Monday, July 10, 2017

Interracial Love: Conflict Supreme

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Denise Turney on her Off The Shelf Radio program. We discussed interracial relationships, which is what I focus on in my novels. You can click here for a link to the interview.

Talking with Denise brought this blog post to mind that I published back in November of 2010. If you missed it the first time around, hope you'll enjoy it today!

"Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies." Aristotle

Who doesn't enjoy a good love story? But what drives one to make it great? Conflict!
And when you throw an interracial element into the mix (pun intended) you have an intensely compelling and emotionally volatile story.

Several films address this topic including, Come See the Paradise (Japanese/white American), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (white/black American), Mississippi Masala (Asian Indian/ Black American), Something New and Jungle Fever (both white/black American).

Othello
Throughout history, interracial love has been a topic of great literature. In Shakespeare's Othello, a Moor is married to Venetian, Desdemona. Here racism is seen as Iago schemes to break up their marriage. Hoping to spur Desdemona's father Brabantino to annul the union, Iago tells him "an old black ram is tupping your white ewe."

In Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, the slave Cassie is repeatedly raped by her master Simon Legree.  But she's also been in a previous relationship with her former master, who she loved. "I became his willingly, for I loved him!" Cassie says in chapter 34.

Sinclair Lewis's Kingsblood Royal tells the story of a bigoted character who discovers he has a small percentage of African blood, then falls in love with a black friend named Sophie.  When he held her hand, it was "warmer than any hand he had ever known," and when she kissed him, "he had not known a kiss like that..."  For more interracial love in literature, see Doug Poe's post on Interracial Sex in Classic Literature here.

Out of all multicultural combinations, perhaps the most explosive in our country is black and white. Make it a love story in the American South of the past--and POW!

Something New
I'm black, and my husband is white, but many years ago I began to think how sad it would've been if we'd lived a century earlier. Back then, we couldn't have married. That thought inspired me to write my first novel, Escape, about the abolitionist son of a wealthy merchant who falls in love with a slave he helps to escape.

After reading Essie Mae Washington Williams's memoir Dear Senator, I wrote my second novel, The Governor's Sons. Ms. Williams's memoir told of her black mother's love affair with her white father, future South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond.  In my novel, a rich white law student plans to sacrifice everything and move overseas for the black woman he loves.

All through our country's history, interracial love has ignited conflict.  Forbidden Fruit by Betty DeRamus and  Martha Hodes's WhiteWomenBlack Men are two fascinating non-fiction accounts on the subject.

The topic of Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson's black mistress, was swept under the rug by history, and Jefferson's white descendants, until DNA tests revealed that her descendants, were Jefferson's as well.

Although there was an enormous amount of rape and exploitation of black women by white men in the United States (especially the South), there was also love.

If a plantation owner chose a slave as his "wife" and actually lived with her, he'd become an outcast from the community.  To prevent being ostracized, some white men, assuming the facade of bachelors to friends and family, would set up separate housing and provide financially for their black "wives" and children. And then there were those white men who chose to have two families, one white and the other black, hidden away in the shadows.

Thank goodness it's a different time!  Although still a touchy topic among both the black and white communities, at least as human beings we can freely love whomever we fall in love with.  As the old cliche goes, "love has no color."

Do you know of an interracial love story to share?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

5 comments:

Norma Beishir said...

Never having had the experience myself, I find I learn a great deal from books like yours, Maria. Thank you for sharing with us.

Maria McKenzie said...

Thank you so much, Norma!

William Kendall said...

I must have forgotten about Kingsblood Royal.

Intangible Hearts said...

Just saw Guess Who? with Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac. It's the reverse of the famous Guess Who's Coming to Dinner but some parts are offensive probably to anyone.

Maria McKenzie said...

@William: That's one I haven't read but need to!

@Eve: I think I saw part of Guess Who? From what I remember it was offensive. It can hardly compare with Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.