On ABC’s Black-ish and Dating While Mixed

By now, I am sure that you have seen ABC’s newest comedy Black-ish. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve most likely heard of it. It’s kind of hard to ignore ads for a show called Black-ish. On top of that, at this point there are hundreds, if not thousands, of blog posts that are reactions to the show which premiered on ABC’s Comedy Wednesday right after the Modern Family season premiere this week. This post is not going to be like most of the posts you will find about the show.

Let me start by saying my interest in the show was peaked by a soundbite in one of the commercials that was edited to say, “All this coming from a mixed woman who technically isn’t even really black?” As a mixed woman whose research interest is in mixed identity, my ears perked up immediately. A primetime show on a major television network is going to talk about being mixed? What I wasn’t ready for was how quickly in the episode and how frequently it was brought up. Rainbow, the wife of the main character, is biracial. Her identity as a mixed woman was brought up less than a minute into the show’s opening when Andre, the show’s main character, introduces his wife by calling her a “pigment-challenged, mixed-race woman.”

Later in the show, during a dinner to celebrate Andre’s promotion to Senior Vice President, Rainbow and her father-in-law have the following discussion:

“You told me I was coming over to eat friend chicken. I don’t know what the hell this is.”
“It’s fried chicken.”
“Really?”
“It’s baked fried chicken.”
“Oh. So fried fried chicken is too black for you?”

I will tell you right now that this particular conversation struck a cord with me as I don’t particularly like to eat fried chicken which has lead a number of people to question my blackness.

Later, Rainbow and Andre are having a conversation about him being put “in charge of black stuff” with his new promotion, and Rainbow tells him to just “keep it real” which results in this exchange:

“All this coming from a biracial, or mixed, or omnicolored complexion, whatever it is they’re calling it today woman who technically isn’t even really black?!”
“If I’m not really black then could somebody please tell my hair and my ass?”

All three of these instances happened within the first 13 minutes of the 30 minute comedy. My initial thought was, “Holy crap! All of my fears about never being ‘enough’ of a particular race for a partner are real! This is the kind of stuff I will hear ever day for the rest of my life!” That is, I had that thought after I overcame the initial shock of Rainbow’s mixed identity being brought up so many times within 13 minutes. After all, with most mixed-race characters, their identity is often never addressed (other than in ABC Family’s The Fosters in a episode to be discussed in a future post).

Which brings me to the topic of dating while mixed. First of all, there is this fetishization of multiracial people that seems to be pretty pervasive across the board. I’ve been called everything from “exotic” to “racially ambiguous.” People frequently talk about my hair be it a fascination with curls or the fact that I wash my hair multiple times a week and don’t wrap it. I’d never even heard of wrapping hair until college. Something I’ve heard a few times that really bugs me is, “I’ve never dated a [race] girl, but you’re only a little bit so it’s OK.” Excuse me what?! In the minds of some people (obviously not all) my being mixed provides a safer way to date interracially.

None of that is my really that serious to me. If nothing else, those types of comments help identify those I want nothing to do with and makes it super easy to pick out the toads. My biggest thing is that when I get into a serious relationship and somebody decides to take me home, I will never be enough of a particular race or I’ll be too much of something else. On the Native side, I don’t dance, go to ceremony, or speak my language. On the black side, I feel almost like Rainbow where somebody is going to tell me I’m not technically black because I’m mixed. I generally not to concerned with my white side as society wouldn’t allow me to identify as white even if I wanted to.

People always want to talk about my “type” or racial preferences when it comes to dating. There’s an assumption that I am attracted to white men because I grew up with white parents in a white town. It’s hard for me to really say though. I have been attracted to men of all races. If I have a tendency to be more attracted to men who happen to have more melanin in their skin, it’s more based on a shared experience as a person of color rather than them simply being brown. When trying to explain to somebody why I’m generally not interested in white men, I tried to reference the scene in Something New where the main character and her boyfriend get into an argument in the grocery store because he’s sick of talking about race all the time. I feel the same way that Kenya does. If I can’t talk about it at home, where am I supposed to talk about it? Living where I do, there isn’t exactly a plethora of people hanging out who would get it.

Regardless of who I end up with, I just hope that I won’t have to spend the rest of my life trying to prove my racial authenticity to my partner and his family. I don’t know if I’d be able to laugh it off as easily as Rainbow seemed to do on TV.

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