We’ll have to accept our cut-and-dry idea of race will only get more amorphous over the course of our lives. People are becoming more diverse and identifying themselves that way, too. That should be a sign for us to enlighten our views on race. However, it also means leaving behind the comfort we find in our divisive framing of the issue.
I say “comfort” because we’ve treated race with the simplicity of a comic book storyline. Remember, we were once a country where rapper DMX led a mostly white crowd into chanting the N-word at Woodstock in 1999. But somewhere along the way, a racist spider bit us and now race relations are seen as worse than they’ve been in decades.
The culprit may be the exponential increase in race coverage that runs parallel to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Journalists cast black Americans as encumbered by racism for merely existing, and made the ideology of “whiteness” the villain to crusade against.
Articles have since covered everything from the dangerous history of whiteness, to priests apologizing for racism, to academics arguing that noticing white people’s complaints of bias will only worsen inequality for others.
Most potent has been the self-hating variety. In 2015, one professor wrote for the New York Times that she feels she owes a certain, unpayable debt because of her white privilege. Her own son told her he essentially didn’t want to be white after she read him “Little House on the Prairie” and told him about the novel’s race-based conflicts.
She goes on: “Whiteness is not a kinship or a culture…What binds us is that we share a system of social advantages that can be traced back to the advent of slavery in the colonies that became the United States,” before concluding that “Whiteness is not who you are. Which is why it is entirely possible to despise whiteness without disliking yourself.”
But despising an unchangeable part of who you are gives other people license to openly despise you.
That’s why a psychiatrist who spoke at Yale University shared her fantasies of murdering white people. A person only feels bold enough to say this if the broader culture allows it. Or, more importantly, the people she’s targeting feel they deserve it.
The undercurrent to all this juiced-up racial tension is the majority-minority narrative. A majority-minority country, as the theory goes, is that changing demographic trends will flip the power dynamic between white America and a unified minority coalition. This is due to increased immigration, as well as a positive birth-death ratio among minorities and a negative one among whites.
So now white people are told they’re skin color is dangerous, objecting to any unfairness is frivolous, and they’re dying off too. Except that final point is an interesting chink in this narrative.
A small group of scholars have beaten the drum against the “myth” of majority-minority America, or at the least how that topic is defined.
They write about how this “white vs. nonwhite” contest creates an environment that’s both polarizing and false. For one, more and more minorities are marrying outside of their race — “Nearly three in 10 Asian, one in four Latino, and one in five Black newlyweds are married to a member of a different ethnic or racial group” with about three-quarters of their partners being white, according to the article.
Secondly, more people are identifying as mixed race and are associating with multiple identities. Again, from the article:
“According to the most detailed of the Census Bureau’s projections, 52 percent of individuals included in the nonwhite majority of 2060 will also identify as white. By the same token, the white group will become much more diverse, because 40 percent of Americans who say they are white also will claim a minority racial or ethnic identity.”
The authors did their own study where they had people read two articles about the demographic shift. When one article characterized it as white people in decline, it made them anxious. But when the second article phrased it as white people will simply be included in the more racially heterogeneous future, they were largely on board.
It makes sense that (normal, sane) white people would be ok with this. The majority-minority narrative has a connotation that a demographic shift will unleash some pent up revenge against them, mostly because there’s a grander narrative that everything white people do is to preserve racial superiority. (Which is strange because a ton of white people can’t even admit they like being white!)
But some prominent black Americans refuse to welcome this race-mixing with open arms. Namely, they object to the public images representing race mixing.
If you watch even a few hours of TV a week, you’d probably notice there are a bunch of ads where a white guy is with a black chick.
There’s the “clogging problem” commercial Geico did where such a couple complains about their tap dancing upstairs neighbors. A Humira ad features a dad with his black wife and mixed daughter. And on the car front, there’s the Hyundai commercial where the white dad takes his Sage Steele-looking wife and their mixed kids to get some spicy jerky.
Shit, even President Joe Biden said something about it when he brought up mixed race couples in ads during a February Town Hall.
But political scientist Jason Johnson took issue with Biden’s hopeful spin on this.
Not only did Johnson find it lazy for white America to try and pass off diversity in ads as progress, but the commercials ignore the far-more-common pairing of a black man and a white woman. To him, “woke white America wants to believe it can fuck its way out of racism, as long as the penis is white.”
Godfrey, the comedian, posted his own Instagram video after he spotted a white man-black woman couple in a poster ad. He felt that ad companies were telling people “it’s safer” to be with a white guy versus a black guy, and that mixed race couples are fine, but people shouldn’t lose their “racial integrity.”
In a follow up video, he said it was more about these companies not promoting “black love” than anything else.
Listen, I get where these guys are coming from. These commercials are trying way too hard. And they’re right, they don’t reflect what we see out in the world. The most common interracial couples are a white man and an Asian woman, followed by a black man and a white woman.
Let’s admit it too — there’s a certain level of comfort that comes from dating/marrying someone who is the same race as you. Not like it’s the determining factor in your decision to pursue that person, but it helps establish common ground.
It reminds me of a joke Ali Wong cracked, “I think that for marriage, it can be nice to be with somebody of your own race. The advantage is you get to go home and be racist together.”
While put a bit awkwardly, Godfrey did have a point about supporting racial integrity. You can’t really lead the anti-racist fight if you’re sleeping (let alone procreating) with the enemy. Just look at how silly politicians like Ilhan Omar or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez come across when they denounce white supremacy…and then go home to their white partners.
But these are also old modes of thought. The fact that race is a shrinking obstacle to romance should be celebrated. It’s a testament to the nation’s unique and flexible character, not something we should ignore for the sake of a trumped up, divisive narrative that one side’s demographic gain is the other’s loss.
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