Monday, March 29, 2010

In Defense of Jilly from Philly: Why we can't have an honest discussion about Interracial Relationships

Two of my favorite soul singers are ruffling all types of feathers this week. Ms. Badu shocked us all by streaking the Grassy Knoll in her ingenious video for "Window Seat" and Jill Scott has hit a sensitive spot with an article about interracial marriage. While people have their panties in a bunch over Erykah going panty-less, Jill Scott is being called a racist by some for her description of how it pains her to see a successful black man with his white wife.

Nowhere in the article does Jill say that interracial marriage is wrong, she simply expresses how it makes her feel. She got a chance to clarify her thoughts on CNN, saying, "I could never be against love. Never. Never. It's ridiculous." What I took from Jill's article is not that black men shouldn't marry whom they choose, but that there is so much more behind that choosing than we'd care to admit. And now she has been deemed a racist for pointing out what is obvious to so many black women.

This is what bothers me about our discussions of interracial relationships. I don't know if it's our culture of political correctness but I suspect a decent segment of our population would rather not do the hard work of exposing the underbelly of this issue. They would rather sweep it under the rug and chastise those who dare to point out that oftentimes there is more to it than "I like who I like."

To deny that centuries of assaults on black womanhood, the exaltation of whiteness and European beauty standards play a role in black men choosing to date interracially is naive at best. I tend to believe that people hide behind a mask of naivete on this issue and in reality are dishonest cowards, lying even to themselves about their motives. Black men are not taking responsibility for their role in the matter. They don't want to examine their preferences. This is the reason why we still suffer from colorism in 2010, the "good hair" concept is still alive and we maintain unhealthy weight standards. We have uncovered and identified all these things as evil but they persist because we won't search our hearts and look at our motives. I don't care who you date, but I do care about the motives behind your dating choices a great deal.

Black women are hip to the cop-outs. We're hip to the dodging of the real issue. So, I shouldn't have been shocked when my favorite blogger, Ta-Nehisi Coates, basically told Jill, 'You don't know their life' and it's really none of our business who marries who. "Relationships are not (anymore, at least) a collectivist act. They really come down to two individuals doing business in ways that we will never be privy to," he wrote. While he may be right, that's not the point. Jill isn't trying to police your marriage. Jill is trying to tell you, and I thought quite clearly, that it hurts when we see our brothers covet those who don't look like us while throwign us to the hounds to fend for ourselves. Rightly or wrongly, it is seen as another way black men tell us we're not good enough.

A commenter on TNC's blog asked, "We're still talking about this in 2010?" Yes, we are and we will continue to have this one-sided conversation until we all do some soul searching. We can't move on until both black men and women come to the table, as naked as 7, Puma and Mars' mama, and be honest with each other. Black men, please leave the cop-outs at home. Black women, please leave the extra emotion in the car. There is room for growth and understanding but we must be willing to do the work.