Interracial Couples in Literature & Pop Media

Elia's Diamonds

To put it broadly, the interracial couple has always been a controversial figure in American society. During slavery white men had access to the sexual privilege that allowed them to more times than not rape Black and African women or coerce them into sexual relationships by using their position of power over the women or by threatening them and the people they loved with violence. These are my earliest memories in life of examples of what scholars have termed “interracial intimacies” .

This being the truth, I myself have always found the white-Black interracial couple questionable. As a child, I thought of it a fetish kind of thing, what is called “jungle fever” to be outright insulting, not PC, and put it bluntly. Still then and even now, I write about the Black-white interracial couple as well as other kinds of interracial couples with social commentary laden intentions with the hope that I can portray them as people who are genuinely in love and care for another. They are not characters who exist on this cloud of racial “colored blindness”, usually in my stories race and class and other social issues is something they have to face and I try to make it as realistic and nuanced as possible.

What is the hype around interracial couples in America with regards to the entrance of Barack Obama as president?

Without getting too much into the geneology, I’ll say this: Barack Obama’s father is Kenyan and his mother is white. He grew up in Hawaii with his white grandparents. That said, its interesting that people, especially white people, put so much emphasis on his “mixedness”, his whiteness, even though he himself has openly said that he identifies as Black. Many people in this country have treated President Obama as if he is Jesus Christ and is bringing the Second Coming, as if he, though his “mixedness”, has become a bridge for white and Black people to meet each other in the middle.

Uh-unh.

I don’t think so.

As a matter of fact, I think having a President who identifies as Black but actually has a white parent has further complicated white Americans’ ideas of the Black-white interracial couple. Consider the following:

  1. What kinds of interracial couples are in the media (commecials, ads, movies, television, magazines, etc.)?
  2. When you see a interracial couple, is one of the people involved white by any chance?
  3. What has the white-Black interracial couple come to symbolize?
  4. What has this emphasis of white people on the white-Black interracial couple done to the image of the Black family and to the idea of other kinds of interracial couples?

In some cases and definitely in the media, I think that the Black-white interracial couple has become a means for white people to ease their white guilt and further integrate themselves into and appropriate Black culture and social life.  Most of the time in images of the media, you never see a interracial couple without a white person somewhere close by to be involved in it, “approve” of it, or sanction it in some way; it is a constant reminder that white people are here and their privilege gives them the right to be a part of your “little ‘colored’ life”. Since the President Obama entered office, I think more so than ever that through the media, more specially literature, the Black-white interracial couple has become yet another symbol and means for white colonization and devaluation of the Black family and other families of color.

Plenty of erotica, erotic romance, and romance writers trepass into the territory of interracial relationships–namely the Black-white interracial couple. They elevate this “interracial intimacy” to a level of fetishdom that is disgusting; one scholar says this is because they view the relationship between master and slave during slavery (think Sally and former white ass President Thomas Jefferson who owned over 257 slaves by the way) as tragically romantic and misunderstood and warped by an oppressive society. White writers in these genres in particular, regardless of the fact that most Black and African slave women were raped or coerced into sexual relations with white men (and with Black men too because they were expected to increase the white master’s slave population) are obsessed with this “interracial intimacy” because they have the privilege of stupidly (sorry, that’s me being pissed off) imagining it as romantic through “artistic license” and willful “creativity”.

The interracial couple has become a fetish and a commodity for writers in particular. There are many fans begging “urban fantasy” (arguable)/paranormal romance writer J.R. Ward to pretty-please-on-their-knees put a “ethnic female character” in her white dominated Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Even if she did, at this point, this woman would be a minority along with Trez and iAm (“the Moors”, obviously Black males who are bouncers and nurses for a drug-dealing, substance-abusing, club-owning, white male pimp vampire). Then J.R. Ward would have a whole other load of an issue in her books to add to my list: 1) appropriation of Black culture and rap and rap culture, 2) ONE ethnic female minority, 3) stereotyping Black males, 4) promoting consumer culture in our crazy ass capitalist nation, etc, etc…. She excuses the lack of people of color by saying, loosely quoted, that she “writes what the Brothers tell her to”; when asked if there will be a ethnic female character, her answer is “you’ll never know who might pop up in the Brothers’ world”. And more than likely, should she even appear, this imagined woman of color, this “ethnic female character, would mostly likely be with a white male vampire. Which leads me right back to interracial couples in writing and media in general.

What these white writers in particular fail to realize is that–despite what white European history and thought, scientific racism, and American culture through ads and commercials and academic and non-academic writing like the afore mentioned genres tell us–there is nothing sexy or loving or romantic about slavery, rape and coercion, oppression, white sexual privilege, and the dehumanization of people of color through systems of oppression. No matter how much they’d like to believe that there is.

I’d like to end this by saying 1) this is in no way an attack on healthy BDSM relationships, 2) I have faith in the potential of interracial relationships of all kinds to be genuine…but I believe in questioning the ones that are created and propagated for the purpose of easing white guilt and normalizing and integrating whiteness into the lives and culture of people of color in the past, the present Age of Obama, and the future.

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Why Historical Fiction?

Elia's Diamonds

There are many American writers who make a conscious choice to write historical fiction. My area of expertise or experience is historical romance so I can’t really speak to all genres. But the question remains.

Why is that? Why do they choose to do this?

It is just so interesting to me how some artists wish to remain confined to antiquity. In the worlds that these writers build, I would ask who is excluded, alienated, and marginalized by them? For example, who is backdrop scenery in romance novels that take place on plantations? Usually, its the Black and African and Afro-Caribbean peoples. My ancestors are the backdrop, the trim, the exotic locale of some European-descended person’s romance and happily ever after or drama. You too often in many circumstances see the same thing with many minorities or marginalized peoples.

This dates back to early writings in America and before it was even America, with European explorers like Christopher Columbus and John Smith, both of whom were responsible for countless atrocities against the humanity of Native peoples.

One reader’s literary escape is another reader’s marginalized hell. I’m sure that the Native peoples did not view “America” as the “New World”. They were already here, living their lives with their own sets of cultural ways.

So much of what we know about history is distorted. So much of what we do know about history is written by the victors of wars fought to instate and maintain oppression and commit genocide and to promote the agendas of the few in power.

What is this obsession with the socially alienating past? Why aren’t there more writers trying to write about these things but with a more focused social commentary?

Why is it that historical romance writers choose to write about women in patriarchal societies? Why is it that they choose to write about women who are practically, by their own societal laws, under men’s feet? Why is that they choose to write about women who were often coerced into sexual relations with their husbands and sometimes men who weren’t their husbands? Furthermore, why would they choose to make it sensual? What is sexy about that? Why is it that they choose to write about a time when women were considered property in their societies? Why do they choose to glamorize the institution of marriage? Why is it that they choose over and over and over again to continue to support a market built on the backs of oppressed women? Who would choose to give something like this to the world of the arts?

Is the past just safer and easier to write about, for white writers in particular?

Coming Topics?

Some interesting topics came out of my recent threads on BDB’s message boards. In light of these discussions with (and sometimes attacks from) other fans of J.R. Ward’s work, I hope to be writing on topics like fictional license, capitalism, and fiction and also genre Fiction v. Literary Fiction.