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Marrying across racial lines

UPWARDLY MOBILE?: Few leading black professionals have black partners

DOES THE number of black male MPs who have chosen partners ‘across the colour lines’ reflect on the Britain we live in today or does it simply, mistakenly, enforce an old school narrative of (to paraphrase George Orwell) Too blacks bad, Too mixed good.

I think I’m correct in saying that not a single one of those black men in the Commons have black partners. 

Now, you would be right to say, ‘What’s it got to do with you?’ 

I agree. 

Matters of the heart do not warrant scrutiny outside of a pop song and, when they yield to it, are as likely to mis-inform us, as they are to clarify a phenomenon.

I say ‘phenomenon’ as I would if every white male member of parliament was married to a black woman. It is in that context, as a phenomenon, that it is worth examining and considering. The examination may not even bear fruit, but it would be remiss of us to not notice. Wouldn’t it? Once you’ve noticed you’ve brought attention to it, if only for yourself. And once you’ve brought attention to it, as you would to a field filled with white rastas at a reggae festival in Croatia, you’re curious too - bi or otherwise.

In the case of the parliamentary phenomena of black men we, typically, search around in our history to see if there is anything in the annals of the black British experience that can make sense of it. Or perhaps going back further. But the more distant the years umbilically tying us to considerations about enslavement and colonialism, the more unrealistic it is to ‘take the fifth’ - the default position of many black Britons in untangling the confusing web of race relations. 

Resorting to that ignominious history and its ramifications make sense by way of explanation for black Britons. Slavery was an abomination. The rest is irrational. If we try and work out what white folks have got against us that makes them treat us the way we’re treated institutionally, systematically, we’d be throwing up both our hands and wondering ‘What’s going on, what’s going on…’

An appeal to colonialism is a much more complex default. It’s not a straight black and white, good or bad, yes or no, good over evil. One of colonialism’s greatest achievements was that for hundreds of years it maintained a divide and rule that was so convoluted that the colonised didn’t even know it was happening. All but a tiny number of the then (80 million) population of Nigerians, for example, accepted their subjugation by a handful of Westminster mandarins and a battalion of soldiers.
Unfortunately, for British colonialism that tiny number was conscious enough to get scholarships overseas, to the ‘motherland’ even, to get the education needed to bring down the empire. They had the last laugh. At the time in Nigeria that ‘last laugh’ was had on Independence Day, October 1, 1960. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of Nigerians life has not been all “ha-ha-ha, hee-hee-hee” since. If enslavement and the consequences of colonialism cannot explain the MP phenomenon, we have to take a good look at ourselves. Is there anything in our condition and experience that might make sense of it?

Firstly, is it a buppie phenomenon? 

Are you more likely to marry across racial lines in the black middle classes? 

That would seem to be the case anecdotally. If bashment underpins the black ‘lower orders’ you’d have to say, yeah, definitely. Bashment gives the lie to the suggestion that black men are only interested in white women.

If it is a buppie phenomenon, what is it about the way the black middle classes are weaned that makes them so much more likely to marry across racial lines than other folks - white or black. Or is it something in their experience? 

If I’m correct ‘taking the sixth’ - the ‘feckless father’ default - does not inform the black male MP’s romantic choices. A better explanation might be that the pool of black partners gets smaller the higher up that ladder you get. Most people meet their partners at work or in education. If you get to Oxford the pool of black men and women to choose from is tiny. It’s marginally better at Cambridge but the reality is that if you meet your life partner at a Russell Group university, the percentages suggest that it is more likely to be across the races. 

Maybe it’s when they get to the upper echelons of the workplace that a buppy’s romantic outcome is determined. Or maybe it’s simply a matter of taste. This is where it is righteous to cry out with indignation, “It’s not your place to determine that a man’s taste should convict him, Adebayo.”
No. Certainly not. We are all ‘enslaved’ to taste.

Now that everything is out in the open we may have to concede that the question is not ‘why’ but ‘how’. HOW the perception that is drawn from a cursory look at the black MPs in parliament impacts on, in particular, young black men. HOW do we expect those young black men, in particular, not to draw conclusions? And, let’s not forget, HOW we are going make the black nation rise in these here British Isles?

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