By Deputy Editor Thea Lim
Alicia Keys loves drama – and no, I am not referring to her current lovelife (you’ll have to read a different kind of blog to get that gossip, unfortch), I’m referring to her music videos. When it comes to star-crossed histrionics, both Keys’ music and videos always deliver the goods. Which I kind of like, most of the time; woman’s got a good set of lungs and a nice scrunchy crying-for-the-camera face.
But her latest video just gets on my nerves. “Unthinkable” stars Chad Michael Murray as Keys’ white lover, and shows reincarnations of the same interracial couple across several different decades, suggesting that from the 40’s up to today interracial relationships still face prejudice.
While I appreciate the way Keys uses time to show parallels between the racism of the past and the racism of the present, there are a few things about this video that strike me as deeply dishonest. Broken down for your reading convenience, here are my issues:
1. Only black people hate interracial relationships!
Okay Ms Keys, why do you only have black people showing prejudice in this video? From the 50’s to 70’s to the 80’s to the 00’s, all we see are black faces looking on at the Murray/Keys pairing with fury and even violence. Oh no wait, we get a split second of a white cashier looking at black/white flirtation with disgust…and then it’s back to black folks.
A video doesn’t just pop out organically from the brain of its creator: someone makes very specific choices and then very specific casting calls to mark race in a video. So why did Keys and her team choose to only show black people getting mad about the interracial love in this video?
This seems particularly problematic and dishonest in the “50’s” section of the video, where the optics, if you really look at them, are disquieting: a group of angry, bloodthirsty black men circle a defenseless white man with a puppy dog face.
So not only do we get a very racist portrayal of black people as aggressive and irrational in contrast to a lover-not-a-fighter white man, we get a profoundly skewed version of history. Anyone with a 101 knowledge of Black History Month knows that in the 50’s it was black men, not white men, whose lives were in danger if they so much as looked at white women. For some of our readers this will be well-trod ground, but let’s do a refresher just in case: Emmet Till was a 14 year-old black boy who was tortured and murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman. And his story was not an anomaly; this happened to many black men. So much so that an all-white jury took all of 67 minutes to acquit both Till’s accused murderers. This didn’t happen in 1897, it happened in 1955.