A Look at Why Interracial Relationships are Expected to be Between Black Men and White Women
This week I was talking with another bi-racial woman about our backgrounds. When I explained that my mom is black but has some French and Cherokee roots as well, she stopped me and asked, “Oh, your mom is black?” At that point in the conversation it was already established that we were both of one white and one black parent, however, it was clear that she had a certain understanding of the way that should be – a black father and a white mother. This is certainly not the first time I’ve run into this surprised reaction. People either give a small look of shock or will verbally give a sort of “ohhh, I see”, type of response. This issue always reminds me of the movie “Save the Last Dance”, when the black sister informs Julia Stiles that “white girls come and steal up the few god black men in school”. In situations like this one, the media portrays a group of black men who are “desirable” to white women because they are strong, outgoing, good dancers, athletic, manly, intelligent protectors.
Examples of interracial couples that come to mind are Seal and Heidi Klum, OJ Simpson and Nicole, Kim Kardashian and Reggie Bush, and the list goes on. I do recognize that there are of course many white man/ black woman couples, however, I personally believe this match is less represented and considered less common. So, I wonder why this is?
I believe stereotypes are a culprit of this “ideal” interracial couple. Black women are portrayed as: loud, angry, violent, not the marriage type, curvy and sexual in the media. White women have a more complex portrayal in the media ranging from crazy and insecure to gentle, pure and moral. It’s very interesting that white women are given the greater range of characters to play in the media and therefore may seem more relatable, dateable and marry-able.
In movies, when white women are portrayed as angry, crazy, violent and sexual – the public’s reaction is usually, “gee, women are crazy!” When a black woman plays the same character, given the same lines and directions, the public decides, “gee, black women are really crazy!” Society has this strange code that white women represent women as a group but black women only represent women of color. This idea that white is the “norm” and other races represent a deviation from the norm is also represented in men in the media. However, black men have some positive representations as well: strength, athleticism, good sexual partners and good dancers and singers. I am not trying to ignore the negative portrayals of men in the media, however, I do find it interesting black male characters are portrayed as more diverse than their black female counterparts.
While some people may not want to admit that the media plays a role in the way they judge and understand certain groups of people, evidence shows otherwise. It is engraved in the American psyche that black women are less desirable than white women because they are less controllable and less caring. Therefore, more men, white or black, are likely to be skeptical about dating or marrying black women. Once again, this does not apply to all people, but this is my general understanding of the way interracial dating operates in America. I do recognize that there are white man/ black woman relationships in the media and in real-life, however, these black women are also painted a certain way. They are educated, well spoken and according to society, “act white”. The media seems to be saying that only this type of black woman is truly datable and marry-able.
I think a solution to this is for more black women to be portrayed in a complex way in the media. When black actresses and directors decide they will show a greater range of characters in t.v. and the movies, more people will understand that there is no such this as acting white – all people host diverse personality traits and characteristics. The reality for many young white children is that their exposure to black people is limited to the characters they see on television and in the movies. Until we show a greater diversity in the media, black women will continue to be subjected to the “unruly” character we are often given.