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.
But in a sense, black women — similar to any other large demographic group — are like the Republican Party. The everyday, card-carrying member, minding his or her business, is rational and reasonable. It's the crazies out front with the bullhorns in hand, claiming to represent the masses, who can't stop going ballistic every time they feel their antiquated sensibilities have been breached. That's the choir of hypocritical angry voices I'm preaching to.
Because the interracial dating thing? It's time for everyone — on all sides of the argument — to get over it. I wish Jada continued success with Hawthorne, black love interest or not. In the end, I don't care who Christina Hawthorne dates or even who Jada would date in real life if her last name weren't Pinkett Smith.
None of that negates my desire to explore the development of her character, since I'm interested in the portrayal of any character, regardless of race, who seems to have a complicated relationship with people of their own ilk. Hawthorne appears to have an inexplicable, if not quasi-pathological, bias against dating black men. It's curious, is it not? Especially since it's never been acknowledged either on the show or by the actress who plays the part and produces the program.
Along those lines, I'm still trying to figure out why Jennifer Lopez allows Hollywood to cast her as Italian or some other ethnically ambiguous vixen. She seems to star opposite everyone but Puerto Rican men in her movies, save the biopics Selena and El Cantante, the latter of which starred her husband (the aforementioned Anthony).
Just a few years ago, I would have said this is simply emblematic of the postracial America that President Barack Obama and the majority of the electorate ushered in. Then the far white — excuse me, the far right — snapped us back to reality by treating the commander in chief like a common city councilman from Gary, Ind. But despite the racially coded headwinds that Obama has encountered since taking office, maybe Hawthorne is still a sign, among many, that outside of the Beltway, race is becoming less of a hang-up.
One can hope.