Admittedly, I was once unsure about interracial dating. These days my views have mellowed and my opposition is - well - not so staunch anymore. Let's face it, in life we all have things that bother us one way or the other.
Let me be clear that my views towards interracial dating did not arrive from an overtly racial position. I am not one of those types who think that black is best so damn the rest. No, that cannot be attributed as the justification for my once held views.
Having migrated to the United Kingdom, I would say that my thoughts on interracial dating were shaped there. There I was, thrown into this great experiment called multiculturalism. Being from an island where we mingled with people of different cultures, we recognised the presence of others but we more or less got on with our lives. In the UK however, multiculturalism and its real or imagined virtues were constantly being celebrated or berated by the media. I suppose I too fell in with the debate as my graduating theses back in 2001 was about the very same multiculturalism issue.
In the United Kingdom, I became increasingly aware that there was a prevalence of interracial couples and it was even more so somewhat of a feature on many television programmes. Of course, everyone is free to date anyone of their choice I agree, but for my part and taking into consideration Britain's less than admirable treatment of its black minority, I became disturbed by what I thought at the time to be the dilution' of the black race in Britain. The prevalence was mainly Black men dating outside of their race and as many black women whom I have had this discussion with would ask, "Are black women not good enough?" Was there a silent verdict being signalled to black women with the increase of their men dating outside?
To compound the myriad of issues in this area, what I further witnessed were interracial couples producing offspring some of who often denounced being called black. Many of them described themselves as mixed race'.
By no means am I saying that there is anything wrong with them saying they are mixed race because in reality that is what they are! But the debates and discussions I was hearing seemed to be taking it to an entirely different level where mixed race' seemed to want to be identified as an entirely new race. Who was responsible for this? Was it the media? Parents? Who exactly?
After spending some time trying to understand where this new race' was coming from, it appeared to me that most of what the media in the UK was putting out were images of interracial couples. In most prime time programmes, this was the more often than not featured image. Then on the other side, black families shown were often depicted as being dysfunctional, wrought with problems. These images bothered me immensely. I was convinced there was a sinister media plot to psychologically degenerate the black community in Britain.
What made this even more relevant was the huge contrast that I saw over in America. The USA does have its racial troubles that are all too well documented but it would be hard to contest that there were not more positive portrayals of Black people via the media.
Having traveled extensively to North America, what I often saw in the media were black couples who were shown to be successful or at least stable with both parents working to provide for their families. Also the jobs they had were not your usually associated sports or music related jobs. Those are admirable in their own right but American television, more than what I ever witnessed in Britain, showed black people in positions of power and influence; as politicians, military commanders, doctors, lawyers, journalists, stock traders and the list goes on. Black families on many American programmes also often showed two black couples and even though they did have their share of normal family problems, the disconnect was not as blatant as in the UK media. For instance, in the UK, many times I wondered why a popular show like Eastenders could not find a more successful depiction of a black family than those storylines they have been pursuing.
I would suppose part of the obvious difference can be explained when looking at media ownership in the UK as compared to the USA. Unlike the UK, across the pond, there are vibrant and successful black owned media houses that show the best of what black people in their communities have to offer. Organisations such as BET, Ebony and Essence are all great examples of black owned institutions that celebrate black culture and achievement without waiting for mainstream media's acceptance.
My position, as I said previously, towards the entire idea of interracial dating has changed from that time when I first encountered it en masse. I have many people whom I consider to be firm friends who are in interracial relationships and are very happy. Also, I think that tempers have cooled and the debate on multiculturalism in the UK has lost some of the steam it once had. So now, acceptance and tolerance have greatly improved from what they once were. I still do believe however that their is a huge media divide between the UK and North America in the portrayal of black couples and families.
Showing interracial couples is fine by me but I also think there needs to be a much better representation of successful black families and couples in the British media to show that such relationships do function well.
Photo Credit To Cheap Thrills
Jeevan Robinson is Editor-in-Chief of MNI Alive. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org