Black Love, a new OWN reality series focusing on monogamous black couples, premiered in August to rave reviews and online fanfare. And quite frankly, compared to the stereotypical drama and infidelity glamorized on other shows like Love & Hip Hop, it’s beautiful to see a series devoted to this type of black positivity.
I follow a handful of Instagram accounts that celebrate famous, married black couples. I see lots of posts in my timeline about #blacklove. It’s all beautiful, especially at a time when the images of black folks in the media aren’t always favorable. But, I’m a black gay man married to someone who isn’t black (he’s Mexican).
It’s not because I don’t find black men attractive or because I harbor self-hate. I just followed love, and it led me to someone from a different ethnic background.
Yet our community has adopted a negative viewpoint about interracial relationships. In these racially tense times, it’s important for us to be #woke and pro-black, but there’s often a misconception that we can’t simultaneously be those things and love someone who isn’t black. It was a major touchpoint in Dear White People, when everyone discovered that Sam, the face of her campus’ pro-black movement, had a secret white bae. Her dedication to the cause was immediately questioned.
Or, going back further to some now ancient reality TV, there was an episode of The Real World: Back to New York in which housemate Malik brought home a white girl. Malik sported a gravity-defying afro and wore Bob Marley t-shirts. For the times, and for the situation, he was black AF. But once fellow black housemates Coral and Nicole saw him with the white girl, he was no longer black Malik. He was a traitor.
As someone in an interracial marriage, I feel secure enough in my blackness to have a husband of a different race and still speak confidently about BLM, black culture, and race issues affecting the community. Marrying him didn’t make me any less black to the outside world. It’s a stance that many people in my position take.
“Wokeness is an imaginary construct. It’s a term that, since crossing over to the mainstream, has lost any real meaning,” writes HuffPost’s Zeba Blay. “Wokeness has become a barometer with which to judge how socially aware a person is, but it leaves little room for nuance, and when it comes to human relationships, to romance and love and sex, nuance is everything.”
Aside from the dilution of wokeness, it’s important to note that gay couples are actually more likely to be interracial, mainly due to seeking love away from a community that has disowned or mistreated them because of their sexuality. For some of us, it’s not about prioritizing or fetishizing someone of a different race, or thinking we’re exempt from issues that affect our community. There’s an inability to find love amongst the same folks who’ve treated you terribly your whole life.
And for those who think black folks in interracial marriages somehow have it easier now, that’s not the case.
Many have tried to equate the struggle for marriage equality with the legal battle over interracial marriage during the Civil Rights Movement. Both were hard-fought battles, with their own unique set of challenges, but they weren’t one in the same. And for gay, interracial couples, they often experience the struggles that come with both.
I’m fortunate that my husband and I deal with the normal difficulties that any couple deals with but no further complications because of our family’s ethnic makeup. But recently, we’ve talked about moving somewhere beyond NYC, and my number one requirement is that it’s somewhere progressive. Because two married gay men, one black and one Mexican, and who will eventually have biracial children, shouldn’t live in a place that doesn’t welcome and celebrate every aspect of their individuality.
I’m no less aware of prejudices and inequalities than if my husband were black. I haven’t had any issues yet but I’m aware of them. And anyone who thinks I’m not aware, simply because of who I love, needs to examine their own understanding of wokeness, self-love, and love, in general.