The Complexion Chronicles
What’s the Big Deal About Black/White Love?
By TaRessa Stovall @taressatalks
It’s 2018, nearly two decades into the new Millennium and the mere mention of Black/White interracial love, romance, marriage and procreation is enough to generate headlines and guarantee a gamut of strong reactions.
It’s been 51 years since Loving v. Virginia, right? A whole half-century…and yet studies show that while interracial marriages—generally and Black/White specifically—are more accepted than in the past, they’re still looked at as a bump on America’s complexion. Sometimes a problem, often an issue, frequently a situation.
Listen, I have to be honest.
I’m a Biracial (Black & Jewish) Boomer from Seattle—a city where even before Loving v. Virginia, Mixed couples (especially Black/White and Black/Asian) were so common that for years I thought they were the norm. And it never occurred to me to have any kind of opinion or feelings about those couples until high school. My two friends—both African-American girls—and I were bused in the first round of the busing program to racially integrate Seattle Public Schools.
One day we were hanging out in downtown Seattle and they asked me what I thought about the Black man and White woman—clearly a couple—standing nearby. I didn’t understand the question. Why would I think anything about them? I honestly didn’t care.
That didn’t satisfy my friends—they pressed for a response. I knew it was a way of testing my allegiance—which side was I on? I didn’t give one that day, but that was the first time I realized that much of the world did have strong thoughts, feelings and opinions about Mixed couples.
After thinking about it and studying many Mixed couples, including some our age, I formed my response: I guess it’s cool as long as they’re together because they like each other as individuals and not because either one of them has a policy against dating within their own race. People who have that kind of policy make me squeamish.
Decades later, my opinion is basically unchanged. I also resent the fact that the world expects me to have an opinion in the first place. To be honest, my concern is and always has been with the children first and foremost. I’ve never found the couples that compelling.
And in this way, I am out of touch with much of the world. This week, I noticed a few social media posts on the topic—each generating strong, fervent discussions on long comment threads.
One was this viral piece about John Struthers, an Honorary Consul for Ethiopia in Scotland and a professor, who posted a photo of himself with Justina, his Ghanaian wife. John posted a candid description of the challenges they’d faced in their 40-year marriage, and the strength of their love.
It struck a huge nerve, inspiring many other interracial couples to share their pictures and relationship tales on Twitter.
And while nobody with a working brain is under the delusion that we’re in anything close to a post-racial Kumbaya society, it’s interesting how the mere sight and mention of Black/White love still generates such strong reactions.
Next, social media contorted itself into a strange viral pretzel with claims that Black women were planning to boycott the hotly-anticipated movie “Black Panther,” when it comes out next month because of rumors that one of the stars Michael B. Jordan was dating a non-Black woman. Black Twitter got involved, which inspired think pieces. But the takeaway is that Black women had no such response, most aren’t invested in Michael B’s personal choices and nothing can keep them away from this cinematic celebration of unapologetic Blackness, featuring several of their favorite stars.
Then a story in the South Florida Gay News about the pending Supreme Court case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, cited a study saying that “Nearly 53 percent of U.S. citizens ‘support business service refusal by experimental manipulations’ against same-sex couples.” That study, by Indiana University Bloomington went on to say that 39 percent of U.S. citizens “also think it’s okay to discriminate against interracial couples.”
Lest we think this is limited to these United States, Around the same time. a video from Black British Banter surfaced with a group of women exploring “Can You Be in An Interracial Relationship and be Pro-Black?” I can’t tell you how many of my (Mixed-race and Black) friends posted this and how many heated debates it sparked. Opinions ran the gamut, with no clear consensus.
My point is that all of these stories remind us that we as a country and generally as a species are a long way from being completely neutral and accepting of interracial love, especially when it’s colored in Black and White. As trite as it sounds, it’s still considered “forbidden” and “taboo.”
My parents were married in 1951—long before it was legal nationwide—in Washington state, which didn’t have “anti-miscegenation” laws. They were part of a community of Black men, all jazz musicians (including a few you’ve heard of) who married interracially. They socialized and played music together. Many of them had children around the mid-1950s, so we grew up seeing ourselves and our families as “normal.” Or at least not unusual.
The snapshots of this past week provide a glimpse at just how much attention and strong opinions the topic is pretty much guaranteed to spark. Because just beneath the surface of love and the boldness of crossing lines to form relationships and families lies the eternally bubbling lava of racism. Our nation and much of our world is built upon a firm foundation of White vs. Black, with structural inequities and challenges to Black humanity.
While love will continue to flourish amid the controversy, it’s even harder today to view Black/White couples without considering these and other dynamics than it was when I was a kid. And maybe that’s a good thing. Because when we wrestle with the complexities and contradictions that inevitably arise around the topic, we strengthen the muscles we need to create the progress and change that will help us move past the “versus” dynamic and either/or binary to something like evolution.