Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Loving across Color Lines

When I first moved to Los Angeles in 1998, KKBT The Beat was heavily promoting its “No Color Lines” campaign. At the time, I thought the movement's mantra was clichéd and overly simplistic.

That is until I heard Theo, the leader of the revolution.

Theo was a honey-throated DJ who figured prominently in my fantasies — and this was on the strength of his voice alone. Sexy, thuggish and effortlessly popular with the ladies and the homies, he was the golden boy of the city's hip-hop radio station. If the brother was promoting tolerance, I was all over it! So it was a major shock to come face-to-face with him at a club and discover that, for all of his 'hood markers, my future baby daddy was Asian. I quickly recovered from that bombshell, however, and decided that Theo Mizuhara was too alluring to exclude from my daydreams.

Fantasies fade, but even those interracial imaginings of mine wouldn't have been possible without landmark legislation that took place 40 years ago today. In the Loving v. Virginia ruling, the Supreme Court overturned a Virginia statute that prohibited whites from marrying nonwhites. At the heart of the case was a black woman, Mildred Jeter, who smacked down segregated society to marry Richard Loving, a white man.

June 12 marks a day of remembrance, a mixed-race lovefest. Although I appreciate the Lovings' struggle to desegregate relationships four decades ago, I'm still trying to emanicpate my inner interracial-dater hater. I don't suffer from Angry Black Woman Syndrome, yet I still feel a tad apprehensive when I spy mixed-raced couplings, particularly of the black male/white female variety.

Ironically, this nation's path to color-blind love was paved in part by a sister. Yet, according to the 2002 Census, black women are less likely to marry outside their race than black men. In 2002, there were 279,000 white female-black male marriages compared with 116,000 black female-white male marriages. Black men stroll down the aisle with non-black women at a greater rate — nearly 10 percent — than any other racial or gender group except Asian women.

A Korean writer reached out to me recently for my thoughts on interracial relationships. He read my article "Black Men, White Women, Mixed Emotions," and could relate to my ambivalence: a belief that love conquers all, and yet feeling that many, many brothers are jumping ship in search of it. Because I live in Los Angeles, the "Jungle Fever" capitol of the West Coast, one is hard pressed to find Heidi/Hakeem-free zones. I explained to this writer that even in the midst of my dating dilemmas, I didn't want to become that hostile chick who sucks her teeth and gives the side eye to Kobe, Tiger, Seal, Taye and other brothers (and yes, I include Tiger in that category) for loving non-black women. That stems from a belief that my relationship options are limited, that white women have the dating game on lockdown, or that I have a lease on the love life of black men. None of the above are true.

The swirl of racial politics surrounding dating and marriage is often hard to unravel. I joke about black women starting a "Something New" movement, but I realize I'm being reactionary ... and hypocritical. There are several blogs and Web sites that wholeheartedly encourage sisters to expand their dating options, particularly with white men. With statistics showing that 43.4 percent of black women between the ages of 30 to 34 have never experienced matrimonial bliss, "Looking for Mr. White" looks more and more like a viable option.

Misgivings aside, there is a part of me that wants to embrace the "No Color Lines" credo. Even though I haven't realized it fully, I am indebted to the Lovings for their sacrifice, and for reminding us that love is, and should be, colorblind. On this Remembrance Day, I pledge to keep my apprehension in check should I see Bilal cruising down the 101 freeway with Becky. I will not avert my eyes and act like these couples don't exist. Although I probably won't hug them and sell them a "Remembrance Day '07" tee shirt, I am going to remind myself that, ultimately, people have the right to love who they want to love. Theo would be proud of me.


Monique said...

Great piece!

You are absolutely right - people have the right to love who they want to love. The problem arises when someone "justifies" their choice in a mate by character assassinating a whole group of people. When my "Mr. Right For Me" comes along, I will accept him with open arms - no matter what skin he's in...

Sita said...

Thanks for reminding of us of the Lovings. Interracial couplings have so permeated our society that they’re no longer big headliners. It is, however, hard not to notice that the black female seems to lag behind in the polls. And, I wonder if the reason is a direct consequence of upbringing. In any case, this topic certainly draws its fair share of coverage. In the end, it comes down to choices. Today our racial choices are far ranged due in part to the Lovings. I suppose that speaks volumes on the power of love.

S'AKhu said...

Wow! No Color Lines? What would DuBois comment? In what society are we living? Oh, I forgot California, the bastion of so-called multiculturalism. The acculturalization of the so-called different races,as if Cali is the utopia of racial intergration and accepted miscegenation. The surface always fools the foolish. Have we forgotten Cali in the 60s? Did the 70s address all of the issues? Oh, the 80s compensated for all of the previous decades and centuries of discrimination and degradation correct, take a look at illegal drug infiltration in the black community (incl. South Central L.A.). The 90s reinforced this premature mvmt by throwing in our faces several upon several Hollywood and entertainer/athelete "successes", and the same who have "opened their minds" to "loving" others who at that time and still to this date don't really know anything about who we are, where we came from, or what we truly are about as a legitimate culture in this society. A society operating on more psychological defense mechanisms than the field of psychology has defined. And of those other cultures, don't seem to care to know no more than "getting along to go along, going along to get along mentality". Where inlies the understanding? California has seemingly brokered the new millemum mvmt of Negromacy. Or should I dare say Niggerisms? Remember, the greatest fanatics are the converts, and the best apologists and defenders are those who embrace their cultural incarceration and victimization. No matter the status or monetary accomplishments, racism white-supremacy still avails. Just a lot more covertly and stealthily. Sleeping with, associating with, befriending, identifying with, imitating/emulating, does not nor will not erradicate the root problems of this racist society! California or the other 49. Learn to love "self" first, then others. We still have a cultural journey to betrodden. And individual's wants and desires won't due. Excuses are not explanations! "The Real exposes the children of/to the sun. Darkness shelters the roach."