'Hawthorne': TV Love in Black and White

A new season of Jada Pinkett Smith's medical drama premieres tonight. Will her character ever date a black man?

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The population of Richmond, Va., is 50 percent black. It stands to reason that a single black woman living in said city, or even starring in a television show set in said city, might find herself involved with a black man, at least on occasion. Not that she has to, but it just seems plausible. No one bothered to mention that to Jada Pinkett Smith.

Tonight marks the return of Hawthorne, her TNT medical melodrama, which she executive-produces and stars in as Christina Hawthorne, the chief nursing officer at Richmond Trinity Hospital. During the show's brief history, matters of the heart for her character have trended in, shall we say, an unbalanced manner.

Let's retrace the relationship arc of Hawthorne: Her ex-husband and the father of her daughter is white. Cool. Her own on-again, off-again Dr. McDreamy is white. Pattern established -- but what the hell, it's 2011. Then, late last season, a new love interest emerged. His name (in real life) is Marc Anthony. Yep, that one. Granted, he's Puerto Rican, and that does swing the racial pendulum a bit, but we're not quite there yet.

As the show enters its third season, still missing in action is a black man to play Hawthorne's romantic opposite. Where is he? The only black man harder to find, as of late, is LeBron James in the fourth quarter. Then again, if Hawthorne were to fancy a player from the 2011 NBA Finals, she would be more likely to catch German fever and go for Dallas Mavericks' star Dirk Nowitzki than James. As NBA analyst Mark Jackson might say, "Mama, there goes that white man!" So, what gives? Or, in the parlance of Hollywood, what's her motivation?

Allow me to invoke James yet again, at his expense. Maybe she set a personal goal to date "not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven," but as many nonblack men as possible in her quest to become champion of black women disgruntled with black men.

 

Perhaps Hawthorne is championing Essence magazine, specifically what seems like their quarterly article nudging single black women to consider dating white men. Of course, if this were a show starring Will Smith and featuring a parade of nonblack women as his love interests, Essence readers -- the same ones who flipped out when Reggie Bush was featured on the cover -- would probably hold an annual town hall meeting to discuss it.

Yes, Smith starred in Hitch opposite Eva Mendes, who's Cuban and crazy hot. And black men on television have dated outside their race -- on other hospital dramas, no less. There was Isaiah Washington's character in Grey's Anatomy dating another doctor, of Asian descent. More recently, Taye Diggs' character on Private Practice is involved with a white woman -- in his best impression of art imitating life.

The point isn't that for every black man dating a white woman on TV, there needs to be a black woman doing the same. It's not a "who gets the least love from black folks of the opposite sex" contest. If it were, black women would win every time.

At the heart of my critique is the hypocrisy of some black women, who are fine with Hawthorne's interracial love stories but would protest if the situation were reversed. I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that many -- more like most -- of my black female friends and colleagues are over the whole interracial hysteria.

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