In Response to Tuesday’s “On Interracial Relationships”

The fetishization of people of color in this country has been an issue since before the colonization of the Western world itself. While diversity in the United States is indeed on the rise, the growing political climate has also made white supremacy braver as it infiltrates our executive branch and hate crimes in the U.S. begin to rise.

I am a product of an interracial relationship. My father, for as little as I know about him, was a black and Native American man. My mother is Irish, German and Hungarian with red hair and blue eyes to match. So imagine my surprise, and disgust, when I opened The BG News and read that “interracial couples can make beautiful babies. Interracial relationships have so many benefits, can even be a fun ‘fetish’ for many.”

To avoid getting into semantics, the definition of interracial is actually “of, involving, or designed for members of different races.” The definition itself does not include anything about the interaction of those different races, be it platonic or romantic.

Also, an interracial relationship does not have to involve a white individual to be considered interracial as the column used in its examples. Interracial couples can also involve someone who is Latinx and someone who is Black; or someone who is Asian and someone who is Latinx; or someone who is Black and someone who is Asian.

While it is in the author’s opinion that “interracial relationships have the power to completely end racism,” it is fact that this is not ever going to be the case. Despite popular belief, people who are racist have the capability to be in interracial relationships. Historically, white supremacists have slept with women of color in an attempt to “dilute” the skin color of future U.S. citizens and to “dilute” the people and their culture.

How do white supremacists and racists in interracial relationships have the power “to completely end racism,” when their entire ideology sees black bodies as just a capitalist commodity and want to eliminate those people?

In 2016, there were 60.25 million married couples in the United States. As of 2014, 35 percent of all marriages were interracial and interracial marriage is still projected to rise as the demographics of the United States begin to change. Does this mean that interracial marriage is still the minority? Yes. But that does not mean people aren’t “embracing” interracial dating. In fact, it means quite the opposite.

Of course people are still going to think interracial dating and marriages are “taboo.” In 2016, we saw the case of Loving v. Virginia come to life on the silver screen, the Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage in 1968.

A movie screen cap of
Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as Richard and Mildred Loving from the 2016 movie, “Loving.” The movie made $7.8 million at the box office.
It is going to take more than “beautiful mixed babies,” tolerance and embracing to end racism in U.S. society. It is going to take action, unlearning racist and white supremacist behaviors, and dismantling our institutions of racism before we can even think about it being completely over.

As an active member of the BDSM community, I found it to be incredibly racist and offensive to my community that interracial dating could be seen as a “fun fetish.” People of color have been fetishized for decades and to promote this through interracial dating promotes white supremacy. “Race play” is a very real thing in the community which is where participants take on the roles/stereotypes of different races to enact a power dynamic. A common scene is a submissive taking on the role of a slave and the dominant taking the role of a plantation owner; white submissives will go as far as putting themselves in blackface.

I agree interracial relationships are to be celebrated and embraced. Without interracial love, I don’t know who I would be as a person. I am a tri-racial woman because of interracial dating. But please refrain from fetishization when celebrating these relationships.

This column was written in response to “On Interracial Relationships.”
This column was originally published in the independent student publication, The BG News, which can be found here.

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“Black Like Me” a social justice beach read

Title: Black Like Me
Genre: Nonfiction; Sociology
Author: John Howard Griffin
Publisher: Sepia Magazine
Publication Date:
1960
Pages:
176
Price: Library Rental

To the journalist or the activist who is engaged with racial inequality, it is not uncommon to take a book pertaining to social justice on holiday with them to read when they’re not doing research.

The good thing about “Black Like Me” is that the research is practically already done for the reader. Author John Howard Griffin, a white man from Texas, physically inserts himself into various Black communities in the South and Deep South, by medically and artificially darkening his skin. He uses UV sun lamps and an oral treatment often used in helping the pigment of people who suffer from vitiligo.

Griffin was from Texas and born in 1920. He graduated from the University of Poitiers in France. According to The Telegraph, he became a part of the French Resistance and helped Jewish children escape from World War II to England.

Before talking to various people and doctors, he admits in one of his beginning journal entries that even though he specializes in race issues, he did not fully understand the real struggle of the Negro. So, in a journalistic context, he feels that since he does not know what he calls the “Negro’s real problem,” he feels it is his duty as a journalist has to investigate this matter on his own and see for himself what it is really like.

Before reading this, I was incredibly skeptical of what the content of the book was going to be like. As a woman of color, I have faced racism both inside and outside the home. Here, I thought prior to reading the book, was a white man who medically and physically painted on blackface to put himself in a society he was never in to start with.

However, I was surprised when I started reading the book.

For starters, he went out of his way to talk to multiple people about whether or not it would be a good idea to invest in such a project. Then, he dedicated himself to the cause further by consulting with a dermatologist and getting a medication that would darken his skin. While he only participated in this social experiment for a month, the medication would not darken his skin completely, so he finished it off using a stain and giving him a “pure brown” skin tone. This would come in handy after he creates a system of going between himself as white and himself as a black man.

I was not sure how he was going to interject himself into society as a black man, but it helped he decided to travel for his experience. He portrayed himself as a black man traveling for work, which I thought was a clever but ambiguous identity for him to have when encountering strangers.

I found the book to be an easy read. Griffin writes clearly and easily about his experiences. Even for parts that could seem particularly uncomfortable to the white reader, his points are easy to understand.

I understand Griffin’s desire to want to know exactly the problems the Negro faced in the South and Deep South, it’s hard to ignore the privilege he had not only have the option to try and investigate this as journalism story. But also, he had the privilege to also “zigzag” between being black and white, before permanently returning to white society. While he was able to darken his skin to “see” what the struggles of Black people were like, actual Negros do not have the same luxury or privilege.

But John Griffin gains something from his experience that racist individuals are not capable of having for marginalized people is empathy. That’s the important thing to keep in mind while reading this brief book—only 176 pages. So it makes for an easy read for even a four-day weekend.

Parsing out complexities of intersectionality

A column published in Tuesday’s paper titled “LGBT Community’s unseen racism problem,” caught my attention, and I immediately began to read. But what I found when I was reading this column was an emotional response that left me raising my eyebrows.

While the column did open the conversation about racism in the LGBT community, the columnist missed the opportunity to address the things that make the LGBT less inclusive: the conversation on intersectionality and the conversation of preference versus racism.

First, let me just say that there is no “fine line” between preference and racism. Having a preference is not only racist but sexist as well.

As an afro-indigenous ally to the LGBT community, I will be the first to tell you that I do not know what it is like to have the experiences an LGBT individual does. But I do experience racism and sexism and those are both things I can speak about.

A woman of color can tell you that sometimes the racism she experiences can be sexist and the sexism she experiences is racist, so it is no surprise that the same can happen to LGBT people of color.

An Australian study published in the summer of 2015 looks at sexual racism, which the abstract describes as “a specific form of racial prejudice enacted in the context of sex or romance.”

In that same summer, a UK charity publication FS magazine surveyed 850 gay men of color.

Eighty percent of the black men who responded to the survey said they had experienced some sort of racism while on Britain’s gay scene. Even worse, 63 percent of black and South Asian men reported racism within the community being a worse issue than homophobia.

“Intersectionality” is a word that I’ve heard often, mostly with the feminist movement.

“Intersectionality” is the idea that describes ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another.

Instead of using myself as another example, I will use my sister who identifies as lesbian, but like myself, is of mixed races. Since her identity as a woman and a member of the LGBT community are both a part of her. They cannot be separated. As goes for LGBT black men. One hour, they could be getting followed around a store in fear of stealing something; the next hour, they could be having an experience similar to the one(s) described in the previous column.

The only way to get past sexual racism in the LGBT community is to converse. It is important to have these conversations about sexual racism so can grow as a community.

I agree with the column that the LGBT community is becoming strong. However, I think the column is being too hard on the LGBT community for not knowing about things that haven’t been brought up in conversation or discussion yet. The LGBT community is not perfect, like any other community. It will have its flaws at the start. But the bigger it grows and the more people talk to each other about issues, the stronger it will be.

This is in response to the column “LGBT community’s unseen racism problem” originally published February 2. 2016, which can be found here.
This response column has been updated for the internet by the original writer.
This response column first appeared in the independent student publication, The BG News on Feb. 4, 2015. You can find their web edition here.