Polyamory and Ethnicity


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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 . . . the onus seems to fall on black folks to forgive white folks even though white folks don't deserve it . . .

ALL white folks? That is one helluva a blanket statement - because someone's skin is white, they don't deserve to be forgiven for their ancestor's crimes? People who live in the present are not responsible for what the past generations did, as long as they don't keep continuing to do harm to others or take actions based on a person's race.

I have participated in discussions about reparation in school and online at a genealogy forum. It's pretty much impossible to make up for the past in a way that would satisfy everyone. For example, the only real way to make reparation to Native Americans is to give them all their land back and let them govern themselves - but how could that be possible? In Australia, I was told they had a ceremony to acknowledge the injustices that had taken place against the indigenous people there, but I'm not sure how much else they did, or could do.

Regarding American blacks, speaking as someone who appears and identifies as white but has mixed-race ancestry, I have researched my Caribbean lineage back to the 17th century, and most genealogists will tell you that many, many, MANY self-identifying white people in America would be very surprised to learn how much African blood runs in their families, and many self-identifying blacks would be surprised at how much Caucasian blood is in theirs. Most of the prominent East Coast merchant families in the early years of the United States had ties to the islands and many interracial liaisons, some secret, some not (it wasn't always the stereotypical Master impregnating his black housemaid - in the Virgin Islands, which was under Denmark's rule for 200 years before the US bought the islands in 1917, there was a large population of Free Blacks who owned property and businesses. An authority of Caribbean genealogy corresponded with me some years back and told me that it was property and money that counted more than race in some instances. For example, a white estate owner in St. Croix or St. Thomas might consider a Free Black who owned a small house and had his own business as a tailor, shoemaker, or blacksmith a better prospect for his daughter to marry than a white field hand who worked for a landowner and owned nothing himself. The Danes, Germans, English, and Scottish who owned property there pretty much freely intermingled with Free Blacks, and the subsequent generations of "mulattos," for those two centuries. My family was there for generations, African and mulatto, marrying and mixing with German, Danish, and English white families.).

So through each generation, the skin tone became lighter and lighter until you have someone like me, who is very very fair. My mixed race Caribbean ancestors and their cousins came to NYC in the mid- and late-19th century. My great-grandfather was born here in NYC and had five siblings - allof their birth certiofcates say something different for "Race." Two were "White," another "Black, another "Caribbean Black," another "Mulatto." It is ironic that my German grandfather was quite a racist, but married my nappy-headed supposedly white grandmother. Anyway, my point is this: How do you really determine who is black and who is white, or how much Native American blood someone has (one can only identify as a member of a Native American tribe and receive special benefits from the government if they are within a certain percentile) without DNA testing everyone for proof?

And then what is to be done about interracial people? Should they hate the white parts of themselves? As the genealogists would say, how can you make reparation to someone who is descended from both slaves and slave owners?

Black people already live in America, against their ancestors' (and perhaps their own will), and guess what, American culture has infiltrated them. They could all return to Africa tomorrow, and they wouldn't quite fit in because they've truly become "African American," instead of just "African."

Yeah, they tried that with Liberia in the 1800s, but eventually that was a disaster - terrible civil wars, an overthrow of the government, and now most Liberians live in poverty.

I think the best thing we can do is get to know people who are different from what we are, challenge the stereotypes, recognize our own prejudices, and relate to each other as human beings.
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In Australia, Aborigines are given financial grants in an attempt to make up for the social disadvantages they have.


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@ london ... and in America, Native Americans are given reservations and rights to build/run/own casinos. How are we doing as far as relating to each other as races (one conquerer, one conquered) in a friendly spirit that breaks down the old barriers?

@ nycindie ... well, I think we are in agreement, and I certainly agree that it would be a mess of epic proportions trying to figure out what reparations to make to who. Just one more reason why, instead of the white man trying to make right all the unfathomable sins of the past, it would be better if the now-mixed-and-mingled races would take it upon themselves to "be the bigger persons," forgive, and yes, even trust.

"And then what is to be done about interracial people? Should they hate the white parts of themselves?"

A truly formidable riddle. I remember in Malcom X (the movie), how his mother disliked the lightness of her skin tone, and purposely married a very dark-skinned man so that her children would look "properly black."

"As the genealogists would say, how can you make reparation to someone who is descended from both slaves and slave owners?"

It then seems necessary to tell such mixed persons: "A lot of shit happened in the past. A lot of white people did some really bad things. Fortunately, we are moving away from the times when blacks and whites strove to exist as enemies, people are beginning to realize that both races have much good to share with one another, and the sins of those old white people are slowly receding. Eventually black people will have their chance to heal, and America will be a much happier country." And the talk is as far as you can take it. You can't try to repair anything. You can only explain that, "Well, this is what happened, this was the result, this is what we're trying to do about it, and this is how we hope things will be eventually."

Reminds me a little of Dr. Seuss' story of the Sneetches. The star-bellied Sneetches were the privelaged class at the beginning of the story. Then, Sylvester McMonkey McBean shows up on the scene with a machine that can put stars on the plain-bellied Sneetches (for a mere buck a pop). Predictably, the plain-bellied Sneetches seize the opportunity and now all the Sneetches have stars.

"But wait," say the original star-bearing Sneetches. "McBean's machine didn't make you equal to us, it just made you *look* equal. This is a social debacle that cries out for rectification."

Well, luckily, McBean's machine can also remove stars. So now the "originally superior" Sneetches pay their fares and get their stars removed. "Aha!" they shout to the "originally inferior" Sneetches. "Now we can plainly see who the superior Sneetches are. You can't hide behind those stars anymore!"

At which point, of course, the now-star-bellied Sneetches race off to Sylvester McMonkey McBean to get their stars removed (and re-level the playing field). Well, by this time, the superior Sneetches are thinking ahead and getting their stars put back on. Predictably, the situation quickly devolves into complete chaos. Sneetches are getting stars added and subtracted non-stop. Nobody even knows who the last Sneetch was to get his "star status" corrected.

By the time it's all over, McBean drives off with his machine and a shitload of money, leaving behind two impossibly jumbled races of now-impoverished Sneetches, and chuckling to himself, "You can't teach a Sneetch."

In the TV version of the book, the Sneetches do learn their lesson. They start to realize how absurd the whole star-counting business was in the first place. They find themselves laughing at weird instances where some Sneetch ended up with three stars on his belly. The chaos was so ridiculous it was comical. And so, happily for our friends the Sneetches, they throw aside the barriers of race and privelage and share the good things in life together.

Outside the United States is a whole world of different kinds of black-white relations. We could almost call ourselves unique in our level of black/white tensions if it weren't for apartheid in South Africa. Surprising that we can't learn more from multi-national cultures.

"I think the best thing we can do is get to know people who are different from what we are, challenge the stereotypes, recognize our own prejudices, and relate to each other as human beings."

We all have enough stars-on and stars-off by now (and McBean is rich enough) to let the healing begin, yes?


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*nodding at Cindie's post* All of that.

Thank you for that post, Free.

I have broached the topic with my married, black friends, and they have all said they could not do poly or swinging, but they always respected me and what I chose to do. The thing is my single black friends practise some variation of solo poly but do not call it poly. My male friends say they are "doing them" or "just having fun." My female friends say they are "exploring and keeping their options open." They are doing it honestly and not deceiving anyone involved, and feelings have never been off limit. I would say that is pretty ethical and constitutes solo poly. Would they ever seek support from a forum or chat within a group? Free pretty much covered the reasons why they elect not to.

This reminds me of a conversation my BIL started over my birthday weekend. He flat out asked where are the "brothers" and "sisters" who practise this?" Like I told him, the only openly black poly person I know is my friend's girlfriend. She has said that it feels like a struggle because she is not only a female working in a male dominated field, but she is poly, a lesbian, and black. She works in a place with at-will termination, so they could very well get away with firing her for any of those reasons and legally get away with it. That is a hell of a burden to bear.

Despite what we appear to be, we are an interracial couple. The catch-22 is DH's appearance and what he self-identifies as does not correlate. He quickly corrects people when they assume he is adopted or simply white. He appears to just be "white," but he has two mulatto parents, who ID as Afro-Caribbean. DH has never tried to pass for white like his ancestors, but it throws people for a loop when he reveals what he is. In his parents' respective countries, he is called a chabin. The mystery of the chabin and chabine (female form) is that they often get the recessive traits and any traits that skipped a generation like the fairness of his skin and texture/colour of his hair.

I have no doubt poly exists in black communities (not within my in-laws'), but elsewhere? Absolutely. It probably stays behind closed doors and goes under a nameless entity. Sometimes they just do not call it poly but actually practise it. It seems to be different for every culture. My in-laws are devoutly Catholic and religious, so picture me the polyamorist being part of a family like that and "flaunting" (not hiding) my extramarital relationship. It did not mesh well, as things like poly and breaking vows are frowned upon, by them and their beliefs.

Some of DH's relatives are self-hating. They despise the white blood that is in their veins. They hate the fairness of their skin because they cannot properly pass for black and are perceived to be white. The worst one of all was DH's uncle. He hates like most white people, but his own father is white and his brand new DIL is, too. I offered to help him pick his face up off the floor.

For people like them, no reparations will ever be enough. They would not accept it because they would view whatever was given as tainted and tinged with the blood of their ancestors. I would love for them to forgive and learn to trust, but the odds of that happening are minimal. They feel empathy for the black ancestors and shame for the white ones.


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In my last post, I left out the part about my great-grandmother who was of the first generation of my Caribbean line born in NYC - her father was from Denmark, her mother a mulatto descendant of slaves from St. Croix. I've written about her here before, because she was poly in her later years (during the 1960s). We just always were told the other man who lived with her and her second husband was a boarder. Once I became a grown-up, one of my grandmother's cousins shared the truth with me -- he was her boyfriend. It was all so natural and accepted, and the only reason I didn't know back then was because I was too young. But anyway, I had left out that part about my West Indian ggm* being poly, and some of my research leads me to believe she and my ggf, her 1st husband, were also poly, probably in the 1920s. Of course, they never knew that word!

*ggm = great-grandmother
ggf = great-grandfather
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Nice about your great-grandparents! I would imagine it might go something like that today. Such and such is a "family friend," "roomie," or whatever they refer to them as. I would imagine certain people know the truth. I know poly exists. Do they call it that? Probably not. Do they tell the world and show it off? It depends on the individual or their level of comfort. Much like polys today.

Most of my in-laws are very reserved, and to them, what you do behind closed doors needs to stay there. If they do not care to be around something, they express it in a tactful manner. They had no qualms about expressing their need to not see Si or be around her at all. For them, it was unacceptable and left a bad taste in their mouths. They had strong opinions on it, and from birth, they are taught to speak their minds to clear their hearts. On the islands and in their respective homes, the desire for her not to be around was respected.

If I had elected to be more reserved and subtle about my polyamorist choices, it would not have caused such a brouhaha. Of course, this family has a member who was in the postop period from surgery when she shot at her husband, from the bed, because she suspected infidelity. She missed intentionally, but yes, THIS is what I married in to! (And yes, the couple is still married. They celebrated 39 or so years earlier this year.) That is that crazy love.


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So the answer to the question, "Do black people practice polyamory?" is, "It depends." For example, it depends on religion and familial culture.

And the answer to the question, "Why don't more black people attend our poly functions?" is, "They're not poly functions, they're *white* poly functions." A black person could attend a potluck here in Albuquerque, and all they'd be thinking the whole time is, "I don't belong here. I don't fit in." Skin color sure seems to be hard to get past. :(

I note, too, that there is quite a bit of variation between how inclined different black communities are to "make friends with the white guys." And that reparations tend to be rather futile, regardless of the inclination of a particular black community.

It's not easy for people to get past the ill will and hostility, between individuals and between cultures all over the world. The white man has made of himself a conquering race, and as such has done considerable damage that can't be undone. Not in this lifetime at least.


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Kdt- I think it depends on how welcoming the reception is if someone would feel if they fit or not. A lot of warm fuzzies goes along way LOL. I'm going to attend an event at some point.

As far as communities making friends. With the advent of the net: Clist, meetup.com, etc. You can pretty much find what you're looking for. This website is a perfect example.


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Shoot, I'm so terrible at walking up to someone I've never met and saying, "Hi, how are you, my name is Kevin, etc." ... Maybe I should push out of my comfort zone if I see a black newcomer though, amirite.

I guess Polyamory.com is one place where people of different races are beginning to get together. That's a hopeful sign.


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That's pretty freakin' interesting!

It looks to me like it's a *really* young site ... but growing rapidly if you take its youth into account.

Appears to only have local meetups in Oakland California so far. Just one city ... but: hey, it's a start.

It almost gave me a vibe of: "We're not quite ready to mix and mingle with white polyamorists yet, but -- we're warming up to the word polyamory which the white folks invented. Right now we just want our own place (starting with this website) where we can be and call ourselves poly and still feel comfortable sharing that experience with our own race."

Given the (seeming) newness of the site, this could become quite the powerful beginning of white and black polyamorists coming together.

Too soon to tell yet, but I'll be interested to see where it goes. (I did kinda "speedread" one of the site's entries -- its very first I think -- and was quite moved and impressed by it.)

Sigh; jeezh man and crap. Wish I wasn't already so far behind on [read: double-booked with, frazzled in, and overwhelmed by] all my internet stuff. Otherwise, I'd be seeeriously tempted to register right away on that site. Still might be a decision I'll be mulling over in my mind though. Might be looking for the right time and opportunity.



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Shewsh -- with any luck, I'll be spending some quality time on facebook this weekend and can have a closer look at that.

Right at the moment, I must even delay watching the (hour-long) interview; dinner will be up soon (considerably less than an hour). But a bit later tonight I might get opportunity to check it out.

I did read the review, and, I'm even acquainted (I believe), as a viewer, from a Ppercs thread (can look for it on request but laziness prevails for right now), with Kenya and Carl and some of their philosophies.

I'm actually in the process of reading "Sex at Dawn" but I'm a deplorably slow reader (and double-"booked" even, literally). I'm a bit more than halfway through it. So far, much good food for thought and I probably about 75%-90% agree with the authors' ideas and conclusions. I guess my only (or two main, anyway) "complaints" are:

  • I get how agriculture introduced problems to the human race but also think it introduced important new opportunities and remain stubbornly optimistic about humanity's (and by extension, Earthly life's in general) future;
  • I like the authors' thinking and reasoning about life 10+ thousand years ago, but I also maintain that trying to pry out surviving clues from a past so far distant will always force us to make educated guesses based on circumstantial evidence.
That's of course a smidge afield since the thread here (and your post) is about poly/race issues, whereas "Sex at Dawn" doesn't exactly delve into race issues and mostly deals with non-monogamy in general rather than polyamory in particular. But, it does appear that "Sex at Dawn" is a huge deal in Kenya's/Carl's views (as it is in many polyamorists' views), so as I say, just a smidge afield.

I'm definitely intrigued about a whole 'nother poly/race discussion going on out there. I'll be interested to see that.

Seems to me that the whole race-and-poly "problem" is something white polyamorists at the least ought to be enormously concerned about, and I even think it'll soon prove to be one of the most "talked-about" poly issues of our day. We deliciously-varying races really need to get together, in so many ways -- and I feel as if "now's the time" for polyamorists (by whatever name/terminology) of all colors to join hands.

Just my intuitive assessment ...


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It was noted in the thread I was reading that there is a black and poly group on fb as well.
I didnt delve into details. I dont have time for more fb groups anyway.
But-another tidbit of trivia. ;)


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Yep, I'm definitely at-capacity (e.g. where fb is concerned), so I won't tie myself to any promises yet, I'll just look at what I can, when I can. Info appreciated as always.



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Just finished listening to the http://www.jujumamablog.com/2012/07/04/can-open-relating-save-the-black-community/ interview (with Kenya and Carl). It seemed to flow well in general.

The guy who was trying to speak for polygyny, so to say, seemed open-minded and willing to try to understand how a man can share a woman with another man, coming from a persective of not even knowing how that's done: Does the first man get to pick the second man for the woman, or what. So they (mainly Carl) explained to him that this is a choice for the woman to make for herself, according to her own needs. And that she might need different men at different times in her life, and Carl characterized that as a good thing and something for us to not try to hamper.

Another thing Carl pointed out about polygyny is that, like traditional monogamy, it has traditionally been about ownership: to wit, the man owns the women he's with (Biblical descriptions of ancient times rather characterized women as property, on a higher plane than cattle, probably, but property nonetheless, with the man having the say-so of how to handle the women he owned.)

Carl also indicated that traditional monogamy is similar to that today, in that when the marriage ceremony is complete, the groom now owns the bride, and the bride now owns the groom. He then explained that what we should be doing, no matter what relationship structure we choose and live in, is to remove that element and mindset of ownership. And that in that way, open marriage and polyamory generally make better alternatives than traditional (patriarchal) polygyny or traditional monogamous marriage. So again, he emphasized that this isn't because one structure is better than another, it's because poly and open marriage tend (in today's world) to relinquish the ownership paradigm that most monogamy and polygyny are built on.

So those were a couple of points. And of course Carl and Kenya both emphasized the idea expressed in "Sex at Dawn:" that 10+ thousand years ago, people within any given clan simply shared everything, from food to love to sex. This came more naturally in those days because agriculture hadn't yet been developed and become widespread, as once it did, and humans were thus nomads no longer (being now tied down to their planted fields), the concept of property was bound to emerge as the most obvious way to handle questions of, "Well I planted this field, but he planted that field."

Also from "Sex at Dawn" was the concept that to at least one or two cultures even today, the "problem of paternity" that monogamy proposes to solve, simply isn't considered a problem. It's enough to know who the mother is, and from there, the child becomes the responsibility of the whole community, and the men in particular take on a special responsibility to be fathers to *all* the children, regardless of whose genes came from whom. A man was/is a father, an uncle, a brother, whatever any given child needed him to be. No obsessing over paternity = no obsessing over sealing one-man one-woman pairings into the binding constraints of traditional marriage.

The most famous of this kind of culture today is a small population of Chinese folks, I believe. It's interesting to see how empowered the women are in that culture, and how, as a result, they are the guides (with their qualifications as the "gentler sex") of the community and have a glowing self-esteem about them, a twinkle in their eyes that comes from their power to share themselves with the men who want them and who they want in return. That's the main thing I got from that part of the book.

I also noticed that Kenya and Carl kind of advocated their own version of gender roles -- not so much physical gender roles as much as conceptual/spiritual roles. Carl seemed to feel it's important for men to be strong, to be protectors, not necessarily to make their emotions unavailable, but to "tame the woman within." In turn, Kenya emphasized a woman's role as a refuge of softness, nurturing, even natural wetness if you will; again not to become weak in society but rather to "change her inner man" so as to put him in harmony with her feminine nature.

I neither agreed nor disagreed with those gender role philosophies. I think something can be said for them, especially where cisgendered people are concerned. But I'd hesitate to call the "queer community" an aberration from these gender roles; rather I'd see them as a trading and/or admixture of roles.

But I have to say the most interesting bit of the interview was near the end, when Kenya described a past life of hers from 25 thousand years ago, in which she was a priestess (and a number of prominent people who've studied prehistory seem to agree that societies used to be much more matriarchal and that women, not men, were usually the religious authorities to whom men and women alike turned for spiritual guidance).

Well, in this clan, the men were returning from a battle/war they'd just fought with another clan, and the priestesses realized that war and battle can hurt and damage a man psychologically (if not physically as well). So, the men weren't considered fit to return to their families until the priestesses had healed this "spiritual wound" they carried home with them. And the cure, as perhaps you might guess, or perhaps might surprise you, was that the priestesses engaged in lovemaking with the men in a holy setting, in concert with various rituals intended to deepen and liven the sex and the love. Once this had gone on long enough that the priestesses deemed the men healed and reconditioned for life with their families, they sent the men home.

I saw in all this not so much the answers (or "magic bullet") that will solve everything, but rather new and exciting perspectives that we can all tap into to get our brains thinking deeply about sex, romance, love, healing, freedom, sharing, and the sacredness and venerability of these things and how they should and do relate to each other. The interview wasn't intended to address racial-polyamorous issues; rather it was intended to address polygyny and polyamory and how they can work, the pros and cons, etc.

It was probably serendipitous that the interview wandered somewhat, as the digressions allowed the discussion to dig deeper into the heart of what makes all humans tick (and has most likely since the first human emerged out of the jungles of evolution). It made the listener, in a word, ask himself: "Can I handle these concepts? Can I take them in? Can I let go of my possessiveness, especially of other people, and love them enough to let them fly free and then come back to me willingly if we're truly meant to be together?"

All in all, an interesting interview, well worth the hour investment to listen to it.


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Re (from LovingRadiance):
"This was posted in the polyinthenorthwest group on facebook today (Nov 14). There's a thread on there currently with some interesting comments regarding this topic of racial minorities and poly."

Finally got around to my facebook stuff today; looked for the polyinthenorthwest group; couldn't seem to find it. :(

Re (from LR's next post):
"It was noted in the thread I was reading that there is a black and poly group on fb as well."

I did find the page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/blackpolyamory/ ... but was uncertain about joining since I couldn't see what conversations they were engaged in without joining. In the rules section it said, "THIS GROUP IS OPEN TO EVERYONE. With that said, we do not tolerate rascism, classism, cisgenderism or any other oppressive ism in this group EVER." Well I'm at least "cisgender" if not "cisgenderist" so that scared me off a little.

In conclusion:

If anyone can find/show me the exact URL addy for facebook's polyinthenorthwest group, and/or if anyone gets involved in https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/blackpolyamory/ or http://blackandpoly.org/ ... please post your info/experiences for/in those places on the net as I'd then probably be willing/able to investigate further.

I know, I'm showing my too-apathetic-to-investigate-further-without-the-extra-nudge side, after all I was just saying about how important the black/poly issue is. Please understand my time's all sucked reeeally dry right now, so I'm unofficially forced/supplied with the handy excuse to get lazy. Sorry guys ... :eek: ... still possible I could end up doing more of my own poking around in time (e.g. if/when the cosmos so seems to guide me).


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It's like saying it's okay to have sexual relations with a child if the child consents. The child doesn't have enough experience in life to give genuine informed consent.

I guess I kind of wandered off-topic there, but let's just say those are some of my thoughts about men having relations with multiple women.

I appreciate your input.
Kevin T.

You're right, you wondered off-topic with that and believe me you most likely don't want to open up that "can of worms" especially in "North American Culture".~

Most "North American cultures" are very close-minded and bigoted when it comes to the discussion of any thing children-related that goes too far from their comfort zone and that is why I with the most sincerity discourage any talk of subjects like these here as I have seen this community on this site is no where near the open-mindedness required to properly discuss matters such as sexual relations with children.~

Perhaps on a philosophy forum, but not here.~