I Don’t Appreciate Interracial Couples In Ads- And Not For The Reason You Think
The uptick in the representation of interracial couples in ads is noticed by everyone. It is however, more than apparent that interracial couples neither asked for this nor necessarily appreciate it. My argument is that it is premature to release a deluge of commercials showcasing interracial couples without much regard for normalization. Interracial couples have not yet been normalized in the United States. In the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement gaining traction in 2020, corporations are benefitting from making well-crafted statements of solidarity for Black people. There is no doubt that the uptick in commercials is due largely in part to the current momentum. As a Black woman in a marriage to a white man, rather than feeling represented, I feel exploited. I don’t feel seen, I feel used.
I understand that I do not speak for all interracial couples, however I have spent well over a decade heavily involved with interracial communities oriented around marriage and family. More specifically, I have been involved in interracial communities oriented around Black women and white men. It is a small niche that requires support, coaching, counseling and an unwavering stream of validation. This is why we have endless mediums of social media that are dedicated to simply viewing pictures of interracial couples for consumption of those in those relationships as well as hopefuls.
In 2013, all hell broke loose when a Cheerios ad showed three people, a white woman, a Black man and a biracial child. I say “people” and not “family” because the woman was sitting at a small kitchen table with the child, practically socially distanced. The Black man in the commercial, is sleeping on the couch- with no contact whatsoever with either person. He wakes up with a pile of Cheerios on his chest merely suggesting that the child poured a box of Cheerios on him without actually showing it.
If you blink, you would have missed the fact that you were witnessing a family unit.The response to this cold commercial should have been a litmus test to how America embraces (or doesn’t) interracial marriage and relationships. But advertisers still haven’t learned their lesson. You can try to insert an interracial family in a commercial if you want to, but it will take away from the product itself.
So of course, when a family is depicted as a family in close-quarters, there will be outrage.
While even white supremacists and Black nationalists will point out that interracial relationships between Black women and White men people are not as common as these commercials suggest, they are correct- even though their rationale for taking notice is deeply flawed. It must also be noted that there has not been as much outrage for this particular ad for Hinge, and it could be due to the fact that there are not children involved.
So here are a few facts:
· All other races of women are more likely to marry outside of their race than their male counterparts except for black women. (Tucker, Mitchell-Kernan 209)
· Hypergamy is no more a factor in interracial marriages as it is in intra-racial marriages. (Swarz, Mar 2005) This directly challenges the idea that people marry outside of their race for the purpose of attaining a higher socio-economic status. The fact is that even if that is their intention, it doesn’t usually happen- as most married couples have homogenous education-levels and socio-economic backgrounds. This however, has not been the case for Black women in intra-racial marriages.
· A 1990 study found that a Black person’s socioeconomic status and education has a negative impact on feelings of closeness with other Black people. They’ve found that the higher the education level, the more difficult it is to find meaningful relationships within their own race- friendship or otherwise. (Demo, Hughes 1990)
· Black women are the highest-educated demographic in the United States. However, there is a small chance of both people in a Black couple to have college degrees. This is a well-known and highly documented point of contention between Black women and Black men. (Reeves, Guyot 2017)
· The mass incarceration of Black men is largely to blame for the gender imbalance in Black communities. A college-educated, heterosexual Black women who chooses not to partner with a man that has been incarcerated, a homosexual on top of having other criteria (or as some call it, standards) such as no kids, certain income level , etc is left with few options. (Macaig 2019)
White nationalists and Black nationalists have similar views when it comes to their disapproval of interracial marriage. Ironically, both perspectives are loaded with contradictions.
The white supremacist viewpoint is “the societal issue of investment in whiteness”. (Lipsitz 1998). That whiteness is meant to be preserved in order to provide the advantages of whiteness which comes with resources, power and opportunity. (Lipsitz 1998). However, it’s been proven that white people in the US who hold “racial purity” beliefs are amongst the most impoverished, the least educated- and in fact, denounce higher education as “liberal brainwashing”. Black nationalist views towards interracial relationships involve the erasure of the Black family, which has been exacerbated by the systemic racism of Black people in this country- which has a hand in removing Black fathers from the home. While there is a significant amount of research to give merit to this stance, the irony is that Black men are more likely to date outside their race than Black women. The harm in this ideology is that it places an unbalanced amount of responsibility on Black women to hold the entire weight of Black communities on their shoulders. Then there are the folks in between who do not identify directly with racist/segregationist ideology but are still opposed to it in their personal lives “I’m ok with it, but not my daughter.” “I’m ok with it, but it’s not for me.” This is not to be confused with racial preference, but writing off all interracial relationships as “not for you” is problematic on multiple levels.
It also seems as if the US has embraced biracial people but not the unions that create them.
For the context of this article, when I say “biracial”, I’m specifically referring to people who biologically have one Black parent and one White parent. One thing to also point out is that biracial people have been cast in television, movies and commercials with two Black parents, but never two white parents and even more rarely an interracial couple that might actually represent their biological parents.
Meghan Markle came onto the scene laying out that she is neither Black nor white, but she is both. (Markle 2015) And although she is absolutely correct, she was treated like a black person by the British press once she is perceived to have impinged upon a beloved institution that is predicated on preserving whiteness. Yes i’m talking about the United Kingdom. Explaining what that means in depth is another topic altogether. Similarly, Barack Obama won over nice white lady voters by giving transparency into his upbringing of being raised by his single white mom. However, because of his choice of a partner, as well as the significance of him being the first President of African descent, he was seen and treated as Black. Vice President Elect Kamala Harris is of both Black and Southeast Asian descent. And yet, for some reason she is being berated by Black nationalists for attending an HBCU (historically Black college/university) and marrying a white man with white stepchildren. Even Black celebrities feel they have a right to speak about Kamala’s choice of a spouse. (Cadelago 2019)
The point is that America has not reconciled its issues with Black/White interracial couples. Until we can get past the “talking about race is racist” white folks, and misogynoir that dictates everyone Black has a right to criticize Black women’s choices in a non-Black partner- we will never move on. Black people are more than entitled to strictly Black spaces- for historical preservation and mental wellness. This is why Black women who date/marry/are even considering white men are usually heavily invested only in other Black women who are have the same frame of mind. It is emotionally exhausting and demoralizing to engage with people who do not approve of interracial relationships- even if they are of the same ethnic background. In my experience, white men are less likely to choose Black women as partners for similar reasons- their fragility dictates that they cannot handle the strong opposition and do the emotional labor of dealing with racial disparities as women of color do on a daily basis. To be fair and brutally honest, White men have more to lose than any other group in terms of social status and therefore are keener to protect it.
Normalization occurs over a series of profound acts of validation- and simply sticking interracial couples in a commercial is not even close to enough. In order for interracial relationships to become normalized, they must be acknowledged in several areas of society. And then embraced.
Tucker, M. Belinda, and Claudia Mitchell-Kernan. “New Trends in Black American Interracial Marriage: The Social Structural Context.” Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. 52, no. 1, 1990, pp. 209–218. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/352851.
Schwartz, C.R. and R.D. Mare. 2005. “Trends in Educational Assortative Marriage From 1940 to 2003.” Demography 42:621–46.
Demo, D.H. and M. Hughes. 1990. “Socialization and Racial Identity Among Black Americans.” Social Psychology Quarterly 53:364–74.
Markle, M. (2015, June). I’m More Than An Other. Elle. Retrieved December 25, 2020, from https://www.elle.com/uk/life-and-culture/news/a26855/more-than-an-other/