Just the other day, social media acquainted me with an image that I found rather disturbing. Oddly, the picture probably proved innocuous to most and sweet to others. The picture displayed a black woman alongside her boyfriend. While he appeared to eschew the camera gaze, she beamed with pride. I scrolled to a few other (recent) pictures that contained this male—seemingly her boyfriend. She embodied the contemporary casing that accompanies many black women, a head full of someone else’s hair, makeup and stylish clothing. Interestingly, every picture displayed a different hairstyle, that while overtly varying from the prior picture, commonly veiled her natural hair with inauthentic textures and or hair color. The pictures with this male and the selfies are obviously staged, existing to evoke envy and discount any question pertaining to this woman’s desirability. This profile disturbed me not only because of its ostentation, but the insecurity that lies beneath. An insecurity that translates into confidence among the dissonance construed as reality in contemporary culture. The referenced male was of course white, seemingly her boyfriend—middle-aged, thinning hair, protruding gut and small unremarkable features.
Looking at these pictures, I couldn’t help but think of the white women who would see these images and laugh. Laugh because the inauthentic locks reveal a woman who possesses her own unique beauty prefers an Indian, or Maylasian woman’s “beauty.” Laugh at the beaming, prideful smile prompted in her proximity to a below average white man, who only appears desirable to someone suffering from extreme self-hatred. Now, I say this not to judge my Nubian sister, but to cast a critical gaze on the western world who nurtures said self-destructive behavior. But, if I am completely candid, I was extremely embarrassed by these images. Embarrassed because this staged effort to prove her desirability, instead shouted her insecurity from the mountaintops of white supremacy. This insecurity reveals itself in the countless similar dynamics that reside at the height of popular culture, but perhaps prove more resounding in those who praise these relationships while secretly desiring the pseudo-conventional beauty and white male prize, which embody the height of acquired whiteness–be it white acceptance or white aesthetics.
I’ve seen this countless times within the last few months, where black women who interestingly resemble one another, publicize their interracial unions. I recently watched an interracial couple conduct an interview where the white man objectified his wife by graphically referencing her derriere and referring to their biracial children by their hair texture. She smiled, showing a glimpse of embarrassment, but she, along with the majority of her viewers, knew that this was not the first, nor the last time, his racism would prove overt. He similarly discounts his wife’s ethnicity, when asked about their interracial relationship. I’ve seen a similar dynamic with The Real host Tamara Mowry and her husband Adam Housley, a Fox News correspondent. Thus, it seems that in addition to employing a fairytale dynamic, where the white man “saves” the black woman from perilous relations with black men, the humanist white male gaze functions to transform the black female body into a woman who happens to be black.
This humanist approach appears progressive in contemporary society. However, why is it bad to see blackness? This assertion, in its attempt to appear anti-racist. proves counterproductive. Skin-color is not the problem, it is how the western world conceptualizes color that proves detrimental to those of a darker hue. To this, I evoke Nayyirah Waheed’s words:
they do not see color.
you are invisible.
To those who “do not see color,” the black body is invisible. Thus, the black body becomes an object, a replaceable pawn used at the liberty of whites to validate their fictive truths. To willingly subject oneself to such suffering seems an act of suicide—or act taken to induce erasure. Thus, my question is, is interracial dating an act of “black suicide?”
In essay “ Black Suicide: Lynching by Any Other Name is Still Lynching” black psychologist Bobby Wright delineates the dynamic of black suicide. He states:
“For political reasons, Blacks are being programmed for self-destruction and black suicide is one of the results” (Wright 17).
Interracial relationships function as a form of self-destructive escapism where the black body seeks erasure in selecting a white or non-black spouse. This escapism does not come without cost. For blacks in interracial relationships, this cost is compromising their blackness and having to endure a lifetime of “micro-aggressions” in an extreme desire to eschew racism. Thus, these unions incur a degree of “suffering” that extends far beyond individuals who overtly disapprove of interracial unions. Dr. Wright discusses “ suffering” in the following:
“Therefore, suffering for Blacks was and is a way of life, not death (16).”
Thus, to select an interracial relationship is to incur a kind of “walking death” which aligns black reality to the fictive zombie presence that dominates many television series and movies of contemporary culture. To adopt an interracial union is to strive towards black erasure or black suicide, but incurring a walking death instead. This walking death coincides with Dr. Wright’s theory of mentacide or the “ …deliberate and systemic destruction and systemic of a group’s mind with the ultimate objective being the extirpation of the group.” (17). The walking dead endure a mortal death in which they stagger towards whiteness as psychological slaves. Although aiming to eliminate blackness and all that it entails, the walking dead endure a deeply embedded suffering that proves more insidious to both the black individual and the collective– ultimately yielding self-destruction.
A walking death does not just accompany those involved in inter-racial or inter-cultural relationships. Whether it’s wearing a hair weave, praising or pursuing an Ivy-League education, praising white neighborhoods/schools or establishments as superior, striving or relishing in “black friend” status or coveting white name-brands or accolades, a walking death follows those who seeks to escape their blackness by any means. It is the walking dead that fuels capitalism in efforts to avoid their oversimplified conceptualizing of racism.
This “walking death” ideology foments the praise and profit that accompanies popularized black female/white male relationships on series like Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder and even Prince Harry’s relationship with Megan Markle. The praise and profitably of white male and black female relationships undoubtedly inspired ABC’s new black bachelorette. While lawyer Rachel Lindsay will be the series’ first black bachelorette, much of the advertisements depict Lindsay alongside a tall, blonde white man. It seems ABC saw revealing a black bachelorette during Black History Month, a germane present to the black collective. However, in the network’s unwillingness to place this educated black woman alongside a black male contestant in their promotional footage, it becomes obvious that this series will also function to subtly seduce the black female collective to be among the walking dead. Namely, this dynamic paints the white man as a prize— a portrayal that proves favorable to whites but detrimental to the black female body.
The western world proves consistent in its depiction of white men as prizes. In past and present black female and white male relationships, the black women is commonly regarded as elevated in her ability to capture a white man’s interest let alone his hand in marriage. Even “his” historically, black females who occupied close proximity to their white slave masters either as concubines or house servants, gained pseudo esteem and status. This esteem and status, whether in present or past settings, proves faulty as the disenfranchisement and oppression afforded to the black collective do not disappear with an acquired “closeness” to whiteness.
I truly wish I could be happy for black women, or any black for that matter that finds love outside of the race. I wish I could see current interracial relationships as anything other than a contemporary manifestation of a free black who travels north to escape the bitter south but marries a white person shortly after crossing the Mason-Dixon line. Who needs physical bondage when the psychological chains seduce us to seek descendants of our former masters as husbands and objects of desire?
To those who say that you can’t help who you love, I say that interracial love “happens” to those who cannot help but not love themselves. You only love your oppressor when blinded to the detriment of his oppression. Although presented as the antidote to racial tensions, interracial/intercultural relationships veil the truth of self-hatred.
For blacks seeking love in the contemporary world, it seems that there are two options: To be among the masses as the walking dead or among the few walking tall.
Which one will you choose?