"My White Boyfriend" YouTube Videos and Self-Fetishization in Interracial Relationships

Talking about relationships has always been weird for me. I’m very private about my personal life--as much as someone who talks about their relationship and sex life on the internet can be. When my high school boyfriend and I broke up, because we were so public with our relationship, our breakup played out for the world to see and it was not pretty.

I’m more mature now and my current boyfriend is an incredibly private person so we both feel comfortable keeping our relationship business to ourselves. It doesn’t bother me when a couple likes to share details about their relationship, it just doesn’t appeal to me. Interestingly enough, I’ve had people tell me they thought my boyfriend wasn’t real until they met him because I don’t talk about him much on social media and almost no pictures of us together exist publicly. For context, two of the five pictures of us on my instagram have been posted in the last year, and we’ve been together for five years.

That being said, I love love and seeing happy couples warms my heart. I’m a huge fan of “relationship youtube”, the genre of videos about couples sharing their experiences, advice, or participating in different viral challenges. However, the videos of interracial couples (WoC/white men specifically) almost always make me very uncomfortable.

It sounds hypocritical to say that as a Black woman in a relationship with a white man, but the way those kinds of videos are marketed and find popularity in certain corners of the internet reveals something about the way that marginalized people in relationships with more social power than them can feel compelled to justify their existence. Most of the time, these videos are used to demonstrate how normal this relationship is, that ultimately love is love and skin color shouldn’t matter when you care about someone. That perspective doesn’t personally resonate with me, but I understand the logic.

At the same time, it comes off as if these couples are trying to demonstrate how unique and special their love is because it's different, which creates a contradiction that is off-putting to me. More than anything though, I find it annoying that were I not in an interracial relationship myself, I'd probably come across as a hater or a bitter bitch for critiquing how people express their love (I still might come off like that anyway). 

I think my discomfort is rooted in how in a lot of these videos, the women (mostly Black) seem obsessed with pointing out that their partner is white, almost as if they’re seeking validation from others? That’s an assumption of course, and probably isn’t the real intention of the videos, but that’s how it looks to me.

It seems counterintuitive to constantly point out how irrelevant race should be in a relationship and in the same breath exclusively make content that points out the differences between you and your partner. Filming yourself holding a sign that says “my partner is white and that’s special so you should pay attention to us” would have the same effect as far as I’m concerned. I’ve heard people in these videos claim they’re just trying to spread understanding of the challenges that interracial couples face, which I can understand if you believe there's a market for that kind of thing (I don't) but I don’t agree that parading yourself as some sort of exotic "other" is the way to do that.

16.4 MILLION results. 

16.4 MILLION results. 

There's so much to unpack about why people choose to invest in romantic relationships with people of other races. Be it a way to seek acceptance from the majority, preconceived notions about that race because of stereotypes (see: Fetishization 101), or whatever, the rationale unfortunately does not negate the social reality of that relationship. These relationships can't be seen as just love because we don't live in a world that sees people as just people, for better or worse. Navigating the world every day is a political statement for some of us, and our relationships reflect that. My relationship is not "just love" when people tell me that "mixed babies are the cutest ones" or ask me how my boyfriend feels about my natural hair.

This is an unpopular opinion, but I think its irresponsible to create content from a "we're all human" mindset when it's almost guaranteed that it won't be seen that way. To you, it's a cute video about sharing some aspect of yourself or your culture with your partner. To some of us, it looks like we're supposed to be entertained that your boo is looking at you like a sideshow act.

But I get it, I really do. For many people in interracial relationships, owning that and claiming it for others to see is a big deal, which I respect even if I don’t feel the same way. The landmark Loving v. Virginia case was only 50 years ago, and I’m not so naive to believe that there aren’t people today who oppose interracial couples solely because they believe that races shouldn’t mix. I know they exist, so I understand feeling like you have to defend your relationship.

On the other end of the spectrum, I've had to defend myself and my relationship because I've been accused of self-hate. That in and of itself creates so much insecurity, I used to obsess over proving to people how "woke" my boyfriend was, how much he "gets it". I don't do that anymore because i learned that people who are going to have an issue with your relationship, regardless of their reason, are probably going to do it anyway no matter what you do. 

Even in those moments where my commitment to Blackness was challenged, my response has never been to show off how my partner loves me even though he’s never seen my real hair before or eaten some food from my culture. At that point, all I would be doing is reducing myself to the things I think people want to see from me because I’m Black in an attempt to normalize that. I'd be fetishizing myself for who's benefit?

I don’t take this position because I want us to adopt a race-neutral perspective when talking about relationships. In fact, I think that the healthiest relationships are those where all parties are able to acknowledge their privileges and empathize with the other’s marginalizations (if they’re not the same). To me, being in an interracial relationship should go beyond acceptance or tolerance. There is an extra layer of complexity when it comes to navigating our race-conscious world with a partner who's different from you. But if love is just love, we should be able to talk about our relationships without trying to justify their existence or prove a point to others.