The other day I was watching my Tuesday evening roster of TV shows when I noticed a Honey Maid commercial showcasing various family structures including a male gay couple with a baby, a dad with tattoos, and a white husband with an African-American wife and mixed child. It stopped my brain activity in its tracks in disbelief. Good disbelief.
A Cheerios commercial had the same effect on me last year. It showed a young biracial girl with curly hair having conversations with her white mom and her black dad. Every time I saw it, I smiled like I knew her personally. Why, you ask? Because as a multi-racial woman myself, I am so excited to see a growing sense of acceptance in mass media regarding interracial dating and multicultural families.
Growing up, seeing someone who looked “like me” was rare. Although I went to predominantly Black and Hispanic schools my entire life, I still hardly noticed anyone who shared my pale butterscotch complexion. Either they were one race or another, and it was frustrating to me, because I didn’t know which group I essentially belonged to. The white students called my hair “stiff” and “greasy”. The black students said I was “too light-skinned” to have a black mom. The Mexican students looked at me confusingly after learning my last name, Velazquez.
To this day, my mother tells me that when I was little, I looked at her and said, “Are you my real mom?” because I was soooo confused. That makes me–the wiser, grown Devri–sad to hear because now I totally and completely embrace every aspect of being multiracial. And it didn’t quite make sense up until recently why my peers constantly gave me shit for being the “yellow-bone mutt with black people hair”.
Mulatto by definition is a person of mixed race, namely white and black. My dad is half Italian, half Mexican, and my mom is African-American. It wasn’t until recently–the past few years or so–that I’ve personally noticed interracial couples in TV shows, commercials, movies, and music videos. I do recall seeing the black woman with the white man in magazine spreads, though. But I still chalk that up to the fact that the model world encourages exoticism and apparently to mass culture interracial relationships are unnatural and totally exotic. Smh.
There’s a widely popular show called Scandal in which the main character, Olivia Pope, is black, and her co-star is a white man who is madly in love with her. The best part, though, is that no one flinches or scrunches their forehead whenever they see the couple onscreen (not in my experience, anyway). If you were brought up in the 90s like me, you know Saved By The Bell. I remember an episode in which Zack (the white, cute, popular main character) kissed Lisa (the sassy, attitude-having, stylish black girl). I nearly died when I saw that. And it should come of no surprise to y’all that Pocahontas to this day is one of my absolute favorite Disney movies because… you guessed correctly!
The story is centered around white, European-bred John Smith and Native American forming a companionship through embracing their cultural differences. But again, it was promoted to us (as kids) and parents alike as risky, dangerous, living-on-the-edge type of living. Even our current President of The United States is a mulatto, and his candidacy/term in the beginning was often publicized as yet another risky move for American culture and politics. In the 1960s Mildred and Richard Loving were banned from their hometown and arrested because interracial coupling was illegal in Virginia at the time, where they lived. Through all of the surrounding controversy of their marriage and the court hearings, the Loving family continued, unscathed by the naysayers.
I hope mass media continues to display interracial couples of all ethnicities, races, religions, and sexes to the general public without it being a ‘weird’ or ‘unnatural’ thing. Because in reality, it’s not unnatural at all. In fact, according to a Gallup poll, 87% of Americans ‘approve’ different-race couples being advertised on their media outlets. And total population of marriages includes over 8% of mixed race couples. There was an article in National Geographic’s 125th issue which stated that by the year 2043 whites will no longer be considered the majority race in America. To date, 9 million Americans classify themselves as “mixed race” on paper (that’s 32% percent of our population)!
I’m excited to have my future children be a part of a more diverse, culturally and racially integrated world, no matter if they live in the U.S. or not. I will teach them that we as human beings all bring something great to the table, and their roles as people matter just as much as the next person’s role, despite outside appearances in clothing, skin complexion, facial features, religious beliefs, or sexual preference.