Coming from ‘the girl who swirls,’ and the co-author of Swirling: How to Date, Match & Relate, Mixing Race, Culture, and Creed, you would think any media representations of interracial couples would get the green light from me. You would be wrong.
I am not a beggar. Some interracial narratives should be aborted before they take their first breath. That’s how I felt when I heard that ABC’s Black-ish creator, Kenya Barris got the go-ahead to reboot Bewitched, the 1960’s sitcom featuring a pretty blond woman “Samatha,” married to an advertising guy “Darren” as they navigate the fact that she is a witch. She is a pampered stay-at-home mom who eventually has two children; one with powers and one without. Samatha is your typical pretty mid-century white American housewife who lives a struggle-free life–except for the hapless situations her magic get her and her family into.
In the new version, the main female character is a black single mother married to a white guy who is a bit of a slacker. “They struggle to navigate their differences as she discovers that even when a black girl is literally magic, she’s still not as powerful as a decently tall white man with a full head of hair in America,” says the article published in Deadline. Wait. She has magical powers and she STILL can’t overthrow white supremacy? What gives??!
Hmmm…a single black mother breadwinner with a man who doesn’t pull his weight? The only thing new in this scenario is that the guy is white instead of black. Would it have been so hard for once to portray a black woman being carefree and cared for while having babies within wedlock by a loving husband who brings home the bacon?
Now some of you may say, hey!look at the numbers. Seventy-seven percent of black children are born to single mothers, and in real life, black women are very familiar with the “struggle relationship” narrative. You might say it matches up more with reality. But…this is a show about a character who can wiggle her nose and make things float, change people into frogs, and zap her and other people from one place to another. If we can suspend our reality for that, why can’t we extend it to a black female ideal that isn’t so stereotypical?
Are interracial couples featuring black women and white men more comfortable to Joe Public if he’s a white woman’s castoff because they have higher standards that we do? Will this make the black audience more comfortable with a black woman “selling out” on television if it gives a cautionary warning that “the grass isn’t greener when you jump the fence?”
Why are there so many external forces invested in keeping black women at the absolute bottom? Black women are the ONLY collective that is not allowed to be pampered and protected women worthy of love, protection, and provision. These notions are so ingrained in us that black girls grow up believing that marriage is for white people–white women specifically. They could never deign to hope for having that position. The media will do its part to reinforce what depictions make them feel the least threatened and leaves us with the stick with the short end. It’s particularly disappointing that a black man, Kenya Barris, would use his power, position, and influence to push that narrative to further keep black women scraping for the recognition of their femininity.
I hope to the heavens I’m wrong about this and it’s not the stereotypical tripe that it sounds. But right now, only an act of sorcery would change my mind about this potential trainwreck of a show.
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