Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Interracial Romance

Novel Spaces is in its 10th year! Over the coming months we'll be featuring some of the most popular posts from our archives. This one was first published July 24, 2011. 

By Jewel Amethyst

We have been discussing as a theme “Vampires and human” love stories. The thread that seems to be recurring in the discussion is the issue of the forbidden love. I want to deviate and write a little about romance in a more realistic sense: The interracial romance. In this context I am talking about love between two human beings of different races or ethnicities appearing in books and on TV.

I was recently working on a manuscript where a white female of a deeply religious sect living a 19th century lifestyle in distinct colonies, falls in love with a black man. Of course it is a forbidden love, much like the Vampire human love stories. As I began looking at publishers and their submission guidelines, I realized for African American romance, several publishers place a stipulation that both the hero and heroine had to be African American. In fact Genesis press had this as a guideline: “The heroine in romance and the protagonist in fiction must be black (African-American, African, Caribbean etc). The hero in romance must also be black....”

Are we saying love between a white woman and a black man cannot be considered “African American Romance, even if the man and just about every other character in the book are African American? Mainstream romance is not much different either. Even if the guidelines don’t specifically say it, in most mainstream romance both Hero and Heroine are of the same race. Therefore interracial romance, especially if it involves a white woman and a black man, neither fits into African American Romance or Mainstream romance.

That prompted me to look around on television for interracial romances in the primetime series. I examined the last two seasons of primetime shows on ABC, simply because it’s the television station I watch the most. I found while many of their primetime shows had at least one gay couple, only one show, “Modern Family” seemed to have a stable interracial couple. It was the marriage between an older white male and a young (really sexy) Hispanic female. Consequently, that couple also embodied the May/December relationship and the multicultural relationship. And though I am not much of a movie buff, I’ve seen very few recent movies with interracial romances.

Apparently while Vampire/human romances are gaining popularity today, the interracial romance, especially between black and white are becoming a relic of the past, at least on television. It is not a true reflection of today’s society where there is an increase in interracial marriages. According to the PEW report, 20 years ago only 6.8% of marriages involved couples of different races. Today, that number has more than doubled to 14.6%.

So why don’t the romance in books and on primetime television reflect the trends of today’s society in terms of interracial romances? I can postulate a few reasons:
 Interracial relationships are still uncomfortable to many viewer/readers?
 Too many complicated societal issues?
 Writers/producers fear offending particular races by having stereotypes?
 Or is it because fiction simply lags behind reality?
What’s your take on it?


Linda Thorne said...

You're right. I hadn't even thought about it, but I see many interracial couples out in the real world, but not on TV or at the movies. As far as the publisher for African American romance, I wonder if you had asked them specifically if they'd accept an interracial couple, if they would have said yes. It may be just how they wrote the submission requirements, but didn't really mean that "both" needed to be African American. I'd be interested in how they'd answer that question. I found this post interesting.

G.B. Miller said...

Odd that this post simply mentioned white woman/black man and not the reverse of black woman/white man for an example of interracial relationships.

Most (about 95%) of my stories feature interracial relationships, strictly of the 2nd mentioned variety. I've always found interracial relationships (of any kind) to be utterly fascinating, so I write my stories accordingly.