Talk about a fly in the ointment. Home Team History has always been one of my favorite YouTube channels, because its videos are solidly informative and its message is uplifting. It’s run by a Black man and is refreshingly free of the misogynistic vitriol that often comes pouring out of other channels run by Black men. Instead of leaving wondering if the brother would benefit from some therapeutic psychotherapy, we are sent away with a beautiful benediction to know ourselves, remember our ancestors and be in peace.
But I just couldn’t catch his message on his latest. Take a look.
Just … How does the longstanding history of Black men being maligned and slandered by outside oppressors connect with Snoop being allowed to attack and threaten Gayle King’s life in an Instagram video?
Black men are the only men who publicly and viciously denigrate and insult their own women. And relish it! The advent and use of the Internet to connect strangers has only amplified some deeply rooted patriarchal attitudes and juvenile, hostile behavior that just comes flooding our way. Other groups of men mistreat their women and brutalize them, for sure, but they somehow manage to keep it further away from the public gaze and they almost never praise other women’s beauty, grace and desirability over their own.
Almost from the beginning of our use of the Internet, Black men have made it a pattern to mock, jeer and publicly disrespect Black women. Whether we realize it or not, this longstanding public behavior, and Kobe Bryant’s worshipful global following made it OK for Snoop to make that Instagram video, call Gayle King out of her name, and order her to respect ‘the family’ or ‘we’ were gonna come get her. I respect why Snoop felt emotional and protective of Kobe Bryant’s legacy, and why he thought bringing up a rape allegation in an interview before the man was even buried was the wrong move. I feel that way, too. But I part ways with him when it comes to how he expressed his feelings and for whom he claimed to speak.
This here member of the family will never take up arms against Gayle King. Do Black men jump to defend our posthumous legacies, or protect us from bullies, even when they see something going down that’s wrong?
Exhibit A: Terry Crews’ shameful abandonment of Gabriel Union, essentially saying her experience of micro-aggressions and mistreatment on AGT were her problem and not his. What a way to pay it forward after Black women rushed to support him when he bravely stepped forward with his story of sexual harassment and misconduct at the hands of an industry predator. Literally. The simple fact is that Black men do not love or value us publicly like we love them. Maybe they do feel protective of and loyal to us, but I don’t see them express it whenever someone posts a video or photo of Lizzo and the trolls go in on her about her body.
Exhibit B: I could write an entire book chapter on my theories about why Vanity Fair film critic K. Austin Collins attacked a 7-year-old girl for looking like her Black father. Oh, to be a psychologist to unpack how his New Year’s Day Tweets were rife with misogyny, colorism, and self-loathing. Let’s start by just looking at his profile pic. Posing it up. Smug and unbothered. Concealing his African features against a pastel-colored sky and vilifying a little girl for carrying her Black father’s features as her legacy.
Black women need to stop breaking our necks to run to Black men’s rescue all the time, if this is the thanks we’ll get. If Black men cannot dredge up any common decency to refrain from attacking a little girl, however wealthy her parents are, said individuals are trash.
Black men suffer from an obvious case of half-love for us, but we make it easy. We compartmentalize the insults and the indifference, contextualize it in history and systemic racism, as if we are not penalized by the same things, and we remember to be loyal and turn right back around and defend them whenever we see something going wrong. Ari Lennox is a great example. A *Black male* Twitter troll called her a Rottweiler, and when she tearfully expressed her feelings about it, music industry media host Joe Budden rubbed salt in the wound and said she was being too sensitive. Yet Ari shook this off and jumped right to Snoop’s defense because she felt that what Gayle King did was wrong. Our loyalty never ceases to amaze me, and sometimes it baffles me, quite honestly.
The one good thing about this situation was that it was resolved within our own community. Yes, CBS chimed in with a comment supporting Ms. King, but it was Snoop’s mother who sat him down and had that conversation with him, leading him to apologize, and Ms. King accepted it. I don’t think anyone needs to see the apology as some kind of humiliation or bringing a Black man to heel. No white-owned corporate entity threatened to take anything away from Snoop.
The time for Black men to disagree with us publicly without tearing us down has been a long time coming. And who knows? Maybe this could lead to a further meeting of two minds I respect, or at the very least a turning point toward greater public civility between Black men and Black women. Why is that so hard to expect?
A few months ago a neighbor and I got to talking about Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, known on this side of the pond as Meghan Markle. My neighbor is like me in a way: much more abreast of the happenings with the Windsors than typical Americans.
“She is going to break under the pressure.” And as for Harry, “I feel like he’s going to stray.”
I wasn’t so convinced, on either count. Let’s take a deeper look at who we’re talking about, if I may as a realist with an optimistic inclination. She’s achieved respectability and success as a TV actress in Hollywood. It’s an industry notorious for subjecting women to intense scrutiny, and doubles down on that scrutiny with extra disrespect when it comes to Black and mixed-race women like Meghan. I’ve seen everything from wildly rude and catty red carpet slights, invectives hurled in the comment sections of women’s online magazines to racist insults and death threats on social media. Hopefully, the devouring pressures of Hollywood might have prepared Ms. Markle for what was to come of life in The Firm, as the British royal family is known? And besides, her husband is a distant heir to the throne. His whole close family would have to pass away for him to ascend. Without the heavy weight of the crown in his future, it seems like the Sussexes could carve their own path in a way that protects their family and confers more dignity to that institution status.
Well, it looks like my neighbor and I were both right, in different ways. Meghan has been unhappy, as my neighbor thought. She isn’t putting on a stiff upper lip and facing down the press, like I thought she would, though.
Together with her husband, Meghan announced a plan to address their dissatisfaction on Instagram.
And then came that clip from the behind the scenes documentary of their travel to Africa, in which Meghan explained to the interviewer that things are tough, and very few people really ask about how she is doing. It should have been a reality check for a lot of royal watchers. But like Americans and their fervent obsession with their guns, regardless of how many lives are sacrificed, the Brits don’t care whose lives are tormented, as long as they get their royal fix. Their feeble and threadbare justification is that taxpayers pick up the tab for the Sussexes’ security, travel and living expenses. I bet none of these mixed-race yahoo-neanderthals even know what kind of an impact crater these costs are leaving in their household budgets. Even if they knew the few pence they have to part with per annum, none of that would entitle the public to their ravenous, voyeuristic obsession with every aspect of the Sussexes’ lives or the openly racist insults that have been hurled at Ms. Markle and her son. But what can you expect from that ilk.
A lot of people conveniently forget that Prince Harry has survived public scandal, had public relationships and he has matured into a grown man who will make his own decisions. More than likely Ms. Markle appeals to an independent streak, and a willingness to be more connected to the world of possibilities, instead of tied to frigid, overcast England, the institutions that come with being the king, and the bloodsuckers called the British press.
Remember all the hullabaloo and fuss after the Cambridges’ wedding, when Will drove that Aston Martin from the wedding, and how the press gushed that ‘this is a modern couple doing things their way?’ The Brits have a pretty low bar for what it means to be ‘independent,’ don’t they?
What tickles me is to watch some of these grown women barely conceal their bitterness that a commoner, a biracial American divorcee and former TV actress not only married the Prince of England, but “lure him away” so that they couldn’t get their daily “bash a royal” fix.
Oh, England. Take a clue — or several — from other European royal houses and chill.
So! This is a wise move on the part of the Sussexes. Hopefully, all things will work for their advantage for the most part.
And tell me, if the British monarchy receives the mother of all shake-ups and is abolished, say, before Prince George can take the throne, whom do you think will be better positioned to adapt to private, financially independent lives? A couple where the wife established her wealth, success and respect before she married her prince, or a crown prince and the perfectly nice wife who never did?
I love period films, but I never could fully enjoy the silk gowns and lace tucks, the country estates and houses in town, and all the high spirits and intrigues that drove excellent historical television and film. Black people were scarce on the high society scene and were often slaves otherwise, so …
Lucky for me, then, PBS is importing an Andrew Davies adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sanditon from ITV, and it starts on Sunday. It is about a fishing town “on that part of the Sussex coast between Hastings and Eastbourne,” as Austen describes it, trying to reinvent itself as a fashionable seaside resort community. One of the best supporting characters is the spirited (aren’t the more interesting young ladies always ‘spirited’ in these things?) Miss Georgiana Lambe, the mixed-race, orphaned, 19-year-old daughter of a plantation owner and his (former, I surely hope) slave in Antigua. Georgiana Lambe is an heiress, poised to inherit a £100,000 fortune. That makes her a sure target for fortune hunters among the baronets and other title holders whose estates could use infusions of money without actually exerting their minds with actual work.
Jane Austen never got the chance to complete Sanditon. She died in July 1817, and only a fragment of a draft survived. Out of her six novels, Austen only made passing references to slavery in the West Indies and how it enriched the British aristocracy in two of them — Mansfield Park and Persuasion. In Sanditon, she gives slavery a bigger share of the conversation from the perspective of Georgiana, whose mother survived it. In Georgiana we see the clash of two cultures, her British father who profited from the enslavement of Africans, and her mother. Georgiana’s identity issues play out in particular in two somewhat painful scenes. The great lady of Sanditon hosts a luncheon in her honor, and Sanditon’s upper classes see her as an exotic import, like the centerpiece pineapple presented there. She is to be carved up by their cutting remarks and served up. In another, Georgiana tries to leave for London, and heads for the coach. The working classes laugh with scorn and incredulity at this Black girl who wants a seat on a coach to London, but cannot pay right away, because she is not accustomed to carrying money. (A Black queen we have here!) Things go worse for Georgiana when she says her banker in London will vouch for her and offer payment. The poor girl is always cornered wherever she goes.
Davies’ scripts often endow the British aristocracy with more moral enlightenment than is realistic, and the pop culture anachronisms sometimes come screaming out. How, for instance, does a mean-spirited dowager who has lived in England all her life become conversant enough in patois to understand Georgiana when she switches into that dialect for one of her put downs?
Georgiana stands up to the hostile old witch, but so much battling in a place that is supposed to be genteel does take its toll, as you can imagine. One scene finds Georgiana on a solitary walk along the bluffs, missing home and unable to find her footing in Sanditon. The setting vaguely echoed the story of Lovers Leap in Jamaica, because Georgiana’s guardian Mr. Sidney Parker removed her from London to get her away from an “unsuitable match.” I didn’t fear that Georgiana would harm herself, but her moment of sadness and loneliness opens the door for her to make friends with Charlotte Heywood, whose romance is the main one.
Davies makes my eyes roll sometimes with how much modern virtue he bestows on old British aristocrats, and he does that here. The script does deliver, however, on Austen’s musings about the economic and societal changes coming to the early 19th century, and you don’t need to see slave owners through rose glasses to do that. Not only is there a wealthy Black foreigner in Sanditon, but also an ambitious young urban planner before urban planning was a thing, and a German doctor with a strange new invention called a shower bath.
Let’s take a minute to talk about Georgiana’s guardian, Mr. Sidney Parker. The story shameless draws many parallels to Mr. Darcy. Actually, he’s an amped up Mr. Darcy, without the wealth. He is mightily good looking. He broods better than Jon Snow. He judges and chastises. At a certain point, I really wondered if he and the main female character, Charlotte Heywood, actually had the spark and chemistry to carry this off. They dislike each other initially, and often miscommunicate in the beginning, but in the first three episodes that I’ve seen, they forgot to deliver that undercurrent of attraction. Charlotte is unlike our Lizzie Bennet, who, though she was not formed for malice, never sought as many people’s good opinion as our Charlotte Heywood seems to do for a ‘spirited’ girl away from home. Their sparks were turning into a cropping of fireflies, until the producers had Charlotte happen upon Mr. Parker’s ‘casual swim’, which was on a whole different level from Colin Firth’s white clingy shirt. You see in Sanditon, the gentlemen sea bathe in the nude. Our Charlotte got the full monty, and having been visually deflowered, I guess she is our future Mrs. Sidney Parker. That’s the thing: their love story feels almost like a procedural inevitability. We never caught Mr. Parker eyeing up Charlotte and we never heard Charlotte bitching about him to Georgiana.
Sanditon is a story of New World changes beginning to lap at the shores of the Old World, and while Georgiana is not the main heroine, her strong attachment to a free Black man in London, seen in the closing scene of episode three, is sure to set off fireworks in this small town.
Quick shoutout: Mr. Otis Molineux, Georgiana’s love interest, who proves to be a type of Mr. Wickham. He turns out to be a gamester who gambles with Georgiana’s safety, but at least he has genuine remorse for how his actions affect Georgiana. It’s too bad Georgiana and Otis don’t make it. You don’t often see Black couples go the distance (or at all) in high-profile period pieces. But that’s a topic for another day.
Black writers have always poked around in different corners of history, telling our stories from past eras. You might not know that, though, judging by how invisible we are in popular films and TV shows set in 19th century and earlier eras. Well, writers are giving it another shot with ‘The House that Will Not Stand,’ a film adaptation of a historical play by Marcus Gardley. It involves the lives of free Black women living in 1800s New Orleans. A project featuring my favorite American city, New Orleans with Black women anchoring the cast telling a story dressed in silks, and petticoats. If you know me, you can hear me squealing! (And possibly humming the ‘Game of Thrones’ theme.) Yes, yes, it’s out of context and far more brutal. But anyway!
The main characters are free Black Creole women who fought against racism and became millionaires through plaçage, or the practice of common-law marriages between white men and Black women, biracial women of color, or Native American women). The play, which premiered at the New York Theatre Workshop this year.
I know what some haters are going to say; these women earned their riches by laying down with white men. And? So did generations of white women. It was called marriage, and I’m sure the husbands, children and household benefited from a lady with her head who kept things stable and orderly. That’s how we came into the archetype of the ‘rich white woman,’ who inspired so many hours of play over plastic tea sets — porcelain if your parents had a fancy office job and could afford it.
Truth be told, I’ve always had mixed feelings about watching period films. Those works testify to uncomfortable eras or Black people. While I loved these sharp-witted ladies in the parlor settings, and the court intrigue of superior men, my skin folk was often rendered as second-class citizens at best — property at worst. You can understand why Black audiences prefer more modern stories.
I could never give myself over completely to the ‘rich white woman’ fantasy, even for playtime. Our mothers often didn’t sit down with us at tea, because they were working, running the home, or volunteering at church. And even if I could occupy that identity and pretend to order a servant to bring the petit fours and gossip over what Lady Shirl wore to the racing outing, in the corner of consciousness would be a familiar figure, looming. My mother and aunts were that domestic worker, and at any time they might have been lorded over by someone I was pretending to be — or pestered a handsy husband. All so that I could have the essentials, and then stacks of books, dolls, toys and the leisure of playtime. Wouldn’t that be a betrayal in some way?
I loved Grace Abigail Mills’ heroics in modern-day Sleepy Hollow, and her rapport with her fellow witness, the man out of time, Ichabod Crane. But when Abbie was thrown back to the 1700s, in a plot parallel to what brought her partner to the modern era, I was a little terrified for her. Reader, I knew — we all knew — the trauma that awaited women like Abbie in Colonial America.
Lately, I’ve had to turn to streaming services and pick over leftovers from past movies or defunct TV shows to get my period piece fixes. We saw a pickup in period projects where Black women bustled around in their stays and petticoats — WGN gave us “Underground,” PBS offered “Mercy Street,” and Starz had “Black Sails,” but all of these shows were canceled in under five seasons. Oh! I forgot “Still Star-Crossed,” from ABC, set in one of storytellers favorite periods, Renaissance Europe. I haven’t forgiven Shondaland for imbuing Prince Escalus with a sharpness and cruelty that made it hard to like him as a husband for Rosaline Capulet.
That, in a nutshell, is the Black experience in period films. Even when we do get to dress up in one of those confections and float around a staggering English estate, like “Belle,” we are never the fair lady at court, and rarely unmolested. What a huge tradeoff. At least this time, the rich woman sitting down to tea will be Black, and reader, she is a playtime role model whose time is overdue.
From the comfort of my home outside of New York City, with legal protections (for now) like various Civil Rights and Family Leave, it can be easy to forget how tough life was for people from different races and cultures who wanted to settle down together and marry.
When I saw this old “PBS News Hour” segment about a new book from journalist Alexis Clark, “Enemies in Love,” I had to wonder how I would react to my interracial marriage without the comforts and legal protections of modern life. Were Hubby and I to have met just after WWII, I wonder if I would be so busy surviving that I would even have the time to muse about marriages like hours. Or even if I would have the nerve to go through with it at all.
A few statistics around interracial marriage are the same now as they were several years ago. Asian’s tend to ‘marry out’ at much higher rates than other racial or ethnic groups. African-American men marry out at twice the rate their female counterparts do.
One thing is different for sure, which is that 17% of all married couples today are interracial. The rate of interracial marriage ticked up by two percentage points from 15% about four years ago, according to a recent analysis of think tank and government information by CreditDonkey, the (weirdly named) consumer Website.
A couple of other interesting nuggets:
Today the most common interracial pairing is one Hispanic spouse and one white spouse. This combination makes up 42% of interracial marriages today. (This statistic is interesting because I always understood ‘Hispanic’ to mean various ethnic groups and nationalities that are Spanish-speaking. But not Spanish. And I thought we had ditched the term ‘Hispanic’ for the Millennial-friendly ‘Latinx?’)
Hawaii has the largest number of interracial newlyweds today. 42% of newlyweds in Honolulu are mixed race. The next city with the largest number of interracial marriages is Las Vegas, with 31% of married couples being interracial.
Approximately 41% of mixed race couples end up in divorce within the first 10 years of marriage.
Approximately 31% of same-race couples end up in divorce after 10 years.
So people can howl and crow all they want to about interracial pairings. The trend is growing and doesn’t seem to be doing any harm in any measurable way. On the last two statistics, I’ll drop a piece of advice I picked up from a church sermon. “Choose wisely. Treat kindly.” Of the marriages I know of that have lasted through decades and decades, the two partners always treated each other with kindness — more so the men.
Well, look who decided, after all the fanfare surrounding the wedding of “Suits” actress Rachel Meghan Markle and Prince Harry of Wales, to finally acknowledge African royalty?
Holier-than-thou, pro-Black, anti-swirling vloggers, that’s who. You might have encountered some of them, the purists who create videos fervently preaching against, among other things, the sin of identifying anyone mixed or biracial as Black. They make long-winded screeds denouncing interracial couple vlog channels. They lecture at length about the proper way to promote dark-skinned Black women. (Hint: It changes, depending on what set them off.)
Ariana Austin Married Joel Makonnen aka Prince Yoel, the great-grandson of Haile Selassie on September 9, 2017. Haile Selassie was the last emperor of Ethiopia. Sources: The New York Times, via Instagram
Almost as soon as news of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry of Wales’ engagement broke, women’s mainstream e-zines ran silly stories proclaiming that Meghan Markle’s engagement gave Black women hope. I’m sure that it did for some Black women, especially for those yoga loving, globe-trotting, racially ambiguous types whose crisp white shirts, smooth voices, messy buns, and caligraphy skills endeared her to a crowd that would introduce her to an heir to an old European dynasty. But for those Black women who do not live in the outer reaches of what it means to be Black, for those who have medium-deep to deep-dark complexions, this was a pleasant distraction at best. (OK, for me it was more like an excuse to get up early, camp out on the couch in the TV room and watch Serena and Oprah show everyone how to wear hats and fascinators to a church wedding.)
The fawning over Meghan’s engagement had about as much intellectual nutrition substance as a box of Cheez-Its, but we liked munching anyway. In no way did the women in my circles actually believe that Meghan Markle’s experience and triumph of love was an indication that the tide of public opinion was turning in our favor. That the world was ready to see us as softer, more vulnerable, and more receptive to the care and attention of a rich, influential and handsome man. I wasn’t teaching my daughter that, and none of my friends were indulging in that fantasy for their girls, either. What we can learn from this, and previous royal weddings involving Black American women (and American women in general), is that foreigners are drawn to the openness, vibrancy and juvenescence that underpins American culture. The Black women marrying these foreign royals are accomplished professionals and have strong followings in philanthropic and social circles. They deserved more shine than the “not Meghan Markle again” treatment.
When this spate of videos started cropping up, as a counter-balance to the so-called “we have a Black princess, y’all!” narrative, I thought: Well, great. Were they truly interested in normalizing feminine portrayals of Black women, how about giving their readers whatever scraps of updates they could find about their social engagements? Surely Princess Keisha, other African royals and even Ariana Austin have speaking engagements, attend brunches and do other things that reflect the more feminine image that these vloggers are promoting? They are, after all, Black princesses!
I think a few Web sites, who don’t know Black women very well, spun the angle of Meghan Markle winning for Black women as a way to get mileage out of the wedding. Sounds like our social critics who want to “promote dark-skinned Black women properly” were after the same thing.
Few circumstances can mar Valentines Day festivities, at least for the man, like overpriced prix fixed menus and bouquets of flowers bought after midnight on February 12, when “last-minute husband” prices apply.
Well, late, expensive flowers and hastily assembled dinner reservations are nothing compared to the stream of expletives and one racial epithet that Robin Cross, a television investigative news producer for Florida’s WSVN-Ch. 7, hurled at a young interracial couple recently. Over a parking dispute!
Here is the rundown of the foul Valentine’s Day arrangement, from the Sun-Sentinel‘s Web page:
On the evening of February 6 Robert Fenton, an attorney and resident on Isle of Venice Drive in Fort Lauderdale, had asked Cross not to block his driveway with her car, according to his son Avery Fenton, whose girlfriend is Black.
“You don’t [F-ng] own the road,” Cross can be heard telling Fenton in a cell phone video.
“Yes, I used the word [F-ng] if you haven’t heard it before. Except for your [F-ng] son who’s dating a [F-ng] [N-word],” Cross continued.
“Finally, I said it out loud,” Cross says as she walked away.
It’s unclear why Cross invoked Avery Fenton and his girlfriend.
The staff at the Sun-Sentinel might be blind and naive, but it is obvious to any savvy adult why Cross invoked Avery Fenton and his girlfriend. From her own lips, ‘Finally, I said it out loud,’ she admitted that she had been simmering with rage about something, and that something was the idea that no white girls were attractive enough to keep the son of her neighbor, a successful attorney, from dating a Black woman.
Cross certainly didn’t expect to see any n-ggers mar her field of vision when she moved to that very upscale neighborhood, where homes like this 4,000-square-foot beauty list for $1.2 million:
Other homes in the area, dotted with marinas, list for $4.9 million. This woman has so much going for her; she is a well-educated, accomplished professional and shouldn’t really have anything to fear from anyone. And she didn’t think that she would have to deal with “certain people” when she moved to that beautiful area, where residents are about that yacht life.
Can anyone be surprised at Cross’ behavior? Certainly, none of Robin Cross’ close family and friends are surprised, because if they are honest with themselves they have heard her talk like that before despite “working with Black people” and maybe even lunching with one or two Black women in her whole life. This shouldn’t shock any of the participants in the private Facebook and online discussion groups where the backward bigots seek refuge from the real world and fume about how unfair life is that Black people “don’t know their place.”
The incident ended with the son, Avery, writing a letter to Cross’ employer at the station, detailing what happened, and asking that she be duly disciplined for her behavior. She was fired.
So much for #feminism! It serves as yet another cautionary tale that some white women, and other non-Black women, are basically bigots and really feel threatened and confused when they see real-life examples of love that challenge their assumptions about race, heterosexual attraction and Black women’s presumed place at the bottom of the dating and marriage hierarchy. I still think that white women are generally the most sought after companions for eligible men, and they always will be. As Black women find themselves objects of white men’s genuine admiration, affection and devotion, not their unhealthy fixations, more bigoted white women will have to face the reality that they don’t enjoy the absolute dominance that they always thought they had in the dating field.
Black women can find a cautionary tale here, too. As they free themselves from blind devotion to all Black men, they should be prepared to face similar hostilities. Nothing enrages an adherent to #feminism like seeing her cherished assumptions about her desirability debunked!
Blame it on my tea-drinking commonwealth heritage or my love of Jane Austen, monogrammed stationery, and bone china. But when the British royals announced on Monday that American actress and humanitarian Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are engaged, I took notice.
Meghan Markle and Prince Henry of Wales spilled the news outside of Clarence House in London.
We should have all suspected that Ms. Markle was going to get a special ring (and it is special, let me tell you!) when faithful monarch watcher Vanity Fair reported last month that Meghan intended to move to London, give up her acting career and focus on philanthropy full-time.
It’s almost another Grace Kelly type of situation, where an American actress married into a reigning European monarchy and the already intense media curiosity was turned up quite a few notches. Ms. Markle is widely popular due to her work on the successful TV show “Suits,” via STARZ, and her long record of admirable humanitarian and philanthropic work.
Why do we care? Down-to-earth Meghan is one of us.
One of the reasons Prince Harry and Ms. Markle’s engagement is attracting interest — aside from his lineage — is her lineage: She is biracial, with an African-American mother and a white father. On that historical side note, the couple is not a ‘first.’ Prince Harry comes second to Prince Maximilian of Liechtenstein in scooping up an African-American bride. He married then Angela Gisela Brown, a New York fashion designer, in 2000. Her Serene Highness Princess Angela is first person of known African origin to marry into a reigning European monarchy. They have one son, Prince Alfons Constantin Mariaof Leichtenstein.
They’ve got a growing teenager on their hands!
It’s hard to tell what it is about American women that have these two European princes besotted, but they are obviously happy.
How the news unfolded
Technically, His Royal Highness (HRH) The Prince of Wales – or Prince Charles to the common folk and foreigners – announced the engagement of this very adult couple. Apparently, they will have the ceremony at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in May 2018, and life afterward at Nottingham Cottage in Kensington Palace.
I must say … I like how these Windsors set up their chapels and ‘snug’ cottages.
It’s pretty special, with the large center stone from Botswana (they recently vacationed there) and the two outer stones from the private collection of Lady Diana, formerly HRH Princess of Wales.
You could say that the engagement breaks with centuries of British royal tradition, and it does. Markle is divorced. Also, her African lineage on her mother’s side could make the royal family more diverse and, according to some, reduce some of the stigmas that some Black British citizens have felt living in that society.
I don’t know about that last part, though, racial issues aside. Perhaps contemporary non-white Britons have been so fed up with the other side of what the Windsor family represents — a lineage enriched by centuries of England oppressing foreigners and its lower classes — that the monarchy is far less enthralling as it used to be. One tourist from Los Angeles who was outside Buckingham Palace when the news broke said:
“It’s exciting that he’s engaged to an American, I think that’s every American girl’s dream,” she said. “Now there’s hope for us Americans, for American girls.”
Is it every American girl’s dream to fall in love with and marry a wealthy prince? I don’t agree, for the obvious reason that young girls have a vast array of accessible dreams to them today. Girls of African descent, in particular, are taught to put their hope and trust in their own abilities and not to entertain too many hopes of being swept away by a rich, handsome husband. Especially not in modern American society, where it takes two incomes to live well. That was the case with both Princess Angela and Meghan Markle. They were both super accomplished professionals before their merit landed them in the company of these to-be-smitten princes.
Of course, when Black women grow up they are not above bestowing the affectionate term ‘my king,’ or ‘my Boaz’ on their husbands. But that is for a later conversation about the differences between Black womanism and white feminism.
On primetime broadcast TV, Black men can be handsome, tall, strong and protective. They can be wealthy and powerful. But they cannot endear themselves to, or win the heart of, the Black female lead.
We are supposed to be witnessing a Golden Age of television. Arguably we have seen a flourishing of excellent TV writing and production, but for all of this progress, it seems like the one segment of society that U.S. broadcast networks resist affirming is that of a likable Black man who is worthy of the desirable Black woman he loves.
What in the Hays Code 2.0 kind of Black Love blocking is this?
But wait … isn’t this a blog about an interracial family? So why call out the dearth of Black lead romances on primetime network TV? As I’ve said before on this blog, I and my family are outliers in the United States, representing perhaps one percent of all marriages. Issues around representation in the media still affect us, however. Single Black women still want Black men, generally, and as long as we have escapist television, they should get the chance to dream a little.
Or, in this case, dream a lot …
Networks are flailing around, trying to heed relentless calls for diversity and inclusion in everything from casting to authentic storylines to costuming and hairstyles. They’re checking boxes, and if they read the right blogs, or talk to the right Black friend before unlocking the escape room, they will not only cast more Blacks in great roles, but render Black relationships and families in believable ways.
Social justice warfare is not what I’m asking for. Television doesn’t quite lead the charge for societal change, anyway. But Black families have been part of the fabric of this country since it was a string of British colonies. There have been intact ones, led by decent Black men who were protective fathers and devoted husbands. Why don’t network television executives care about affirming the Black men who provide for, protect and nurture the Black women they actually love — and not just love until they attain affluence and then upgrade marry white? It seems like they are doing all of these contortions to pair every kind of body with every other kind of body else except the unit that has been just as much a pillar of American society as white families. We’ve had the Waltons. It’s high time for the Washingtons!
Yes, yes, I hear the counter punchers now, ticking off the network sitcoms anchored by Black couples. If you go back far enough in TV’s sitcom track record, you will find a good handful. But when it comes to hour-long dramas, the marquis events of broadcast TV, Black power couples are still pitifully scarce, and they are almost never the lead romance. If a recent crop of cancellations is any indication, we’ll have to wait for opportunities to see couples like the Suttons again.
“Still Star-Crossed,” ABC’s lush drama set in Renaissance Italy and shot in Spain with its sumptuous castles, cloisters and costumes (which explains all the pictures here), is the latest example of Black Love on the rocks. It was created by Heather Mitchell, a writer on “Scandal,” another Shondaland production. The glaring biases were laid bare and old patterns repeated as “Still Star-Crossed,” unfolded. Canceled after one season — the title seems so symbolic now — the show is based on a fanfiction novel that imagined events that took place in Verona weeks after Romeo and Juliet died. The female lead, Rosaline Capulet (Lashana Lynch), was a highly intelligent, compassionate, beautiful and loyal noblewoman, a prize for any young man of sizeable fortune in want of a wife. Sounds like she would make an excellent Princess First Lady to Prince Escalus, who rides into “fair Verona” just in time to swear some kind of deathbed oath to his very good-looking father. Everyone on this show is stunning, BTW.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Escalus has to rule a city being destabilized by the never-ending Montague-Capulet strife, just when outside city-states are building armies and licking their mutton chops to consume the wealthy territory. Critics and viewers point to Princess Isabella as the one more fit to rule, but Escalus should get much more credit for wisely understanding the larger realities that Verona faces. Despite the relentless weight of these domestic and foreign affairs, His Grace always brightens and melts a little when Rosaline comes into the room. She is after all, the girl at court whom he was madly in love with, until his father rather forcefully interrupted the romance by sending him to study in Venice.
Ugh. Then Renaissance loser Benvolio Montague (Wade Briggs), his “rival” for Rosaline’s affection staggers in. With no accomplishments to recommend him, we’re supposed to swoon for white, blue-eyed (OK, good-looking) Benvolio, who is set up as the “he’ll have to do I suppose” Montague heir. Because everyone else is dead. He swigs from a flask in church at his cousin’s secret wedding and knows more about the new girls at his favorite brothel than the family estate that supplies his pocket money. Of course Ben-whore-lio gets a sympathetic backstory, and this contrivance qualifies him to be in the same eligible bachelor runway as Escalus!
Never mind all of His Grace’s winsomeness. He just so happens to be the repugnant rich guy. He just so happens to clumsily toy with Rosaline’s heart. He just so happens to sucker punch Benvolio when he’s handcuffed and emotionally drained. Sigh. Maybe I’ve aged out of the core demographic for this overwrought nonsense, but the whole thing was so lazy, trite and juvenile.
I might have overlooked this white feminist hatchet job on Prince Escalus had it not followed the demonizing of Daniel Reynolds. That character was a glorious FBI regional director from season three of “Sleepy Hollow,” a horror drama that appeared on FOX. Now-canceled, “Sleepy Hollow” followed beloved dynamo Grace Abigail Mills (Nicole Beharie) and man out of time Ichabod Crane as they unraveled weird mysteries and thwarted apocalyptic plots.
We should ask ourselves why casting directors just so happen to think Black men are the reliable fit to play the Black woman’s “abuser,” but scarcely think of them as the right fit to play the honorable man who emotionally nourishes her.
Once again, a Black woman’s superior IBM, who is obviously madly in love with her, is shoved aside because shippers in the village square think the jobless white guy is better. Despite the fact that she always has to rescue this white man in some way, or support him financially and sometimes emotionally.
Once again, despite his physical magnificence, his intellect and winning-at-life togetherness, Director Reynolds is written as abrasive, untrustworthy and borderline emotionally abusive toward Abbie. Yet he thought the world of Abbie. He encouraged her in her chosen dream career, unlike Ichabod who resented the idea that Abbie’s success in the FBI could take her to a post far away. He eventually came onto Team Witness, answering to her.
Once again, Abbie Mills was romantically involved with the superior man, who was Black. I know that we have a phrase “stuck on stupid,” for women who are blind to the evils of a toxic relationship but Danny and Escalus were solid men handling big responsibilities, not self-righteous and abusive.
White audiences — and sometimes nerdy Black girls — are generally blind and tone deaf to these nuances, writing it off as typical of the way TV deals with love rivals. Guys like Escalus and Danny are supposed to be jerks, then become just noble enough to sacrifice their lives to ‘save the city’ and clear a path for the jobless white guy. Or maybe it’s an unavoidable outcome of colorblind casting. But if that is the case, we should ask ourselves why casting directors just so happen to think Black men are the reliable fit to play the Black woman’s “abuser,” but scarcely think of them as the right fit to play the honorable man who emotionally nourishes her.
What annoys me are the white fangirls, blogging and wailing about “abusive” or “toxic” behavior from guys like Danny and Escalus. They obviously haven’t dealt with Black male corporate bosses, followed Black male pastors, worked for a Black ward heeler or had to be accountable to any other Black man who has a lot to deal with. The Escalus and Danny characters were short on patience at times, but not gaslighting, emotionally manipulating tyrants.
Certainly neither one was a wanton killer, or kept company with them, like Fitzwilliam Grant. Oh! Remember when Olivia Pope, the apex of Black womanhood on TV during her heyday, rejected a second marriage proposal from Edison Davis, a prominent Black senator from Florida, because she wanted “painful, difficult, devastating, life-changing, extraordinary love?”
Yeah, the doubles standards are a bit much.
It’s a compelling question for me: What do successful Black women like Shonda Rhimes, who heads the Shondaland production company, and Channing Dungey, president of ABC Entertainment Group, really think about successful Black men?
I understand that Ms. Dungey and Ms. Rhimes cannot oversee every writer’s room to ensure that the likes of Prince Escalus are made lovable. Yet, here are two women in positions of unprecedented power and influence in American TV, falling back on the time-worn notion that Black men are here to break Black women down. They are reflecting the more contemporary thinking that Black women are opening up their dating options. That would be fine if they didn’t mingle that with the idea that Black women are better off without Black men entirely. The reality is that real-life accomplished Black women do not agree.
Even “swirlers” like me didn’t plan to marry out, and most of us might have gone with an IBM if we had encountered them before the white guy. Understand this: when IBMs get ornery, sisters can usually handle their rudeness and blustering. And when it gets to be too much, we know how to manage the situation and put them back in their place — or escape for a girlfriends weekend or night out. Otherwise, we leave them. I know it isn’t always that neat and simple, but Black Love has its ups and downs, and most Black women believe that the great days are worth the scrapes.