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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Black and White: Halle Berry's Baby Daddy Drama

In recent weeks, one of the stories that's wound its way through several news cycles has been the on-again/off-again custody battle between actress Halle Berry and her baby daddy, Canadian model Gabriel Aubry. The former couple's back and forth has included allegations of evil diva-like behavior on the part of Berry, as well as an alleged pattern of verbal abuse on the part of Aubry. And it's the nature of Aubry's insults that are proving to be most disturbing, as it's been alleged that certain of his statements were overtly racist. That Aubry is white and Berry is black had been of little consequence during their relationship. As they appeared, hand in hand, on red carpets and awards shows, the world wondered how Aubry got so lucky to be with one of the world's most beautiful women.

When Berry became pregnant with Aubry's child, speculation swirled around when she would make a trip down the aisle to become a Mrs., oh, and what designer would sew her a perfect wedding day frock! Their break-up, then, though sad, was, in the world of Hollywood stylists, agents, and weekend grosses, the normal narrative for a super-sexy, talented and in-demand actress involved with a younger guy who was less established and less successful. Their break-up was announced by the usual and customary news release from their publicist, but what's followed hasn't been the norm. Aubry sued Berry for custody of their daughter, siting Berry's frequent travel as a factor, and Berry battled back, accusing Aubry of expressing rage when their bi-racial daughter was referred to as black. True or not, all of this is so ugly and deeply disappointing.

In 2011, interracial relationships would seem to be no more worthy of extra attention than men with pierced ears or women wearing pants suits. U.S. Census data tells the story. Prior to 1960, less than 1% of all marriages in the United States were interracial, but according to the 2003-2006 Current Population Survey data, 25% of unmarried couples living together were interracial. The Gallup Poll has been asking the question of Americans' approval of black and white intermarriage since 1958. That first poll showed that only 4% of Americans approved of interracial marriage between blacks and whites, but by September of 2007, the approval rate was 79%.  That a certain U.S. Senator from Chicago of mixed-race heritage was running for the highest elective office in the land in 2007 may have had something to do with that September poll, but that's a discussion for another time.

But, are we as comfortable with interracial relationships as we claim we are? Michael Jackson may have sung that it doesn't matter if you're black or white, and Stevie Wonder and Sir Paul may have swayed to "Ebony and Ivory living in perfect harmony," but those were songs, what happens in reality? For every Heidi Klum and Seal, there's someone uncomfortable with their color-blind kind of love. While teens of different races may hang out together, eat together, and even sexually experiment with each other, they may do so with their racist attitudes intact. College - that great melting pot of higher education - encourages students to sample everything, and everyone. But some indulge while remaining fixed on their own narrow ideas about race.

Halle's story is a caution to us all. She may have had the handsome hunk that everyone wanted, and Aubry may have bagged the sexy Hollywood actress, but once you strip away the veneer, this black woman and this white man have to face who they are, and be something better. I guess that's the challenge and the gift of any relationship, black or white! I'm just saying:)

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