It’s the hot-button topic right now: interracial dating and love. Donald Glover faced criticism around the topic after the release of his viral hit, “This Is America.” The video screamed blackness and reminded everyone that all of the art Glover’s been providing lately is also saturated with black culture. So when images of his white baby mama made their way around the internet, folks began questioning the making of black art by black men whose partners aren’t black (namely white).
I even offered commentary around the topic. For the record, I am a strong believer in “love is love,” but I am curious about someone who is pro-black choosing someone who isn’t.
When we left off the last season of Queen Sugar, we saw that Calvin, a white police officer, had come back into Nova’s (Rutina Wesley) life. In the show, Nova is a journalist and activist who mainly focuses on black lives in her New Orleans community. But her love life is often a sordid tale of love lost.
In the final episode of season 2, Nova told Calvin that she can’t be her full self with him. Why? He’s a white cop. She’s a black activist. It’s like a modern-day Romeo and Juliet with these two star-crossed lovers.
During a press conference for Queen Sugar with the actors who play the Bordelon siblings, Dawn-Lyen Gardner (Charley), Rutina Wesley (Nova) and Kofi Siriboe (Ralph Angel), black journalists gathered around a conference table and asked the beautiful actors about the show. One of the biggest questions of the hour was: As a black person, can you date and/or marry someone nonblack and still uphold pro-blackness? Their answers were quite interesting.
Kofi Siriboe: It’s such a necessary conversation. It hasn’t been unpacked and it’s taboo. When I was growing up, my mama said, “You better not bring no white girls home!” That’s my African mother. That’s no attack on her character or white people, but think about it. Let’s be real. She’s not saying, “Don’t bring no white girl home.” She’s saying, “Don’t bring the oppressor home.”
She’s saying, “Don’t bring the people who shamed me and disrespected me home.” That’s not an attack on white people. Black is not a color. White is not a color. We’re human. We have melanin. Some people don’t. White is a culture. Black is a culture. “Don’t bring that culture home that doesn’t respect my culture.” I understand. Don’t bring that white girl home? It could be taken in any way they try to spin it in any way they can. The real conversation is, why is there so many problems when interracial relationships occur?
There’s so much disconnect. So many conversations that all races, all these subraces, people don’t want to talk about it, then we want to make babies and ... do all these things in private. Then, when we get into society, it’s all the “Shhhh! Let’s not talk about it,” and then we go back into our private lives and now we’re making love and having babies. Nah. We need to bring it to the forefront. Until we bring it to the forefront, people are going to feel like they have to play these little games. The truth is, no matter what color you are, you know it. You’ve seen somebody of another race and thought that person was beautiful because they are. Love is love is love and human is human is human.
All the other stigma and taboos on top of it, that’s what makes it complicated. The love between two people of a different race or gender, that’s not complicated. It’s all the stigma and other stuff we put on top of it and refuse to unpack.
Rutina Wesley: There are people out there doing it. Those ties have to be seen, heard and felt supported. There has to be a huge amount of trust there, and conversations have to be had. That’s where I’d love to be a fly on the wall with a couple that is like that, and just listen to what they talk about when they come home, and how a black woman can be supported by her partner, whether he’s white, other or whatever he is, to feel like she’s seen.
I don’t think it’s always possible, but I know people who are doing it and people who are thriving in relationships like that. All you need is support, love, and to feel seen for you to fly, and I think that with Nova, not that Calvin wasn’t supporting her, I just don’t think he knew how. Maybe she also never asked for that support.
KS: And he was married. [Crowd laughs.]
RW: Wait, he left his wife for me and then she pushed him away. [Crowd laughs.] I will say on a personal level, I was in a previous relationship that was interracial; I felt very supported and seen. And it made me feel sort of special because a lot of people looked at us like, “How can you be together? How can you really see eye to eye?” You don’t really know how he carries me. He carried me in ways I didn’t think he could. Sometimes he knew more about black history than I did. It was a special relationship.
Dawn-Lyen Gardner: I grew up with a black father and nonblack mother. She’s Chinese. She grew up in a black neighborhood. She never claimed blackness, never appropriated. In her immigrant self, she was outside of the black experience, but she saw the injustice of it. It was deeply felt for her. She would enter debate and speech competitions, talking about civil rights, and she would win them.
For me, part of it is that, if you have the ability to empathize and to completely acknowledge race, trauma, the reality of the limits of your understanding and the respect for that, and you create space for another person to be seen and whole, it’s hard to label that as bad.
My mom is down for the cause. She didn’t have to proclaim it. She’s down for the cause in the way that she loved my father and his family, the way she saw them and fought for them to be seen. That’s as pro-black as it gets. It’s hard to say something pro-black or anti-black when it comes to love and relationships, wholeness and partnership. That’s a hard thing to immediately decide.
Check out The Root’s Facebook Live with the cast for the full conversation as they get real about topics like black fatherhood, black identity, black female directors and more.