John Boyega Says He Only Dates Black Women — What’s The Issue?

Photo: Karwai Tang/WireImage.
British-Nigerian actor John Boyega is the latest subject of online discourse this week, and surprisingly, it’s not because of his stellar (and thirst-inducing) performance in the Gina Prince-Bythewood historical epic The Woman King. No, what the internet is up in arms about is Boyega’s casual admission that he only dates Black women. Read it again: people are frazzled that a Black man‘s dating preference exclusively includes Black women. Yeah. It’s getting weird out here.
Boyega appeared on one of the final episodes of popular morning show The Breakfast Club to promote The Woman King, excitedly explaining the uniqueness of the new project. The film, which also stars Viola Davis, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, and Thuso Mbedu, explores the lore behind the Agojie, a legendary but very real all-women army that once helped the Dahomey Kingdom establish itself as one of the most powerful empires in Africa. (The capture and sale of other West African tribes into slavery was one of their main means of domination at the time, and The Woman King doesn’t shy away from that dicey history.) While discussing the film, host Charlemagne tha God asks Boyega about his dating preferences, to which the former Star Wars star answers point blank: “It’s just a preference, but I like my women Black.” 
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“It’s just that [Black women] are fine as hell,” he explains to the Breakfast Club hosts in the interview. “Melanin levels gotta be over 75%. Thickness gotta be there — style gotta be there. We gotta laugh at the same jokes, we gotta bump to the same music. There’s just gotta be a flow.” 
Cue the outrage.
The clip went viral, but not necessarily for the right reasons. It seemed that the internet was split, as it usually is, on Boyega’s innocent admission. On one end (the right end), people were pleased to see a Black man loving and celebrating Black women so openly, an unfortunate rarity these days. But on the other end of the spectrum, many were irritated and even incensed by his personal preference for Black women. “If a white actor said they only dated white women, many would not defend his right to have ‘preferences’, they would call him racist,” one Twitter user — a Black woman! — tweeted. “Double standards are a problem.”
Here’s the thing: people do say that. Like, all the time, actually. Sometimes, the rejection is blatant in crass statements like, “I don’t usually date Black girls.” Other times, it’s more coded in the subtle shade of “I prefer blondes” or “you're pretty for a Black girl'' or in the description of a physical type that we could never fit into. Because of the ubiquity of misogynoir, Black women face rejection and discrimination in almost every part of our lives, especially in the dating world. Racism and all of its evil spawn — including colourism, texturism, featurism — often make desirability politics skew against us, leading to a dating game that is significantly more difficult for Black women to navigate on a day-to-day basis. It happens when you’re dating outside of your race, and, more heartbreakingly, even in our own communities. 
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In a world where whiteness and proximity to it is too often the standard of beauty, loving Black women in all of our shades and sizes is, unfortunately, a big deal and something worthy of praise.

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While there are many spaces of society that are devoted to praising Black beauty, more often than not, Black women and femmes are treated like second-class citizens when it comes to desirability, even as other groups do their damndest to recreate the features that we possess naturally; society likes full lips, shapely hips, and big butts on everyone but Black women. (And in mainstream white spaces, even that’s changing. Just look at how the Kardashians’ aesthetic has transformed as of late.) Beyond dating and romance, however, the uneven scale of desirability politics shows up in various areas of life. Black women have a harder time booking jobs in Hollywood compared to their lighter counterparts. Little Black girls learn to be uncomfortable with themselves because they get bullied for the colour of their skin, the size of their lips, the texture of their hair. Makeup brands ignore the needs of Black customers while skincare companies not-so-slyly sell bleaching products under the guise of “brightening” darker skin. And so on, and so forth. It’s not just about who we date or sleep with. It’s about a culture that is designed to foster a deep-seated feeling of isolation and self-hatred in Black women. 
When we talk about preferences, we’d like to believe that we simply can’t help who we’re attracted to, and to some extent, that’s true. A lot of attraction is just a swirl of different hormones being activated against your will. (Why else did you date that wasteman for so long? Nevermind the fact that y’all weren’t actually compatible in the ways that mattered. He was fine, and the sexual chemistry was off the charts!) At the same time, however, our “type” is also a social construct, a result of conditioning that we sometimes don’t even realise is happening. Beauty is subjective — who I think is beautiful, someone else might be repulsed by — but our respective standards of beauty are typically influenced by our cultures and the aesthetics that they prop up at any given period. Depending on who you are and the environment you find yourself in, your idea of who and what looks good, and consequently what is attractive to you, will be different. We like what we like, and that’s okay. But we also have to be honest about where those tastes come from, and a lot of times, they’re the consequence of years of social messaging that tells us who looks good and why. Because white supremacy is at the core of so many societies, especially here in the United States, guess what usually impacts our understanding of attractiveness? Racism. 
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Ideally, we wouldn’t give a Black man cookies for adoring and respecting women who look like him, but in a world where whiteness and proximity to it is too often the standard of beauty, loving Black women in all of our shades and sizes is, unfortunately, a big deal and something worthy of praise. Unbothered Social Strategist (and, unbeknownst to him, Boyega’s soulmate) Christa Eduafo  breaks it down very passionately:

A Black man who unabashedly uplifts and loves the very thing – the very beautiful thing – that every dark-skinned woman has been teased, disrespected, or violated for at one point or another? That's a Black king right there!

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“While I've been a fan of John Boyega's for some time, his recent comments about loving Black women, specifically dark-skinned Black women, have launched my crush into, quite frankly, violent territory,” Eduafo shared via a very spirited Slack message. “A Black man who unabashedly uplifts and loves the very thing – the very beautiful thing – that every dark-skinned woman has been teased, disrespected, or violated for at one point or another? That's a Black king right there! My crush is forever solidified. FOR JOHN BOYEGA'S EYES ONLY: John, consider this a proposal for marriage.”
Boyega only dates Black women, and that’s his preference, born from his deep connection to the Black women who raised him and the Black women who have loved and supported him over the years. More importantly, he sees the material. (Black women are fine, okay!) And he's entitled to that preference, just like the people who are crying about this preference are entitled to their own, which very likely includes everyone but Black women. If we’re keeping it real and honest, the uproar about Boyega’s partiality isn’t because of who he exclusively likes — it’s because people don’t think that he should like them. We’ve seen it time and time again, but it feels like the world hates when Black women get our flowers. From Megan thee Stallion to Lizzo to Chloë Bailey to Sha’Carri Richardson to the TikTok girlies finally leaning into the soft life, folks really get in a tizzy when they see Black women being celebrated.
Placing us — specifically those of us who are at or above “75% melanin levels,” as Boyega explicitly stated — on a pedestal is important, and letting the world know about it is direct middle finger to misogynoir and the anti-Black sentiment that has been shoved down our throats for centuries. So no, I’m not going to let anyone bully or villainise this Black man for liking who he likes. Build a bridge, get over it, and let him do his thing. 
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