Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why Paula Patton Should Not Allow Husband Robin Thicke To Speak on Interracial Love

'Robin Thicke' photo (c) 2011, sergio_leenen - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
Essence magazine recently published an interview with singer Robin Thicke about his relationship and six year marriage to actress Paula Patton.  If I were Patton, after reading that interview, Thicke would be couch surfing, until he learned the good sense that good gave cabbage.  Being in an inter racial relationship for over 20 years, I can tell you that they take work and there is continuously outside pressure, no matter how long you have been together as a couple.  Not only is it important that you both work to grow together as a couple, race is something that continually needs to be negotiated.  Even after 20 years in a relationship, it would not be worth my time to invest in brochure printing, or e-publishing to create a guide, because while all couples will experience some of the same problems, many of the issues are dependent upon how much work each person has invested into understanding race and gender dynamics.  There can be no guide because no one group is a monolith. I know that it is romantic to think that love solves all, but it would naive to think it is some magical elixir for understanding racial dynamics, as we will see in the following comments.

First and foremost, it must be understood that it is Black women that listen to and support Thicke's music and therefore some of his comments must have been made with that in mind, especially considering that this terrible interview took place in Essence magazine. The first thing that Thicke does is establish his difference from Black men:
What I realize about the difference between me and my peers -- you know, Chris Brown and Drizzy Drake and all my musical peers -- is that they haven’t been with the same woman for 18 years and I’ve been with a Black woman for 18 years. I’ve never dated a White woman. Don’t want to. I’ve never been on a date with a White woman.
You'll notice how he pledges his love and respect of Black women, and makes a point of saying that two Black men have not done the same.  What is this but divide and conquer? His attraction to Black women reads like fetishism to me. If that does not creep you out enough, he goes on to say that he and Patton refer to each other as mommy and daddy.  He claims this is because they both have issues with their parents, but to me, an outsider, a White man calling a Black woman mommy, brings up images of mammy and all of the negative history that it entails. In this case however, mammy is also a sexy beast.

When asked what he would whisper in his wife's ear, he had the following to say:
I can’t wait to get you home and love you up for two to three hours. I like to try to get her into double-digit orgasms as much as possible. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when I’ve got my mojo and my swag, it happens. Every few months it’s just like bam -- repeated. Repeated! I like her to just be going crazy in the bedroom.
And this is about the woman who he supposedly loves and respects.  Good heavens, God save us all from that kind of display of respect. Who discusses their private business like that? On top of all of that, notice how sex is not something they do together, but something that he does to her.  For me it calls up imagery of White men sneaking into the slave cabins to have their way with Black women. Of course, he likes to push her right over the edge, because this is about power and not pleasure or reciprocity, and at the same time suggests that Black women are capable of bringing out the hyper sexuality in White men.
He does step away from this briefly and tells us that Patton's sexiest quality is her intelligence. Yes, after all of the blather, we finally have a shining moment in this short interview, but unfortunately for Thicke, it is far too brief as he goes on to say:
Ever since I met her and we were 16 years old and she was the president of the Black student union and I was just a silly White boy who didn’t understand or have compassion.

I had no animosity, but I just didn’t understand the Black experience in America and how different it is -- and most White people can’t. You can’t understand it until you are with somebody every day and you have a child that you know is Black, you then understand that, wow, what a different experience Black people and in particular Black women have to go through.
I have a newsflash for Thicke, no matter how long you are in an inter racial relationship with a Black woman, you will never understand what it is to be a Black woman living in a White supremacist state.  It is also worth noting that because his wife is light skinned, she exists with a modicum of privilege over dark skinned women. Her experience of Blackness is completely different to someone like the beautiful dark skinned Alex Wek.

When asked if he feels misunderstood he responds:
A lot of mainstream magazines, like SPIN and Rolling Stone, they still don’t get me. They can’t figure out how a funny guy with a dad on a sitcom can have a 90 percent Black female audience. It’s never happened before. I didn’t plan it that way. I just love the music and I love my wife and she is a strong Black woman, so if my wife doesn’t like it, how can the other Black women like it? If my wife approves of the song, I’m doing it.
Here we go again. He specifically chose to use the term "strong Black woman,"  to further ingratiate himself.  Thicke knows that Paula grants him legitimacy just by being in a relationship with him, much the same way that Michelle Obama helped win over Black voters who questioned Barrack Obama's identity as an African-American.  On top of all of that, he is clearly unafraid to view Black women as a monolith.  If Paula likes his music, then all Black women must love him, cause we all operate with a hive mind right?

In a final bout of paternalism, when asked about the current social narrative that has been encouraging Black women to date outside of their race, Thicke responds:
There are great Black men out there. There are only a few good White men -- trust me. (Laughs) Good luck finding a good White man who understands your journey. I only have three White friends. I’ve got 20 Black male friends, who are all good men who take good care of their wives, and good care of their children. I know amazing Black men. Maybe the women have to take better care of their men. Maybe you’re being too stubborn. Maybe you’re not saying you’re sorry. You have to take good care of him, too. You have to give love to get love.
Yep, more divide and conquer from Thicke.  At the beginning of this interview he started off by saying that he was different from his Black male contemporaries, because he has never dated a White woman and has maintained a long term relationship with a Black woman.  Now he uses this experience to lecture Black women on our inability to take care of our men.  Apparently, we are not giving them enough good love, but not to worry, by telling us about his sex life with Patton, he has provided us with a guideline on how to keep men happy - sex and more of it.

I normally stay away from celebrity news, but this interview was so ripe with race and gender stereotyping that the only way to describe it is simply gross. Despite his long term relationship with Patton, Thicke has still yet to embrace the idea that as a White man of class privilege, that he is a member of the most powerful group to walk the earth.  Much of what he has to say is both racist and sexist, and yet the tone is clearly meant to be benign.  He is paternalistic from the very beginning, and the few moments of self depreciation, are quickly over run by his claims to possess expertise on people of colour.

This interview is yet another perfect example of liberal White racism.  If someone wears their White sheets in public or burns crosses, it is easy to label them a racist.  In fact, that is what many see as the definition of  a racist.  The racism that comes from the supposedly leftist liberal White male is often ignored or explained away, though it is just as harmful as those who chant about White supremacy.

I further believe that this interview is important because it reveals that just because someone is in love with a person a colour, and has committed their lives to them, does not mean that they have left their racist ideas behind.  Love does not cure, or overcome, a lifetime of conditioning, only a commitment to decolonize one's mind does that.  The current obsession about whom Black women should be dating is a distraction, because Black men and White men both come with a unique set of issues that must be negotiated in any relationship.  The truth of the matter is the first love of a Black woman's life should be herself, and then she will be far more unlikely to settle for someone who thinks this sort of racist and sexist ranting is acceptable in a partner.