by Latoya Peterson
The acrimonious custody battle between Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubry took a racial turn last week, when allegations surfaced that Aubry used racial slurs toward Berry, and acted with anger whenever a news story would describe their mixed-race child Nahla as black. One of Aubry’s exes added fuel to the fire, referring to him as “borderline racist.”
Nadra Kareem Nittle, writing for Bitch, takes the opportunity to examine the racial divide in the reactions to the gossip:
On the gossip website Celebitchy, one of the more civil celeb sites, the readership not only overwhelmingly sided with Aubry but also expressed disbelief that he may have used the N-word while arguing with Berry.
“Sounds to me like she’s trying to pull the race card, which is pretty low when you consider that the guy obviously has no problems being with a black woman, nor having a mixed race child with her,” one commenter wrote.
Another remarked, “I have to side with Gabriel here. He doesn’t seem to be the type who would throw out racial slurs.”
One more commented, “Disgusting that Halle is playing the race card. Gabriel is Canadian, and the N-word isn’t used here.”
Why am I highlighting the above comments? Because they all contain common misconceptions about race. I’m not on Berry’s side or Aubry’s side in the battle over Nahla, but I do want to point out that just because someone is romantically involved with a person of another race doesn’t mean he would never make racist remarks or behave in a racist manner. By that logic, Strom Thurmond, a staunch segregationist, would not be racist because he was in a relationship with a black woman and fathered a child with her. As for the second comment, who does seem the type to use racial slurs? If Aubry looked more like Jeff Foxworthy and less like a fashion model, would he fit the bill more? Lastly, the N-word isn’t used in Canada? Really? Someone better alert Canadian rapper Drake. He must be out of the loop, considering that his songs are littered with the word. Seriously, why does the belief persist that racism is a non-factor in certain countries? Unless the nation in question is completely racially homogeneous, racism is an issue.
Nadra is right – when it comes to discussing interracial relationships, it’s amazing how often people will dismiss the idea that one (or both partners) could still hold racist ideas and attitudes. Way back when, one of the flagship posts on Mixed Media Watch was “I can’t be racist, I have interracial sex!” Carmen wrote:
As I wrote in a post last year, just because you sleep with/live with/marry/date someone of another race doesn’t make you automatically not racist. After all, slave masters had no problem maintaining their racist beliefs against blacks while raping their slaves and fathering mixed children with them. Neither did Strom Thurmond. And all you have to do is read Susan Crain Bakos’s article to see that sex doesn’t cancel out racism. If anything, sex and intimacy have always been intricately intertwined with oppression.
But there’s a second side to the racial fallacies being thrown around – that people in mixed race relationships with white partners should expect to be treated badly as a matter of course. Nadra mentions seeing this dynamic emerge on black-focused sites like Bossip, but I also spotted the same sentiments aired on TMZ.
This dynamic also upholds racist attitudes – first, by assuming all white partners automatically hold racist beliefs about nonwhite partners, and by normalizing the idea that racist behavior is to be expected in interracial relationships. What, you expected him to treat you like a person? Well, yes – why is that so hard to understand?
Also complicating the narrative is Halle Berry’s past relationship relationship – which were unfortunately very public. She discussed being in abusive relationships before, and had a very public falling out with Eric Benet. So for many fans, this comes as a shock – many commenters brought up Halle going on Oprah to call Aubry a man of integrity. This adding further fuel to the fire is the idea that Berry is acting out of spite or anger – and also reinforces a common misogynist claim that a woman is in some way responsible for being abused. (Check out the number of comments asking how she provoked him into a rage.)
Regardless of what we may think of Halle Berry or Gabriel Aubry, there are two things that are clear: (1) we hope that Nahla ultimately ends up in an environment that is both physically and mentally safe for her, and (2) our alleged “post-racial” reality only allows for racism to continue to fester.
(Image Credit: WENN via Radar Online)