Patriarchal perspectives on race relations have traditionally evoked the image o f black men gaining the freedom to be sex ual with white women as that personal relationship which best exemplifies the connection between public struggle for racial equality and the private politics o f racial intimacy. Racist fears that socially sanctioned romantic relationships between black
men and white women would dismantle the white patriarchal family structure historically heightened the sense of taboo, even as individuals chose to transgress boundaries. But sex between black men and white women, even when legally sanc tioned through marriage, did not have the feared impact. It did not fundamentally threaten white patriarchy. It did not fur ther the struggle to end racism. Making heterosexual sexual experience-particularly the issue of black men gaining access to the bodies of white women-the quintessential expression of racial liberation deflected attention away from the signifi cance of social relations between white and black women, and of the ways this contact determ ines and affects race relations.