When it comes to big YouTube couples, you probably include the likes of Patricia & Mike, Jamie & Nikki or Adanna & David. Now can you think of a black couple that’s raked in the same amount of views and engagement as these aforementioned couples? I’m struggling to come up with any. With television series such as Black Love airing in the U.S. and the glorification of black relationships such as Michelle and Barack, Will and Jada, Teyana and Iman, why is it that celebration of black love doesn’t quite get reflected on the YouTube sphere? Why is it that many of the popular black female YouTubers are with white men? Furthermore, why is it they seem to gain more traction than couples made up of black men and women?
I’ve wasted many hours, procrastinating watching the likes of Patricia Bright and her husband Mike as they gallivanted the world, and watched excitedly as Jamie and Nikki prepared for the birth of their first child. As much as I was enjoying the content they were putting out, I couldn’t help but realise that a lot of the popular black female YouTubers I was watching were in relationships with white men, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Now I have no personal bias towards interracial couples, however, it is the obsession we seem to have with them, particularly on platforms such as YouTube that I take issue with.
We live in such a multicultural and diverse society, yet there is still this odd fascination that interracial couples bring about. Just look at the way the world went crazy, and is still crazy about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle! Needless to say, many interracial couples have caught on to the trend, and are attempting to jump on YouTube, with that section of the site now becoming oversaturated with reactions from white boyfriends to their black girlfriend’s natural hair. There was one video I watched called “An interracial couples morning routine” and maybe my single self doesn’t know any better, but I’m pretty sure that this couple’s morning routine was just like any other couples regardless of race. This just goes to show the extent to which some may be using their status as an interracial couple on YouTube as a marketing ploy.
Yes, love is love, but I can’t help but feel as though the popularity and obsession with interracial couples are both political and superficial. On one hand, we want to feel as though race doesn’t matter and interracial couples are the perfect aesthetic for this. Youtube is the perfect platform for this. Vlogging channels are the best way to show people living their politics and at the same time feed into the superficial online aesthetics. We can say “see, race doesn’t matter, this couple is just like us!”, and then comment #relationshipgoals or like a video of an aesthetically pleasing mixed-race family just because they look good. We do all of this without acknowledging how problematic this obsession is.
In a time where we are having more and more open conversations about race, the existence of interracial couples can also alleviate feelings of white guilt and racial inadequacy. They represent an ideal where racism no longer exists, not only because the couple exists but also because people can relate to someone who doesn’t look like them. But, how progressive is this if the only way we can appreciate black women is when they are in close proximity to white men? As extreme as this idea might seem, this fetishisation of mixed race kids and couples feeds into this idea of white supremacy. As progressive a society, we may seem, there remains this influence that “white is better.” We live in a society based on Eurocentric ideals, so maybe for some people of colour, watching these black women with white partners is validating, and makes us feel appreciated and desirable, especially when so often we are deemed the least attractive. When we deal with the misogynoir coming from the black men in our communities, seeing this “white validation” can lead to a feeling of pride and entitlement which really is not the way it should be. It can lead to inauthentic relationships.
Proximity to whiteness also exists as an obsession with mixed-race children. Again we see the emphasis not on the importance of the relationship (i.e. parent-child) but on aesthetic. People want mixed babies as though they are an accessory because they look cute. This is also something which is bigger than Youtube. I had a white teacher once tell me she wanted “a little chocolate baby” and a white friend tell me about the black baby she wanted with curly hair, as “mixed babies are cute”. Whether it’s the skin complexion, light green eyes or loose curls of hair, there is an unhealthy obsession and fetishisation with mixed race babies, and this love comes from both the black and white communities.
What my teacher and others like her who make comments like this don’t realise is that this idea of mixed race babies being cuter than other races is thoroughly problematic. It raises questions about the way we engage with race and relationships. In saying you want a mixed child you are valuing your partner’s race over the content of their character. It is worrying that this could be someone’s main priority when seeking a partner, especially when race is such a huge part of identity. The obsession with mixed race can not only cause mixed-race children to have identity crises but also black and white children. Black children can grow up feeling as though they are inherently undesirable because of their race, and white children can grow up to continue the cycle of fetishisation because they see the “exotic” as more desirable. I would argue that this idea is prominent with the YouTube community today.
Interracial relationships, built on love, are beautiful. However, with the growth of social media platforms such as YouTube, they have become centred around aesthetics. Society has fetishised and glamourised these relationships, using interracial couples as pawns to affirm political statements of progression and changes in attitudes. Whilst, it is true we have come a long way, I do not think interracial couples are the beacons of a post-race world we often hail them to be. Surely, a true sign of progress would be seeing dark-skinned couples on YouTube gain as much traction as their interracial counterparts. Anyways until then, I think I’ll stick to watching interview clips of Michael B Jordan.
Written by Aisha Rimi