Would your viewpoint of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. change if he still was a prominent leader in the American civil rights movement yet married “Becky” instead of Coretta?
Ummm... Something that makes you ponder.
We would hope that our viewpoint wouldn't change about the great Dr. King based on whom he married, but as "woke" Black people, we tend to change how we view activists and artists who are "woke" and date white people because we believe that the dichotomy of wokeness and dating (or marrying) white can’t exist.
I know that was an out-of-the-blue, random question but it stemmed from attending a book signing at Barnes and Noble this last Sunday.
Franchesca "Chescaleigh" Ramsey (popular from The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore on Comedy Central and MTV's web series Decoded) did an eight-city nationwide book tour to promote her new book, Well, that Escalated Quickly (WTEQ). I must admit, I really didn't know much about Franchesca. I vaguely remembered her from the 4 Black Lives Matter Myths Debunked episode of Decoded. I didn't have an interest in going to the conversation/Q&A/book signing because I didn't know much about her and I wasn't really interested in purchasing the book to learn more about her. But after I saw that Atlanta's own Myleik, CEO of Curlbox and Black Boss Lady in her own right, was going to be hosting the conversation at Franchesca's Atlanta stop, I decided to buy her book so I could be an engaged participant during the conversation/Q&A/book signing.
Amazon Prime, in all its awesomeness, delivered WTEQ to me two days after I ordered it. I was well on my way to see how Franchesca escalated things so quickly (pun intended)! In the first chapter, I learned that she was the beauty and brains behind Sh*t White Girls Say…to Black Girls (SWGSTBG) and I immediately went to YouTube to review the video. To my surprise, this was the same comedic video that I laughed my ass off when I saw it six years ago. So I plugged into her channel and watched videos that she posted years ago, including her hair tutorial video since, like me, she is a fellow loc'd Queen. Then I clicked the link to her wedding video of her marrying the love of her life, Pat. When I saw Pat was white, I cringed.
Why was I cringing when I saw this beautiful, Black woman marrying the love of her life and her best friend?
Because like many black people who identify with being "woke," I didn't believe that any true activist who spoke out on the injustices against black and brown people could or should date (or marry) someone white.
I pondered this as I read her book and prepared to attend her book signing. I started thinking about Donald Glover, W. Kamau Bell, Jordan Peele, Wanda Sykes, Serena Williams, and the list of celebrities who have spoken on racial issues and social injustice yet date (and marry) white people. Outside of the two flings I had in my 20s with white males, I have never had a serious relationship with anyone outside of my race, so I had no idea how a "woke" Black person could date a white person and why they would want to do so.
When I arrived at the Barnes & Noble, I saw a sea of beautiful black women mixed with a sprinkle of black men and other races. As I sat in my chair in the second row, I felt anxious. I was eager to hear what Franchesca had to say about her book but more importantly, wanted to know if someone would ask her about being an activist while married to a white man.
Fortunately, I didn't have to wait that long. The host of the conversation, Myleik, candidly asked her about her viewpoint on it.
And this is what Franchesca had to say:
The points that she made were valid and her input opened my eyes to a different perspective that I would not have understood since I have never been in a serious relationship with a white man.
Sometimes, as a "woke", Black, cisgender, Christian woman, I turn a blind eye to issues that don't affect me personally. But God has a way of humbling me to understand the struggles of others and empathize with people who don't necessarily look like me. As a Black woman, I can still empathize with the struggles of Black men, especially when it comes to the legal system. As a Christian, I can advocate for Muslims. As a cisgender woman, I can still weep over transpeople who are brutally murdered over how they identify themselves.
Franchesca taught me a small yet powerful lesson: Whoever a person dates does NOT shield them from social injustice, racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Dating a man does not shield me from the experiences of males making inappropriate remarks to me. Likewise, people dating outside of their race are not shielded from experiencing racism. I can still advocate for Black men even though I'm a woman and a brown or black person dating a white person can still advocate for social equity. When you hear about or see an injustice being committed AND KNOW THAT IT IS WRONG, you can (and should) call it out.
So if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. still wrote Letter from Birmingham Jail, gave the I Have a Dream speech, marched from Selma to Montgomery and decided to marry Becky instead of Coretta, I would still respect him as the civil rights hero that he is because of his leadership in the American civil right movement.