When Alicia Keys released her new music video “Un-Thinkable” last month I felt haunted by it. I say haunted because it stayed with me for days on end and no matter what I did, I could not shake the image of Keys and Murray as star-crossed lovers fighting against racial, familial, and societal norms throughout the decades all the way up to present day. I think “Un-Thinkable” really struck a chord with me because it is the perfect backdrop against popular conversation regarding black women expanding their options to dating out, even if that means dating white, but also because it dovetails so nicely with my research interests in chatting with professional women of color about dating, love, and relationships, or lack thereof.
On another note, (pun intended), I was also deeply moved on an emotional level as well. As a singer myself I have a deep appreciation for the lyrical quality and melodic nature of the song, but also for the way Ms. Keys used it to tell a story and highlight a complex social issue. I gained a new found respect for her talent as a artist and actress and for that of Mr. Chad Michael Murray, whom prior to the Alicia Keys video I had not seen in anything yet but really liked and appreciated in this role.
I was completely blown away by the intensity, passion, and tension conveyed between Keys and Murray in just a single glance, in their facial expressions, and their body language. At times, the chemistry between them was so palatable that I couldn’t even hardly stand it. However, I think for me the moment of truth was after the fight scene between Murray and Keys’ brother, when Murray yells “What am I not good enough?” while Keys is pulled away by her friends, clearly heartbroken and devastated as indicated by the look on her face.
That one statement alone is laced with so many racial undertones–charged meanings. In one fell swoop “Un-Thinkable” cuts to the heart of the issue and calls into question why black women/white male interracial unions have always been such a volatile issue. It hearkens back to the 1967 Loving vs. Virgina Case which outlawed miscegenation in this country, making it 100% legal for interracial couples everywhere to get married.
The video also raises the issue of racism as so clearly depicted in scenes where Keys and Murray are eying each other from the other side grocery aisle while a white female cashier and white male customer look on unapprovingly in utter shock and disbelief. They are obviously uncomfortable with the exchange passing between Keys and Murray, a fact that is still of concern to white society and a sore spot in the black community too.
“Un-Thinkable” manages to deal with conflicts surrounding black women and white men unions sensitively but also truthfully. Just as the white store clerk and customer are not pleased by Keys and Murray romantic overtures neither is Keys’ brother pleased either. This not an issue many of us like to discuss in the black community but it is out there and it affects the dating options and choices that women of color have for themselves.
Call it a stigma, a double standard if you will but all I am saying is nobody yells when men of color exercise their options but then there is some code that requires women of color to be “loyal to their men”. This whole notion of an “IBM”, the ideal black man (or any other man of color) is especially limiting for us sisters who desire relationships but do not traffic in spaces where there are lots of men of color to pick and choose from liberally. Not to mention we have to question what makes a man of any race “good”? Isn’t that what Murray was alluding to when he asks “I am not good enough”?
In other wards the underlying message is “yeah, you’re not good enough because you are not black”. I’m inclined to believe that romantic compatibility is not based on race. I am not saying race doesn’t matter. I am saying that race is something that has to be negotiated in interracial relationships which might be a little tricky but not impossible. It’s not unthinkable. As single successful sisters we are at a critical juncture in our personal and professional lives. We are on the move, earning our degrees, and moving into high places of power. It’s about time for us to let go of these notions that dating outside our race is unthinkable. Instead we ought to move toward relationships where there is reciprocity, and finding partners who are both good to us and good for us, whatever race they may be.