Awkward Interracial Dating: High Hopes for Season 2 of Awkward Black Girl

By Guest Contributor Tracey Ross

(Note: Spoilers if you did not watch episode 7.)

I’m the kind of girl who walks down the street and doesn’t realize I’ve been singing out loud. Or offers a pregnant lady a seat on the metro only to find out she’s not pregnant. I’m awkward. And black. This is why I love the web series Awkward Black Girl and, like many ABG fans, am counting down to the premiere of season two.

Towards the end of the first season, the audience was left with a cliffhanger episode where the star “J” (played by show creator Issa Rae) finds her two love interests “Fred” and “White Jay” at her doorstep. If it’s not obvious, White Jay is white. And Fred is black. Given the choice before J, the show created an unlikely platform for conversations about interracial dating, and spurred much debate over whether it is OK to date outside one’s race. We can expect season two to highlight J’s new relationship with White Jay, but it would be a mistake to allow the characters to fall into the familiar tropes used to depict interracial dating.

Typically, there are two ways television and movies handle interracial dating. The first is the traditional approach where the family has a problem with the relationship. From the 1967 classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” to the 2005 role reversal of “Guess Who.” The second is the imaginary, post-racial approach where no one seems to notice that the happy pair is an interracial couple. Not even the couple themselves, as seen on many new sitcoms.

As a black woman who has been in a relationship with a white man for the past two years, I have appreciated the hilarious and original way Awkward Black Girl has addressed interracial dating. In episode 7, J prepares for her first date with White Jay, while her best friend Cece offers advice for entering the “interracial big leagues.” She informs J: “white guys love day time dates…basically any place they can bring their dog” and “white guys are always casual, even when they’re dressed up.” The episode follows J and White Jay’s missteps at a soul food restaurant and their discomfort sitting through a spoken-word performance that dissects interracial sex in graphic detail. The episode ends with them calling each other out for trying too hard and laughing off the tension.

I doubt Issa Rae set out to make any big statement about interracial dating, but saw it as one tool in her awkward comedy arsenal. And those awkward moments are what make the characters and the relationship so relatable. Perhaps this is why the majority of the black female fan base declared themselves “Team White Jay” on Twitter and Facebook, despite the fact that black women are the least likely to date outside their race. Many fans simply said the characters had “chemistry” or were “both awkward.”

While most fans celebrated the fact that J chose White Jay in the season finale, some ex-fans criticized the show over the message this sent to the black community–mainly, that it perpetuates the idea that black women can’t find a good black man, or that it undermines the idea of the black family.

I think the message the show sent about interracial dating, intentional or not, was that it isn’t a big deal. An afterthought. Issa Rae doesn’t shy away from issues that arise from dating outside one’s race, but the show isn’t consumed with the fact that the black female star is interested in a white guy. That’s not what the show is about. As interracial relationships become more and more common, ABG created a more relatable relationship than other depictions.

I wholeheartedly agree with the show’s critics that television and film play an instrumental role in shaping society’s views of black people, and that’s why ABG is so great. It’s a show about a young black woman by a young black woman. That alone is huge for the community. Not who she dates. There is no character like J on television. She doesn’t perpetuate stereotypes, isn’t the “black friend,” and isn’t a raceless character who could have been played by anyone. She is a young black woman who is the star, gets to be funny, and is unique. And right now, she happens to be dating a white guy.

As the premiere of season two approaches, we can expect J and White Jay’s relationship to play an important role in the storyline, but I hope Issa Rae follows the precedent set in season one–allowing the characters to learn from their new relationship, and focusing on how J navigates the every day situations of her awkward life.

  • http://twitter.com/ElenaIsAwesome elena

    I’m completely obsessed with ABG, not only because of how hilarious and well-written it is, but also because it’s nice to be able to watch a show featuring people of color that actually touches on racism and race in society today. It’s not like the show is solely honing in on the inequalities, but it’s a part of daily life for POC, and that’s reflected in the show.

    I do think ABG and Issa Rae went a long way to characterize both White Jay and Fred as awesome guys. It was less that J couldn’t find a “good black man” and more that she just felt attracted to White Jay. Fred’s beyond cool, it just didn’t click with J. 

    If only we could migrate this kind of humor and heart when dealing with POC on network television. One day!

  • http://racerelations.about.com/ Nadra

    Very insightful. I just wanted to add that actually white women (percentage wise) are the least likely to date interracially,  the Washington Post has reported. Fifty percent of black women have dated interracially compared to 40 percent of white women, according to the study the Post did with Kaiser Family Foundation.

  • Lyndizzle

    I heard about this show from this website linking an article over the twitter backlash, and decided to watch it with my fiancé and one of my good friends who needed a pick-me-up. It is SO good. We were up til 3am watching it. I can’t wait for season two and more J/whiteJay and also J/Cece friendship which was best

  • Ladyguerita

    wait,  No one else sings while walking down the street?
    Ok them……………
    I love this show, it’s like me expect I’m Mexican-American.  :)

  • Rayuela

    Yes, it will be very interesting for Issa Rae to turn her awkward and hilarious eye to the awkward hilarity of interracial dating/love. Having to say “Uh… we’re together….” all the time at supermarket counters. Asking if anyone has seen your boyfriend/husband and thinking you should point out “he’s not the same race as me” to give them a clue. The weird uncomfortable compliments from strangers on how cute your babies will look. Um, thanks?……….? I really look forward to it.
    One thing that I haven’t seen pointed out about the whole White Jay/Fred competition is that Fred is played by an old friend of Issa’s, whereas White Jay was brought in for the show. I think it’s very likely that this goes a long way to explaining the chemistry thing – when I think of trying to act all lovey and crushy with guys I’ve been friends with for years…. well, I don;t think I’d do too great. And I feel like that friendship is probably what gets in the way a lot for the on-screen chemistry between J and Fred. Whereas with White Jay she can see a cute new guy, not her old friend who happens to be cute but looked so gross that time in college when he was growing his first moustache and hooked up with that really annoying girl.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, it was funny, but we’ve seen the preview of how she treats interracial dating since she didn’t feel comfortable picking her own outfit for it and let Cece dress her like she was going to the gym for her first “white date.”  

      So hopefully the rest will be just as funny.  

  • mickinickharp

    Just watched the link as my first ABG episode.  I AM IN LOVE.  And I’m donating to this show to keep it on.