Are You Down For the Swirl?: New Book Urges Single Sistahs To Date Outside Race


I first encountered the term “swirl” when my ex and I were invited by a co-worker to accompany her and her friends to Busch Gardens.  Said co-worker and presumably the rest of the attending party were Asian.  My ex and I are African-American.   Somehow the question emerged on the group email chain, “Were we [my ex and I] down for the swirl?  Completely dumbfounded to what this new fangled terminology referred, I stood up from cubicle with eyebrows raised inquisitively, “The Swirl?” She  stood, staring at me blankely–as if I had landed two minutes ago from the planet Zargon–and stated “You know The Swirl?” As I was beginning to catch on, my cheeks flushed with warmth, as confusion turned to embarrassment.  At first she scrambled and then blew the comment off stating “you know how people are…..[blah, blah, blah]…its cool if you come; don’t worry about it”.  Needless to say we did not join the excursion.  Knowing that race was even an issue made me uncomfortable and thus I decided it was best to stay at home.  I chop this up to one of the awkward situations that sometimes happen, as we negotiate racial identities and interact in the workplace.  

The one good thing about this incident was I had a new term: The Swirl.

 I love learning new words–and new slang is even better.  The bottom up, en masse adoption of a particular term or the reuse of a current term in a new way is fascinating to me.    According, to Urbandictionary.com   the term Swirl refers to either “jungle fever…black people and white people having sex” or “people of different ethnicities hooking up”.  I would argue that unlike the term jungle fever the term swirl feels almost  innocuous–at least upon first glance.  Absent are the negative connotations associated with the warped conception of African exocticism.   For me– it connotes less of a sense of interacting with the mysterious or forbidden other.  I hear Swirl; I think ice cream–and we all scream for ice cream.  Nevertheless, the term makes me uncomfortable and here is why.

Since the election of President Obama, the experts and pundits are all about the promise of post-racial America.  Its concept being touted all over the blogosphere, academic circles, and talk radio.  There is something very post-racial and post-modern about this whole swirl idea because it is a pleasant-sounding word, but the fact that the concept of people dating outside their race still requires unique nomenclature, suggest that we aren’t so post-racial after all. 

That said, I encourage you to check out  an article in today’s Washington Post by DeNeen L. Brown entitled, “Single Black women being urged to date outside their race“.  In the article, Brown discusses Karyn Langhorne Folan’s new book Don’t Bring Home a White Boy: And Other Notions That Keep Black Women From Dating Out

The author suggests that the pool of black men available for high accomplished black women to date and marry[assuming that they are looking for someone of equal education and financial security] is so limited that it is in their best interest to also look for partners outside their race.  She suggests we stop worrying about the opinions of girlfriends, family members, and jealous brothas calling us sellouts and date whoever comes to the yard, regardless of race or ethnicity.

So Sistahs, I ask the question, are you still hoping that your Black Ken Doll comes to sweep you off your feet or are you open to seeing and/or marrying whoever treats you right?   Brothas how do you feel about the sistahs swirling?  Do you think black women should start dating outside of their race? 

Down for the swirl ladies…gentlemen?  Discuss.

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