These are two messages I got from the same person on Tumblr a while ago, and the following is the reply I gave back then:
Why are interracial relationships looked down upon especially when a white person isn’t there like Scira and Rellamy? I have seen excuses like it’s degrading to think Scott and Bellamy’s love interest can’t be white and has to be a person of color because they’re still POC regardless whether or not they’re with someone white or not. I don’t agree with that.
I have seen recently how “Rellamy or Scira shippers are offensive when they call B*llarke or Sc*llison shippers racist, because Bellamy and Scott are good PoC representation on their own and they don’t have to be with other PoC to be good enough representation”. Is it offensive to think Bellamy and Scott being with Clarke or Allison isn’t the same representation as them being with Raven or Kira?
Depends on if we’re talking about, like, only relationships in fiction or in real life? Because talking about why interracial relationships without white people are rare in real life would be dwelving into talks about structural anti-blackness among all races, prejudice, and white-supremacy-created ideals like colorism, the want to “mejorar la raza” and all that. Like, besides social pressure due to colorism and all, prejudice makes people of all races perceive certain ethnicities as more or less desirable, as only fuckable but not dateable, etc [link]. And that’s probably for non-white-passing PoC to discuss.
Regarding media, well… I googled “interracial relationships without white people” and I got a bunch of white supremacists talking about how we wanna eliminate the white race.
It’s not that hard to find articles singing the praises of White/PoC relationships in media (like [this one], or [this one]), but they’re still a rarity anyways. Here I’ve got some good articles on the issue, if you wanna take a look…
There is absolutely nothing wrong with interracial dating/love/marriage. It is a sign of our times that this type of love can be shown in a positive light on network TV. But one question hangs in the air:
Why have White people become the default race for the love interest of characters of color on TV?
Is it because the network demands that White people be featured in some romantic capacity so the White viewing public can find someone to connect with? Are those behind Master of None scared that if Ansari dated another South Asian then people wouldn’t be able to connect with it? That if Olivia Pope fell in love with a Black man then it would become a Black show, and they would lose their audience? Or is it because the show’s creators have their own preferences and they call the shots? But what message is it conveying when these shows exclude the possibility of interracial relationships with their POC leads and Latinos, Asians, and Middle Easterners?
In the end, these decisions are made by the people in charge of these shows. They are free to cast anyone they’d like as love interests for their characters. But there is no denying that there is an obvious pattern when it comes to their casting choices. Since there only a handful of shows on network television that feature POC as leads, and are led by people of color, the showrunners shouldn’t be surprised that they have to answer to certain expectations from viewers who look like them. While they may not like being questioned about their decisions for their work, they should know that as long as the pattern continues, people will continue to call them out about it.
A half-century isn’t enough time to dissolve the well-engrained ideas about race and marriage that were constructed after the Civil War, when miscegenation laws spread across the country “to serve as props for the racial system of slavery, as one more way to distinguish free Whites from slaves,” as historian Peggy Pascoe puts it. The idea that mixing of races was unnatural, against God’s will, and would lead to biological degradation made miscegenation laws a tool to define what a legitimate family was and thereby maintain white supremacy.
Meanwhile, according to the Pew Research Center, the proportion of interracial marriage reached all-time high in 2010. In that year, about 15 percent of all new marriages were interracial and 8.4 percent of all existing marriages were interracial. But films, TV, and advertising haven’t caught up to the current racial reality.
The most apparent reason that interracial representation has fallen behind real-world relationships is that while companies try to recognize the country’s ever-growing diversity, their definition of “diverse” is actually quite limited. Advertising executive Dianne Allen told The Advocate that “the generally accepted definition in our industry for diversity includes black, white, Asian and Hispanic audiences,” adding that insufficient research on the interracial demographic may be barring their incorporation into audiences.
A University of Florida study of blockbuster Hollywood films between 1967 and 2005 concluded that the media is stuck on specific portrayals of interracial relationships: in the movies sampled, 42 percent of female characters in such pairings were victims of violence. “While white women in interracial relationships came across as either morally corrupt or socially inept or as victims of physical or sexual abuse, women of color who become involved with white men were often presented as erotic, exotic and possessing exceptional talents.” And although it is statistically more likely for black men to ‘marry out’ of their race, the movie industry seems less keen on interracial couples with black men. According to this informal accumulation of movies with interracial couples, there are twice as many films featuring white men with black women than black men with white women.
There’s been progress, sure—ordinary, healthy interracial couples show up from time to time nowadays; whereas I can’t remember any examples from my childhood that weren’t either exotified or used as cautionary tales. But considering the amount of lip service we, as a society, pay to the “normalcy” and “acceptability” of interracial relationships, why should on-screen interracial romance warrant even a blip at this point? Is it possible—just go with me on this, America—that we still have some racial issues we haven’t quite worked through?
When we interact with pop culture, there’s still always this lingering reminder that no matter how mundane we feel, our relationship is atypical. If you search for stock photos of “happy couple,” you get people who “match.” It’s an entrenched paradigm that throws out all of the subtle, personal, idiosyncratic ways that people can “match” (the ways that really build the foundation of a relationship) in favor of one superficial physical characteristic. That’s not to say that race, as a sociopolitical issue, is superficial (or that shared cultural experience based on race can’t enrich relationships), but to pair people up based on skin color is by definition superficial.
The onus is not necessarily on minority showrunners to change our views on who makes a viable romantic partner. But a preference for white lovers is not the same as wanting a partner who likes hiking or has tattoos. Emma Tessler, matchmaker and founder of online matchmaking service The Dating Ring, recently wrote that 90 percent of her clients confess to racial preferences in their partners, and 89.9 percent of them prefer white people. (OK Cupid has also demonstratedbias in favor of whites based on analyzing its data.) Tessler offers a reason why: “This is about social forces shaping our preferences, and we’ll never progress without acknowledging that fact. To take one of the most obvious and simple examples, consider Hollywood, which is notoriously white. … Hollywood is also hot. Like really hot. The societal norm for ‘hot,’ in fact. That means the math equation looks something like this: If Hollywood=White, and Hollywood=Hot, then White=Hot.” The media promotes images of white people as the most desirable, whether it’s due to physical attributes or other qualities.
On Master of None, women of color are a romantic option for Dev’s friends, but the show doesn’t show us many of these partners. Denise, Dev’s lesbian best friend, seduces her black boss and goes out with Princess Love a.k.a. Lil’ Funyons, a woman not seen but coded as black. Bearded white best friend Arthur talks about the Japanese woman he’s dating, who is also never seen. When viewers pointed out the absence of non-white love interests on Twitter, Ansari directed them to the Asian woman Dev dates in episode four, “The Other Woman.” Said date is a nameless East Asian woman who the show doesn’t take seriously as a romantic partner, speaks about two lines, and only goes out with Dev for the free food. (After Greta Lee’s turn as Homeless Heidi on High Maintenance, and a presumed-to-be-homeless woman on New Girl, we’re left wondering if this is a new East Asian stereotype.)
But, long story short:
First of all, I think there is definitely an idea that a relationship is only worth watching (or worth anything at all) if there is a white person involved.
You might notice that even same-race relationships between PoC are rare in TV, unless you’re watching a show/movie by and about people of that specific ethnicity (Fresh Off The Boat, Jane The Virgin, Empire). Like one of the articles I quote said, it’s like creators are scared that, if they write romances about, say, two black people, it’ll become “a black show” and white audiences will drop it.
Then, there’s the fact that, even for men of their own race, women of color are often seen as less desirable (from the top of my head: dark skinned women in general are seen as less attractive; black women are generally seen as too temperamental; Asian women are seen as too traditional or conservative; brown Latinas are seen as sexy but not “wife material”; and an endless etceterá). There are prejudices that affect men, too, of course. While Black men are usually portrayed as abusive partners or bad for long-term relationships; East-Asian men are desexualized and not seen as potential love interests; brown Latinxs are seen as womanizers; South Asian and Middle-Eastern men are stereotyped as sexist and bad partners.
And, even if we don’t go That Deep(TM), we just gotta look at how fandom reacts to the characters of color we already have (some are even listed up there in the list, LMAO).
- Black woman? She’s a Strong Independent Woman, writing her in a romance would ruin her character. (Michonne in TWD, Abbie Mills in Sleepy Hollow, Braeden in Teen Wolf.) Or she’s desperate, toxic, evil. (Annalise and Michaela in HTGAWM, again Braeden in Teen Wolf.)
- Black man? He’s dangerous, he’s mentally ill, he’s abusive. (Wes and Nate in HTGAWM are the clearest example I can think of right now.)
- East Asian person? They don’t have chemistry with anyone! They are so boring! So uninteresting! (Rebecca in HTGAWM, Kira in Teen Wolf, about every single Asian man in TV.)
- Latinas are always slutty or mean or toxic or using their love interest (Santana in Glee, Raven in The 100, Hayden in Teen Wolf.)
- And I can’t think of more of these shitty-ass racially weighed arguments right now, but there are more.
Finally, let me address this part of your message: “I have seen excuses like it’s degrading to think Scott and Bellamy’s love interest can’t be white.” LMAO, catch those racists using racial politics theory to excuse their racism. What, that was the Scall*son and Bell*rke shippers, right? It’s like the Re*los excusing their abuse apologism and racism with “female empowerment”, or the Cl*xas calling fans of color homophobic for disliking their brownface ship.
The fact is, Sc*llison and B*llarke are ships that often rob the brown men in them of agency to prop up the white woman because Feminism(TM), and the fact that they will then turn around and argue that we don’t like their White Saviour ships because we don’t think brown men are good enough to be with white women is just baffling.
Re: Your second question: It’s a different kind of representation. Racial segregation is a tool of white supremacy, so it’s important to show healthy relationships where characters of color can have romantic relationships with white characters as equals, but stories WITHOUT WHITE PEOPLE are also important. I’ll get back to this later but:
I’d argue that neither canon nor fanon Bell*rke are good representation for White/PoC ships because Bellamy and Clarke are [not treated as equals by the narrative nor the fandom], [Clarke has a very racist White Savior narrative], and the show has consistently written characters of color as subservient to white characters. There is nothing “good” about Bell*rke, and it’s not good representation for interracial relationships.
In Sc*llison’s case, the problem isn’t that Sc*llison itself was problematic. It played into a “racism metaphor” (brown boy dates the white daughter of a family of violent white supremacists, is hurt and threatened by the white family members for daring to touch their girl) but Allison and Scott themselves had a lovely, very respectful and fluid romance. The problem is that… that romance ended. Scott and Allison broke up, Scott fell in love with Kira, Allison was falling for Isaac in the months previous to her death. The romance didn’t exist anymore.
But Sc*llison fandom wants Scott to spend the rest of his life pinning after a dead white girl, because she was So Much Better than the wonderful Asian love interest that came after Allison and Scott’s amiable break-up. The problem isn’t shipping Allison/Scott, the problem is erasing Kira’s characterization and Kira-and-Scott’s healthy and lovely relationship in favor of a dead white girl.
The thing that irks me about the arguments these fandoms will throw is…. like, they say, “Bellamy/Scott/Kira/Whatever other character of color is good racial representation by themself, they don’t need to date another character of color Just For Diversity’s Sake, they can date a white character!” —which… Okay? Yeah? That one character of color is good racial rep, but why can’t there be MORE AND MORE DIVERSE racial rep, why do you need to balance it out with white people? Bellamy is Filipino, Raven is Mexican, Scott is Mexican, Kira is Japanese/Korean, they all represent different racial groups whithin their shows. Why do we gotta choose between having Filipino&White or Mexican&White when we can have Filipino&Mexican? Despite [the political/social use and necessity for the term “POC”], the world isn’t divided in “Brown people/Whites”, and the stories of non-white people are as diverse as our many races and ethnicities. White people aren’t needed to tell a diverse story!
But –I think one of the articles I quoted before said this– white people can only care about stories with white people. Put too many characters of color in there and they’ll see it as a story for people of color, and stop caring. They can care about Scott/Allison and Bellamy/Clarke because they project themselves on Allison/Clarke’s whiteness, but the moment that the white POV is taken out of the equation, they cannot relate to the characters any longer.
I’ve seen it in plenty other fandoms. Why do you think white fans of From Dusk Till Dawn or Jane The Virgin cling to the few white characters (Kate Fuller, Petra Solano) instead of the non-white protagonists? Why do you think Connor and Laurel are the audiences’ favorites in How To Get Away With Murder? They need to see these stories through the lens of whiteness, because otherwise they just don’t care.