Get Out is a modern-day masterpiece. It’s a psychological horror movie that takes us into the mind of a Black man surrounded by liberal white folks, and the path to hell expertly paved with all of their faux-noble intentions. Filmmaker Jordan Peele’s ability to convey the everyday fears Black people experience when surrounded by white folks, and use those emotions to fuel the tension of a horror plot, is a stunning victory. Every Black person I’ve spoken to is either impressed by the script, or extremely impressed Peele was even able to get a movie like this made. For the most part, these conversations are interesting…until someone brings up the fact that Jordan Peele is married to Brooklyn Nine Nine actress, Chelsea Peretti. She is a white woman.
I am not surprised anyone who watched Get Out would then side-eye a Black/white heteronormative interracial couple. The movie purposefully and hilariously presents this pairing as not only uncomfortable, but dangerous. This is not a foreign concept to any Black person who has ever dated a white person. If you’re a Black man dating a white woman, you’re most likely aware that fighting in public — even though it’s something most couples do at least once — could leave you in a vulnerable position depending on the racist beliefs of bystanders, police, or even the girl you’re fighting with. Black women dating white men are often warned to bring a charged phone, the name of a taxi service, and cash when visiting his family for the first time. (You know, just in case the introduction goes poorly.) We are a people of worst-case scenarios, and rightfully so. But is it that unbelievable that a Black person who happens to be dating or married to a white person would still be able to create art about Blackness?
For some reason, the prevailing narratives about Black people who date white people fall into two categories:
1) The Color-Struck One: You may know this person. They’ve dedicated entire social media accounts to one facet of their lives, and that one facet is their interracial relationship. They’re always talking about how cute their little lite mocha babies will be, trying to remember how to make Punnet Squares so they can weigh the chances of their children having green or blue eyes. They use #swirl on Instagram posts. These are the people who are constantly campaigning for other Black folks to date white folks instead of other Black folks. They believe the best of their partner’s character comes directly from their white skin and their proximity to whiteness makes them better than “regular Black.” They maybe even hate being Black. They are insufferable.
2) The Gaslit One: You may also know this person. They sometimes whisper to you that their white partner did or said something racist, but they let it slide. A Black woman might mention that she keeps her hair straight because her white partner prefers it that way. A Black man might laugh off his white partner’s comment that she hopes their children won’t be too dark. Their partner puts them in unsafe situations, then accuses them of being paranoid or “caught up in racial stuff.” This person maybe has a strained relationship with their partner’s family because they say and/or do racist shit, and their white partner either doesn’t defend them, or worse, laughs at the jokes. These are the people who are constantly telling you how great their relationship is, but text you late at night asking how to respond to another racist thing their partner said or did.
Ultimately, the big fear for many Black people is that associating intimately with white folks will eventually lead to the denial or suppression of one’s own Blackness. However, the point of Get Out isn’t “Don’t date interracially!” The point is, “When you see this shit, believe this shit.” Black people notice anti-Black behavior whether they admit it or not. They notice microagressions whether they choose to address them or not. The “sunken place” from the film — a place deep in the mind where one is unable to draw themselves out completely — is not located within the relationship with the white partner. It is located in the deepest recesses of our own minds. The examples above are people who don’t have their minds right. They worship or defer to whiteness. They are people who believe whiteness is a savior, and that it can or will save them. I have known these people, and I have been just as startled by their inability to see themselves or their relationships clearly. What bothers me is the seemingly collective inability to talk about the relationships between Black and white people that work in a healthy way, without all the bullshit above, especially on social media. Many of us understand you don’t date anyone who diminishes your feelings, or your Blackness. People who can’t grasp that aren’t just bad at interracial relationships, they’re bad at relationships period.
Full disclosure, I am a Black woman dating a white man. Kelly and I have been dating for three and a half years, and we’ve known each other for seven. We are not perfect, but we are happy. And it’s not because our hypothetical children could be a lighter shade of brown, or have green eyes, or whatever. Kelly doesn’t say racist things, and if he did, he couldn’t live in my house. When I talk about something racist happening, he doesn’t accuse me of being paranoid. In fact, he defers to my assessment of the situation, and if I don’t feel safe, we’re out of there. Is my interracial relationship super special, or does the rhetoric surrounding interracial dating between Black and white folks lean toward extremes? I’m going to confidently say it’s the latter.
Now, I don’t want to ignore important historical context that contributes to the way most people feel about Black/white relationships, especially in The United States. Having a white partner, or being attracted to a white person, doesn’t change most Black people’s history, or perception of their Blackness. 2017 is the year we found out the white woman Emmett Till was murdered for allegedly hitting on waited 60 years to say she made it all up. This is the year Sally Hemmings — a slave owned and raped by Thomas Jefferson — is finally being acknowledged on tours of his home, Monticello, as the mother of six of his children. For every Richard and Mildred Loving, there are stories warning Black folks about fetishizing, manipulation, and gaslighting from potential white partners. Also Mildred didn’t even think of herself as Black.
With that context in mind, it is totally understandable to me that some Black people would be wary of dating a white person. Imagine being on a date with someone who mentions you’re the first “colored girl” they’ve ever taken out. That sinking feeling in your gut, the exact moment you know this person might see your skin, but they don’t see you. And with the stereotypes of what kind of Black person dates a white person, it’s even more understandable to have little to no interest in dating a white person. Imagine living your whole life in your Black body, choosing to date a white person, and subsequently having all of your Blackness questioned. It is reasonable that a person might not want to put themselves in situations such as these. Get Out does a fantastic job of showing the potential for risk, but the protagonist’s fatal flaw wasn’t that he dated a white woman; it was that he didn’t trust himself enough to know something was wrong, and indeed, get the hell out.
Part of that is societal conditioning, and part of that is a lack of sense of self. As my friend Angel Nafis tweeted, “I’ve been fetishized before. Many times. By friends, employers, past partners. I know what that feels like. Trust POC to know.” I would never suggest to another Black person that dating a white person is something they’ve just gotta try, like the olive oil flavor of gelato, or dipping your French fries in your chocolate Frosty (which are both things everyone absolutely should try). I don’t think it’s a necessary life experience, and you know what you want better than I ever could. But it is my current life experience. It’s not hard to believe Jordan Peele could make a movie like Get Out when he has a white wife, because privilege is not sexually transmitted. He still knows what it feels like to be a Black man in America. He is still himself.
Around two years ago, a Black woman friend of a Black woman friend said something that blew my mind. She said, It is more important how your partner feels and talks about race, than what race they are. I won’t pretend there aren’t cultural differences that don’t come up. I still don’t understand why my partner would want to swim with whale sharks, and he only just discovered Roberta Flack’s music. I’m not saying we shouldn’t or can’t talk about those differences. We should. And as more and more couples, not all of them Black/white, date and marry interracially, we need to normalize that kind of talk. Different ain’t bad. Somewhere beyond the main characters in Get Out and the No Wedding, No Womb lady, there are Black/white couples who happened to fall in love, just living their lives as Black and as white as they ever were. We don’t have to highlight their stories. There’s rarely any reason to highlight them. But we also don’t have to erase them.