A little over a year ago, my boyfriend and I were walking on my college campus. An elderly black woman approached us and said, “You guys make such a cute couple.”
- Clearly – but . . .
- How was she able to say this with the utmost certainty? It is not like she witnessed the amazing captions on my IG posts or the time that he left a flower on my car while I was at work, so what was her deal?
Although I would like to believe that she had the purest intentions, it felt as if she wantedto prove that she supported our campaign, or that she would be interested in buying what we would be selling. To some, the prospect of a black man dating a white woman leads to a highly valuable commodity. Single-handedly, or should I perhaps say through holding hands, my relationship ends racism. People believe that our relationship is an indicator of living in a post-racial world but that very assumption goes against that very ludicrous statement. If we truly lived in such a world, my race nor his race would matter. Yet it does, significantly. Surprisingly, (sarcasm) to people who are not even a part of it.
“You guys will have such cute babies! Mixed babies are the cutest!”
- Once again, clearly – the baby will come from me after all.
- I would like to think that my baby will be cute because it will be given the most favorable genes, you know, since the whole idea that “multiracial children are simply the cutest” is dehumanizing as it turns the baby into a fetish.
In 2014, National Geographic’s 125th anniversary issue collected images of multiracial individuals to depict how the “average American” would look by the year 2050. The article asserted that America is expected to become an amalgamated race due to data from the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau as it showed an increase in both interracial marriages, and individuals selecting more than one race to identify themselves. Among these interracial marriages is the 2014 union of household names: Kim Kardashian and Kanye West (just bare with me). Their marriage received a varying degree of responses involving fans who praised the couple for “seeing beyond race” while others saw this ‘miscegenation’ as problematic. Prior to their nuptials, the couple welcomed their daughter, North West, in 2013. Even though North is met with occasional racist remarks, she has generated a huge fan base due to her mixed-race. Similar to the multiplicity of her name, North West showcases the mixed orientations that American society assumes when approaching multiracial individuals. Multiracial people are fetishized because they are believed to be the product of a post-race world, and as evidenced by the National Geographic, it is this narrative that the media chooses to tell.
Some scholars attribute the fetishism and commercialization of multiracialism to a misconception of its history. The 2010 census is believed to indicate a change in the ways that we perceive race as a whole, specifically multiracialism, because of its documented “rapid growth of multiracial identities.” Yet in Undercover Asian: Multiracial Asian Americans in Visual Culture, LeiLani Nishime asserts that “A change in politics explains the ‘emergence’ of multiracial people as much, if not more than, changing demographics. It is not multiracial people themselves but the recognition of people as multiracial that is new” (2). The data collected from the 2010 census was a result from new categories that allowed multiracial people to identify themselves. Hence, the new millennia did not generate an increase in multiracialism, it granted alternative racial classifications that were once not accessible. This notion begins to deconstruct the assumption that multiracialism is the onset of a post-race era.
My relationship, and other interracial relationships are praised because of this assumption, yet as I pointed out, multiracialism is not a new concept. It has existed years before my relationship, and will continue to outlast my boyfriend and myself. Yet throughout that time, it was, and will never be, the eraser for race. In fact, I would argue that multiracialism reminds us that race is very problematic, and indeed prevalent as the individual is reminded that they are not entirely one race, nor entirely the other – they must exist in a space in between. So please, do not expect my unborn child to become a poster child for a system that will ostracize them for not fitting in.
 For example, Jeffrey Santa Ana discusses the recent exploitation of racially mixed people in cultural productions in “Feeling Ancestral: The Emotions of Mixed Race and Memory in Asian American Cultural Productions.”
 Nishime, LeiLani (2).
“Is it true? Once you go black, you never go back?”
- No, but you know what is true? Once you ask me that question, we will not talk again.
- You are not only insulting me, but my boyfriend as well.
I feel like there is often this misconception that white women only date black men because they want to exploit them. I believe this notion is strongly tied to the notorious phrase, Jungle Fever. This phrase assumes that a white person is attracted to the stereotype of a black person: someone who is loud, aggressive, and highly sexual. I am not dating my boyfriend because he is black, I am dating him for the person that he is. The problem with statements like these are that it turns a person into a caricature. As said by Chin Lu when discussing the phrase Yellow Fever, being attracted to someone because they are Asian, “But someone expecting me to fulfill all the cultural stereotypes of my race that he’s infatuated with? That is called prejudiced ignorance and a refusal to recognize me as a complex, real human being” (the Bold Italic). So please, do not turn my boyfriend into a one-dimensional, poorly drawn caricature.
“A black man who dates a white woman does not support our struggle.”
- This is most certainly directed towards Dr. Umar Johnson and the man in Philadelphia who felt the need to loudly demean interracial relationships, specifically involving a black man and a white woman, while sitting two chairs away from us.
Remember how I mentioned that our relationship does not remove the notion of race? There is this belief that has been circulating around that through dating a white woman, a black man goes against who he is. That through dating this woman, he loses his identity as a black man, and he additionally rejects black woman. Isn’t that absurd?
I feel like I need to place a disclaimer here before I continue. Yes, there are some men that demean black women, and that is the problem. Not someone dating another race, but members of the same (and different) races bringing one another down. We constantly preach Love is Love, so why can we not believe that people are dating each other because of who their partner is rather than what their partner is.
Through my relationship, I have gained awareness rather than diminish his identity. As a white woman, I will never share some of his experiences – but that does not mean that I cannot learn from them. That does not mean that I cannot support him. As a man, he has not experienced the paranoia I face every time I walk to my car at night in an empty parking lot, but he has learned from it. Yet that is the beauty of a relationship, being able to see the world through another person’s perspective, and then using that to better yourself.
“So you have like a black card now, right?”
- I am afraid that the card came up declined.
- The card is non-transferable.
I understand that race is a social construct but unlike gender, it is certainly not fluid. Nothing makes me cringe more than someone claiming that they have a pass for another
race because they are around people of that race. That is like me saying, you know, I spent one month living with my grandmother sewing scarves and eating Werther’s, so I am basically a 75 year old woman. Although this statement is less offensive, I do hope that it demonstrates the ridiculous logic behind the heading. People who claim this are usually the closet racists who think they can get away with racist remarks under the guise that they have the *insert race that they are insulting* card. My boyfriend is not an excuse for me to be racist, nor a way for me to claim a culture that it is not my own. Just like he is not any less black for dating me, I am not any more black for dating him.
- Yes, I am referencing Jordan Peele’s film.
- Yes, two girls said this to me as my boyfriend and I left the theater.
I spoke about this moment the day that it happened in a post titled, A Letter To You Two. Perhaps what bothers me the most about this statement is the fact that this film was meant to illuminate how, according to Lanre Bakare, “however unintentionally, these same people [middle white class liberals] can make life so hard and uncomfortable for black people. It exposes a liberal ignorance and hubris that has been allowed to fester” (The Guardian), yet some of the responses, like the remark that I received, produced the same effect that the film was trying to expose. That “however, unintentionally” people can make it uncomfortable for the parties involved in an interracial relationship. That although we have the same problems that any other couple faces, we have an added pressure – on one hand, we are expected to be the solution for racism and feed into the juvenile belief that we are on the cusp of living in a post-racial world, yet on the other hand, our relationship failing can be chalked up to white and black being unable to blend into a neutral gray. However, just like any relationship, there is nothing black and white about ours.