This feels weird to say out loud and in some way I have felt ashamed by it for a long time but either way stay with me.
It was not until recently that I started dreaming about Black men as my love interest. I know that’s very odd since I have dated Black men in real life and uhm…I’m Black myself. I don’t have preferences when it comes to race when dating, however it seemed like my dreams seemed to and for a very long time I felt guilty and always wondered why!
Growing up and even now many of the shows and books I read revolved around white stories. When we think of epic romance in TV/Cinema, they are mainly surrounding cis white heterosexual stories.
In my case, for example, even the few times when a Black girl would be present, she would be dating a white guy (or Black male, white girl).
Throughout my preadolescent years that was what I was mainly exposed to: many of the shows I watched (because that was what was available and predominant where I lived) were about white people finding love, and the few times a person of color was present they weren’t given a great love storyline, if any at all.
So for a while I thought that was the norm. I was not exposed to cinematic Black love, albeit that representation was present in my life from my parents to family and friends. However, as a teenager growing up, we all want to be what we see on tv and your actions, desires, dreams are influenced by that.
After I moved to States I did get a bit more exposure to Black love in mainstream media, but the story that mainly predominated was “struggle love”: the love complicated by systematic racism, crime, infidelity, or tragedy. I was a bit disappointed because I knew those were not the only stories Black people have. We also have crushes, we also have high school relationships and drama between friend groups, we also have high school sweethearts, college boyfriends/girlfriends, one night stands, summer and travel love stories, breakups and heartbreaks, the “opposites attract” story, friends who become more, happy marriages, but that’s not what was reflected in TV. It seemed as if Black people did not deserve or have what could be considered “coming of age” or “normal love” stories.
Recently there has been a slow push to showcase more of Black love stories (and that of other minorities) in a more realistic light, reflective of real life in media. However, there are still some inequalities that continue to exist. For example, there is a limited access to Black content. For a while I thought it was solely because not enough shows featuring lead Black characters were being made,(I stress lead because I am deeply over the Black best friend trope in Hollywood, I’m too tired to even get into that so please read this well written piece in by Tayo Bero) but that’s not necessarily true. Saying that would be like a company saying we have not hired Black people, because there are none that specialize in our trade.
Most times the reason is that a thorough research into, marketing to a particular community has not been done because that’s not what matters, and honestly the same applies to streaming services.
How come when I go on streaming services such as Hulu or Netflix I can easily find like hundreds of rom-coms or sitcoms with white protagonists but with Black stories the content is much less or we have to look elsewhere requiring even more payment? Why did it take so long for Netflix to make shows like Moesha, Girlfriends etc available? I also raise my nose at how quickly these shows became available due to the recent events highlighting racial injustices. By all means I recognize the efforts and I am super excited to watch these shows and keep getting more. But how come it always takes more for BIPOCs to have the same things that are granted easily to white cis hetero peers?
Personally, recognizing and acknowledging the need to expose myself to more Black stories in media, for the past years I have been consciously seeking out to read more novels and watch shows surrounding Black characters. I still have a long way to go but honestly I have been learning quite a lot about myself, the true history and cultures of different communities and broadening my understanding on so much more.
A friend of mine recently asked me why is it that suddenly all of these changes are being made to TV shows, shows being taken away because of their depiction of racism, changes to Paw Patrol, increase in shows depicting more Black stories. And the point made is the same that has pushed me to exploring more Black stories on my own, to desire more representation in media. Black people are not monolith. Represent us, and represent all of us, represent us well.
Podcast to listen: Check out the Podcast “Chile, Anyway” by Jayden Cohen Boyce and Amira Lee discussing everything you need to know. I literally laugh out loud.
Shows to watch: Recently finished “Everybody Hates Chris”. Another show that makes me LOL for real. If you have already watched it, go watch again. Or watch “Girlfriends”. Watch or Read something Black. Happy to make recommendations if need be.
P.S. I do not own any copyright to the images included.