Yes, the topic kind of came up as one of a couple of (very interesting) topics, and the group voted for the race/poly topic. I was rather pleased about that, but then I thought later, "I have no idea how to address this topic!" So I was even more pleased to discover that it's already been talked about quite a bit on this forum. That's what I needed ... different points of view and perspectives and food for thought.
I'm sure we'd get along well if I lived in your area in Philly, and I'd enjoy your Conversation Cafes. Alas, although I'm on the cusp of moving, my direction isn't to be east/northeast but rather north/northwest, to Seattle-ish where my older brother and his wife live. We get along so well with those two, love the ambience of the area (yes even that dubious weather), and look forward to the fact that Seattle seems to be one of the big "poly centers" in the United States. Other cities with large and well-organized poly populations are Los Angeles, Austin (Texas), and Boston. Anyway, my V definitely has Seattle on the brain right now.
I am interested in the idea that lots of black folks practice polyamory in essence, but think of it as "weird" when called by that name. I wonder what they feel the difference is, or is the difference merely that polyamory is something "that white people do?" When you described "black polyamory," I heard all the essential elements that polyamory calls for -- romantic/emotional involvement, commitment, and most of all consent. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, ain't it a duck? Strange. Some kind of gap in perception is at work here, do black folks realize how like them polyamorous whites really are in that respect? I suppose as always the missing link is communication between the races. If we all really understood each other, we might all have an "aha" moment.
Could the disconnect be rooted in the fear of "mixing with the other race?" Are white people somehow "feared" amongst the black community, because of the awful way whites have treated blacks in the past? "Whites can't be trusted ... If it's something whites are doing, it must be alien and weird and something we'd want no part of." Could that be part the problem?
Alas, I can't imagine any way any white peoples could make up for the sins of their ancestors. Slavery and all it entails is such a vast and mind-boggling sin, it's just impossible to imagine any restitution that could fix it in the present. As yet another unfair element in the story, the onus seems to fall on black folks to forgive white folks even though white folks don't deserve it. I guess I'd compare it to the holocaust in WWII. How are the Jews supposed to forgive the Germans? The damage the Germans did is permanent; it reaches through each successive generation. In which case, forgiveness is an undeserved gift.
And then, forgiveness is generally assumed to come paired with the restoration of trust. It's one thing to forgive someone (relinquish any ill will held towards them), but it's another thing to say, "Well I will trust that person again. I will let them be a part of my life." Why should black folks trust white folks?
All this is complicated, of course, by the fact that many white folks (e.g. my father, I'm ashamed to say) cling to their prejudices against black people, and aren't willing to relate to black people eye to eye. Black people certainly remain disenfranchised as a whole in our society. So how do you extend trust in that kind of environment, just for the sake of a few whites who don't have the traditional prejudices?
One hopeful thought is that maybe *polyamorous* whites are more trustworthy, because they tend to have more liberal and open-minded views. How often would you see a polyamorous white person who had a distaste for black people? Not very often. For the most part, polyamorous whites are progressive and sincere about wanting to get along with all races. *If* this idea can be noticed by the black community, we might all have a better chance of getting together -- and helping each other. To be white and polyamorous is not to comprehend how hard it is to be black in this world. But it's a start. At least polyamorous whites have a glimpse of what it means to be in the "margins of society."
I am reminded of the phenomenon I've often heard of where quite a few gay folks strongly believe in monogamy and strongly condemn polyamory. Sometimes marginalized peoples (whether marginalized by life choices which they can choose, or by race which they can't choose) miss the potential of "outcasts helping each other out."
The more I think about it, the more I suspect that blacks and whites (perhaps especially blacks and polyamorous whites) need to find a way to communicate with each other more. As communication is considered to be so important to relationships by poly folks, so communication is also probably the key to healing the large-scale wounds of the past, and making trust and forgiveness possible. After all, the thing that usually drives individuals apart is the difficulty in trusting and forgiving.
I have two younger brothers. One of them is having a terrible time forgiving the other because when we were kids, the older brother ostracized the younger brother and made him feel like he was totally unwanted -- as if the older brother would have liked to see him erased from existence. Today, that wronged brother is having an epic struggle inside with forgiveness, and an even greater struggle with trusting the guilty brother again. After all, the two brothers have such opposite personalities. One (the ostracized brother) is intensely emotional and person-oriented. The other is coldly logical and data-oriented. Does that "cold brother" deserve forgiveness? He doesn't have any great sentimental feelings about the idea. Does he deserve to be trusted, after the depth of the wounds he inflicted?
So there are many sins-of-the-past hurdles to overcome, and many differences-in-life-and-culture to overcome. The sad thing here is that if very different/diverse peoples could get together, imagine how much they could enhance each other's worlds and perspectives!
Perhaps that's one of the reason why multiple poly groups (from far distant localities) are becoming increasingly focused on the racial divide that echoes itself in polyamory. And it's appropriate that "white polyamorists" seem to be more more obsessed about it than "black polyamorists." After all, "the white guys" are the ones that need the trust and the forgiveness. It's a type of yearning, if you will.
@ london ... interesting the ideas of "partial consent" and "the monogamous partner is always non-consenting." I would venture that sometimes such is the case, but not always. From the people I've met and talked with, it seems that some folks can be monogamous but poly-tolerant, sort of in a live-and-let-live type of a way. This says nothing about how many such monogamists (and mono/poly) couples are out there, and how the numbers are affected by race and culture. But I believe it's possible for some monogamous people to be okay with their partners being polyamorous, if said partners are extra considerate and make sure the monogamist's needs are met. Not to act like a know-it-all; I only speak of what I've encountered on poly forums so far.
It sounds like some black cultures live in a state of "half consent" with respect to polyamory. The monogamous woman in a marriage technically goes along with the husband's other girlfriends and at least allows some of them a place in family functions, but not all of his girlfriends.
I am observing, by the way, that not all black communities are alike. It depends largely on what part of the world they live in, and what part of the world's many cultures they're affected by.
We can definitely agree that if a monogamous partner means/feels "No," he/she should say "No."
Love means never having to say, "Put down that meat cleaver!"