre didn’t start out as a way to bash Black women, popular rap songs eventually began to cater more towards stereotypes. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard Black women referred to as bitches and hoes in popular rap lyrics. Take for instance Future’s “Mask Off,” which is a foolish man’s anthem for not trying to get your girl back because of some idiotic masculine code:

“Percocets

Molly, Percocets

Percocets

Molly, Percocets

Rep the set

Gotta rep the set

Chase a check

Never chase a bitch

Mask on

Fuck it, mask off

Mask on

Fuck it, mask off

Percocets

Molly, Percocets

Chase a check

Never chase a bitch”

Another example is Beyoncé and Jay Z’s “Drunk in Love,” in which Jay Z invokes Tina Turner’s abuse at the hands of Ike Turner with the line “eat the cake, Annie Mae.” With this passage, Jay Z turns the act of sex into a violent, conquering act.

In ’97 I bite, I’m Ike, Turner, turn up
Baby no I don’t play, now eat the cake, Annie Mae
Said, “Eat the cake, Annie Mae!”

There are even more (and worse) lyrics listed in this Elite Daily article, which features lyrics from Jadakiss, Chief Keef, Cam’ron and others.

“Women are both the muse and abused of hip-hop—lyrics are crafted about women, but never for women,” wrote Cheryl Hao for fourcast in 2018. “According to a 2006 study conducted by Edward G. Armstrong of Murray State University, out of 490 hip-hop songs produced from 1987-1993, approximately 22 to 37 percent of the lyrics contain some misogyny. I imagine that this percentage would be significantly higher for songs produced in the 21st century, when negative stereotypes of women and generalized prejudices have been exploited in media and advertisement. Rappers are part of this phenomenon; they use misogyny in their songs to achieve commercial success.”

It’s bad enough that Black women have to face attacks against their femininity from white mainstream culture, but it’s doubly bad when that same attack happens within the race as well. It makes it seem like Black women can’t win for losing and are destined to be the mule of the world for no other reason than the fact that we merely exist.

So what does all of this have to do with Evans chatting up a Black woman in the early aughts? Well, to me, many Black women’s surprise and awe at Evans showing interest in Black women is that, if society were to tell us, someone like Evans isn’t supposed to like Black women, at least not for the right reasons.

Society has divorced us from our femininity for so long that it’s difficult to know why a man might like us—do they see us or do they see a hypersexual object? That fear was also laced in some of the tweets I saw about Evans’ supposed love for Black women, and those fears aren’t unfounded, since so many of us have had this type of “attraction” foisted upon us in the past. So for some, to see Evans to show love and, in what I’ve seen, respect for Black women might mean that he is one of the few non-Black men to look past what society has taught them about Black women and see us for who we are—attractive people who want to be treated with as much respect and dignity as any other person.

There’s also a level of anger I’ve noticed in some of those who feel like it’s the height of treason to love Evans’ love for Black women. As is a common theme throughout American history, there’s always an effort to keep Black women in “their place,” whatever that means. Whether it means blaming her for sexual assault at the hands of her master, or blaming her for embracing her beauty via her hairstyles and fashion, or blaming her for daring to find a non-Black man attractive, Black women are routinely held in a precarious position of being an object for male—and by extension, society’s—fantasy, subjugation and punishment. Somehow, we are simultaneously the cause of every ill falling upon African-Americans while also being lauded as the saintly, libido-less queen mothers who are only meant to rear children and be an emotional sponge. The burden must be cancelled.

From what I’ve seen, when Black women do aim to make a go at getting rid of that burden, they’re instantly challenged. Take for instance the rap group Salt-n-Pepa, who were famous for creating lyrics that did speak to Black women, but were just as quickly dismissed by others who felt their version of rap was too “feminine” or too “raunchy” since they spoke openly about their own sexualities. Or, take for instance when Black women do date outside of their race. They usually then have to deal with someone thinking they are a race traitor because they dared to find love outside of the prescribed societal notions. Or, to bring it back around to the topic at hand, think about the scores of women who are excited that they can happily fantasize about Evans because he has simply showed interest in non-white women and how it incites online bashing.

This is a lot of words for just this simple statement: Can Black women like whoever they want to like?

A recipe for praise for doing the bare minimum

In a green velvet tux jacket, Chris Evans straightens his black bow tie as he prepares to introduce one of the categories for the Oscars.
ABC/Eric McCandless

With that said, there are still things that don’t sit right with me about the fervor surrounding Evans’ relationships with Black women. Will we ever be in a society that acknowledges Black femininity in such a way so we don’t have to seemingly reward a man for doing the bare minimum in terms of showing interest and respect?

Let’s take a look at when the video of Evans helping King became popular. Everyone, Black or otherwise, swooned over Evans helping King get her Oscar. For many, this was a sign that chivalry wasn’t dead. But if we look at it another way, this move by Evans is actually just one of common decency. Shouldn’t anyone help someone who is clearly struggling with their dress and high heels get up some steps? He’d be a butt if he just stayed sitting down while she toppled over herself.

Evans himself seems to have the same idea.

“The bar is so low that literally I did a normal thing, like on par with saying ‘God bless you’ when somebody sneezes, and people thought it was…I don’t know,” he recently said to Men’s Journal.

People also reacted to the extreme when he helped Betty White receive her People’s Choice Award for Favorite TV Icon a few years ago, once again showing how, indeed, the bar is so low that simply doing a kind gesture is enough to get people writing sonnets.

And yet, I have to count myself among the hoard. I critique pop culture because in a lot of ways, I’m a part of pop culture’s ebbs and flows. And as such, I have to count myself among those who have watched Evans help King up those wretched stairs over and over again. I’ve watched him kindly interact and hug Gurira over and over again. And, indeed, I’ve watched him, in terrible early ‘00s jeans, mack on that girl with the awful fedora and stretch belt worn over her minidress over and over again. I have to investigate myself as much as I am investigating the culture at large, because I am, after all, informed by the culture I grew up in.

The reason I’m aware of the varying factors that go into Evans and others like him being Black women’s favorites is because I’ve been in the scenario of realizing a person I like might not like me simply because they were white and I was Black. A child can become aware of racism quite quickly, and it’s a shame that the type of scars that stick the longest are those that revolve around our self-esteem. You become quite aware that some people will use your skintone as a reason to deem you unworthy or even less than female. Indeed, just a few years ago, a white woman told me she understood how I felt about racism because she was fighting for feminism, as if I wasn’t a female too. I don’t even think she understood what she was saying, even after I called her out on it.

This isn’t to say that I and everyone out there who loves Evans want to be picked by White Massa. Far from it. Black women who like men of all stripes aren’t bed wenches. They are women who simply know an attractive man when they see one, regardless of the man’s race.

With that said, some Black women can, like anyone else, fetishize another race because of preconceived notions. Indeed, some Black women do, and have made sizeable internet careers from it (I won’t say who I’m referring to, but they’re out there). But as an example that doesn’t call anyone out of their name, I believe that while Olivia Pope isn’t a “bed wench,” she’s definitely a person who seems to grossly fetishize whiteness in relation to power. I don’t ask her to date a Black person to prove her Blackness to me, but if Olivia were a real person, I would ask her to gain some self-reflection when it comes to how she thinks about how whiteness seems to be a too-important part of her self-image.

Some of the women who fall in this mindset of fetishizing non-Black men believe that relationships with non-Black men are much more sustainable than relationships between Black women and Black men, which just isn’t true at all. Race is not the deciding factor as to whether your relationship is going to work out. If someone’s liking Evans, or any non-Black person, for the supposed reason that they are somehow better in relationships than Black men, then I’d say that person is severely misguided. Evans might be nice, but he’s got his flaws too, like any human being. It’s best to judge a human on their actions, not their race or culture.

Indeed, there are some women who do think that there is something to be gained from exclusively dating white guys. But usually, the fault with self-esteem doesn’t lie with the person in question; it’s society’s fault for teaching that person that they were worthless because of their race.

In a very brave essay for The Cut in 2017, Collier Meyerson addressed her own internalized self-image issues when she wrote about how she’s no longer viewing white men as a marker of her attractiveness after Trump’s election.

“For most of my adult life, I’ve dated white guys. I spent my childhood surrounded by black and brown kids, but when I got to high school, suddenly everyone around me was white,” she wrote. “Like most of the girls in my class, I wanted attention from the boys. But while they chased after blondes and brunettes, I was ignored. And on those rare occasions a white boy kissed me in the copy-machine room at our high school, or when a white boy told me over the phone he had a crush on me, the acknowledgement made me feel chosen. It was addictive,” she wrote. “The white boys I grew up with were cool: They rode their skateboards on private property. They smoked weed in their parents’ houses with abandon. I envied and desired their freedom. If they wanted me, I thought, it was because I seemed free like them. Cool like them. At 18, I was fixated on being attractive to them.”

“…White men have preoccupied me my whole life, from the schoolyard to the subway,” she continued, “but these days I’m seeing them differently. They’re no longer the object of my affection, a mirror for my self-worth, or an affirmation of my beauty. Right now, they seem altogether alien.”

I say this essay is brave because I’m sure once this essay was published, Meyerson was inundated with all kinds of “bed wench” tweets. But it’s not as if her adolescence is unfamiliar to a lot of Black women who went to predominately white schools as children; when you’re the outsider, you desire to fit in, and for some people, that means successfully dating a white person. The feeling of wanting to belong isn’t a bad one; it’s America’s tribalism and racism that create the breeding ground for a kid to feel like an association with whiteness is a ticket to fitting in, leaving that kid to grow up with a lot of bad habits to unlearn.

However, I don’t think the phenomenon of Black Twitter going gaga over Evans’ love for Black women has to do with a mass of Black women’s self-hate. Personally, I think most of the Black women who are raving about Evans’ interactions with Black women are doing so because it appears he’s responding solely to the women’s confidence and attractiveness as Black women who own all aspects of themselves. It appears to many that Evans admires these woman for being who they are, not for what they can be fetishized into, and that’s what a lot of women found refreshing. Clearly, there are a lot of folks on Twitter who can sympathize with a non-Black man using them simply for their body, as a walking encyclopedia on Blackness or as a marker in their own personal tally of “cool points” and Evans’ interactions have allowed many women a release valve on their frustrations. Sure, there could be that one person who is viewing the videos in an entirely different way. But I’d suggest for them to reassess what they’re taking from them.

Further along that point, I think the fervor some are having regarding how Evans treats Black women is because, through the fantasy of vicariously living via that ‘00s woman or King or Gurira, we can live in a world in which we are accepted and appreciated for our worth. It’s a world in which we can expect men from any background to see us for who we are instead of what they have been taught to see. Ultimately, though, I think the amount of reaction these videos have received is saddening, because it shows how devalued Black women still are in the American collective consciousness that any show of kindness is lapped up like water. I don’t begrudge anyone for reacting happily to seeing Evans show Black women some love. Instead, I blame society for perpetuating the idea that Black women are unattractive and undesirable in the first place, to the degree that we as Black women have to wonder if someone will honestly like us beyond our skintone.

Evans certainly isn’t changing the world in his ability to include Black women within his personal dating pool. It’s also not a serious quest for Black women to be snapped up by him, since we have much more important things to worry about on a daily basis. But seeing him successfully get a Black woman’s digits does make the day much more fun. At the very least, the comments are hilarious.