Interracial/Anti-social Implications of Dating
A student of mine who knows I teach a class called “Romance, Sex, Love, and Marriage, recently called me to ask me some of my thoughts about interracial relationships. I started first by making sure that he recognized how one dimensional the conceptualization of interracial relationships actually is. What comes to mind when you think about interracial relationships? Be honest, did your thoughts actually gravitate towards a relationship between a Black and White person? If so, why would that have been your thoughts?
In America our fixation with interracial relationships may hinge somewhat upon our painful history of slavery and its resulting legacy. When we see a Black man and White woman romantically involved are we looking at them curiously because of the courage they are exhibiting at transcending the judgments of their parents and peers? Perhaps we look at these couples and wonder about their motivations. Is that Black man dating that White woman because he subconsciously devalues Black women and has perhaps subconsciously bought into the myth that the symbol of beauty in America is the White woman. Perhaps that Black man is dating that White woman because at one time in America she was basically likened to the forbidden fruit that tempted Adam in the Garden of Eden, perhaps worthy of a taste but unsure if worth the ensuing consequences. The film Birth of a Nation (critically acclaimed as the Star Wars of its day) exacerbated the problematic dimensions of the Black man-White woman relationship by portraying that potential relationship as being an obsession for Black men. The result of this fixation by Black men to possess a White woman resulted in the suicide by the White woman in that film and ushered in a continuation of the lynching of Black men in society at that time (as well as the decimations of townships like Rosewood, and Tulsa’s Black Wall Street).
What of the White man and Black woman interracial relationship? Does it carry a sordid history as well? There are those out there who look at the White man-Black woman relationship and wonder why he married beneath his class standing (since she may have originated from a history of slavery). Others wonder how that Black woman could date/marry someone who, under the auspices of slavery, once had somewhat sanctioned, unimpeded, uninhibited access to her body. James Loewen articulates in his best selling book “Lies My Teacher Told Me, that most Americans are painfully ignorant of certain aspects of American history, our racial narrative being just one of the gross omissions. Is this true, or did you already know why you might hold a dysfunctional preoccupation with interracial dating? Even if an ignorance of America’s racial history isn’t true for you, is it perhaps true for the world that you live in?
Where does love come into the equation? Just as a woman who is 5’10 and a man who is 5’7 must really love one another to transcend the scrutiny they will endure because of the unwritten assumption that men should be taller than the women they are involved with, an Asian woman and Latino man who love one another will be put under racial-cultural critique. We already know that we are a judgmental society, correct? Isn’t it hard for us to observe that 60 year old woman dating that 40 year old man without prejudging them. That seemingly healthy woman with the paraplegic man must have something sinister up her sleeve because she just couldn’t truly love him, right? It was in Plattsburgh, NY that I witnessed a half dozen men rise and exit the theater as the love scene from Brokeback Mountain unfolded. It is possible that the 50 year old man dating that 30 year old woman just might actually be two individuals who simply fell in love. So why are you whispering, nudging, snickering, pointing, or gossiping about relationships that might be much more healthy, or grounded in reality than any you’ve ever participated in.
Why can’t people just love one another, regardless of our race or differences? Films like Snow Falling on Cedars, A Patch of Blue, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Joy Luck Club, Save the Last Dance, Mississippi Masala, Coming Home, Children of a Lesser God, and Jungle Fever all portray various dimensions and problems that result from this type of daring dating. Films like To Kill a Mockingbird and Rosewood reveal the hegemonic culture’s and/or society’s historical reaction to even alleged interracial interludes. If you’ve seen any of these movies, what was the problematic moment for you within the film that framed our inability to accept differences? Are there any other films that come to mind for you where people just couldn’t get past their preconceived notions or succumbed to their socialization?
Does the history of interracial relationships change now that the President of the United States, Barack Obama, has publicly proclaimed that he is the offspring of an interracial relationship? Does President Barack’s bi-racial status or any Black person’s for that matter, even matter when they look Black? And if President Obama is Bi-racial and should technically not be considered Black, then wouldn’t his marriage to First Lady Michelle itself be considered Bi-racial as well?