Alicia Keys, Chad Michael Murray, and Un-Thinkable

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.


  1. Wow! What a video! So, so profound. For women who are considering dating “out” this should be our theme song. If you don’t mind, I’m going to like this video to my site along with a link to yours. Thanks for sharing. That was beautiful, because even with the conflict, it leaves up hopeful.

    1. Christelyn–Thanks for visiting my blog. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I too found this video profound. I would love for you link it on your page and too mine too. I’ll link your blog to mine so you get traffic that way as well. I look forward to dialoguing with you. Please follow on twitter at smelodydiva. Cheers!

  2. Another good post! I saw the Unthinkable video a couple of weeks back and really liked it. Of course, it’s gotten a lot of commentary, much of it negative. It figures, doesn’t it. When you start talking about the BW/WM dynamic there’s always a lot of flack– usually from those who think we should always talk about BM first.

  3. This is the first time I am seeing this video and it’s interesting how something so little can stop our lives from moving ahead. I know for at least on black single friend, she cannot quite articulate why she would not choose outside her race for dating. Even though she and I talk about shortage of black men (I am open to dating any race and have), she is still reluctant to look outside. It’s as if she would have to explain herself to everyone.

    1. I cant wait I CANT WAIT for black women especially the dark women become what the ‘blond’ is in white circles.

  4. Great blog, by the way, there is the fear factor. How much is the black woman important to the black community or any community, very much so. Shops, especially beauty shops have been benefited from the black women, church, particularly those who are not preaching the Word of God are reliable on the black women’s tithes and offerings. Even non-black women in the wider communities are happy at the status of black women, there would be no competition, even though in reality there is enough men for everyone. What happens if black women from black communities, left their communities, dated and married non-black men.

    Well, there will be a swift order of things, a lot of people will have to wake up and or get their act together and the black community as we know it willl be forced to change.

    Also it is about class and education, people can’t really attack educated black people who live in diverse areas, go to mixed schools, because you can dismiss them as not being black.

    But the black girl in your neighbourhood, moved to Italy or wherever, she is lost to them nine times out of ten, she will meet and marry an Italian or a Frenchman or Swedish man. The fear of being called a sellout. The worst thing is being told, you are not really black, you are a coconut, black outside, white inside.

    1. Valerie–Thank you so much for you comments. Yes, I agree that fear of being a “sellout” keeps a lot of black women from dating outside. I personally am praying for a shift as you speak of. I think Black women, Latina women, and other sisters deserve the best and highest in their personal lives, including romantic relationships. I will be posting another blog within the next few days so please stay tuned! I hope you will subscribe. I’ll be poking around some more on your blog to see what I find. So far, what I have seen looks great. Cheers!–Afua

    2. Valere, she could find the guy HERE in America, she just have to learn to not mess with these people. It’s sad: we are the only group that pushes this mess, I don’t hear ‘apple talk’ by indians and when you do, they dont care. Forget banana talk by asians; they speak with such a ‘standard american accent’ sometimes, they make the whites seem trashy. We’re the only ones who hate being an ‘oreo’

  5. I liked the video: People need to know that, although she has a strong black phenotype, she is HALF ITALIAN and was raised with her Italian mothers family. I’ve always wondered why she didn’t go out with whites before.

    1. That is so true boomer. As a mother to children of mixed race and heritage, it is a constant fight (with myself and with others) not to pigeonhole these children. It take 50% of each parent’s DNA. Black folks can’t corner the market on biracial children, although they do try their best! 🙂

  6. Christelyn, it’s because of the PAST. The ‘one drop’ issue. We just can’t let it go,besides there is more than black/white issues. Whats cool today, is that many white guys are going out and marrying the black girls that used to be the victim of colorism ;They were just TOO DARK for the brothas to go out with. I usually could tell who they are ‘sometimes’ they have names that arent the typical british, irish, or french names that blacks have. (although some whites have those names too, I’ve seen a white jackson or franklin, but NEVER a white washington.)

  7. I dont, mean to be slpitting hairs i just wanted to say I dont think it is a problem for black women only – dating outside your race – it is a problem for women in general. Men get to do what they please and praised almost for “catching” a woman of a different race. But for us, for the women we are almost shunned or looked down on…even in our own communities. I am white, my husband is Brown (Tamil – but looks like he’s carribean) and i have been pushed, sworn at, elbowed, and tssssks – ed at by people when we go to the store together. I am not bothered by it to much but when a woman calls me a ‘ho under her breath while making sure she bumps me walking by that just pisses me off. I am very happy i married who i did….i waited a longggggggg time to try a find a good man i didnt kno i had to wait so long because God had to talk my husband into leaving fiji. But i have noticed that when we are out i get the flack…and people look at my beautiful daughter and shake thier heads… i am lucky that for the most part our familys are happy, but friends, and other are just boggled.

    Personally i dont think anybody needs to “understand” why and who you marry but you your husband and God, I think that it;s your business we ladies just have to be strong enough to take the flack that comes and remember that what dosent kill you makes you stronger and if our husbands protect adn stand up for us like they should it dosent matter what anyone says.

    ANd actually the culture differences from us being raised in different countries and reigions (he is a christian but was raised hindu) are more problems with family then color. 🙂

    Just some thoughts. thanks for the wonderful blog i am really enjoying it 🙂

    1. Gypsy Princess–Thank you for sharing your story. While I agree that interracial dating can be hard for everyone involved, there is a particular stigmitization that Black women, as well as other women of color face for dating outside of their race, especially if it is a white person. The accusation of “selling out”, not really being black, or losing one’s black card, is not something that I think a white interracially married person has to worry about. For Black women there is a fear of transgressing sacred racial boundaries or loyalties in intimate relationships. White people who are married interracially don’t worry about losing their membership to the race by marrying out. I do agree with you that the religious thing can also play into conflict in interracial relationships, especially if the faith tradition is also cultural.–Afua

  8. I am LATE coming to the party having just seen this video a week or so ago, but I L-O-V-E it! My roommate has the cd and I have listened to this song over and over, never putting it in a racial context. But seeing it come to life made it even more beautiful …

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