Black people love us some “black love.” We talk about it; we take pictures of it; we hashtag it. It’s something we hold dearly and thrive on, but it can be confusing to people who aren’t black, particularly white people. “What exactly is ‘black love?” they wonder, “and how is it any different than any other love?” These are the types of questions a lot of people wonder, but wouldn’t dare utter outside of their private circles for fear of being seen as racist. And so the questions remain and the assumptions grow.
And then this sexy fine couple named the Obamas hit the scene and the use of the term went through the roof. Everybody and they mama (yes, that’s “they mama”, not “their mama”) was talking about the beauty of the Obama’s love–their incredibly-noticeable black love. To answer the questions above, black love is love between two people who identify as black, and no, there isn’t a difference between black love and any other type of love. Love is love. It doesn’t pull a Clark Kent/Superman switch-up when expressed between black people, but we act like it does. And with good reason.
A Lil’ History on Black Love
Not to turn this into a history lesson, but this discussion can’t be had without a little context. Bear with me. Most people who immigrated to this country came willingly and with family. Husbands, wives. children, siblings, grandparents and cousin started a new life together, able to document their entire journey, down to the date and time they stepped foot on American soil. Not so for black Americans.
We didn’t come in recognized family units. No husband, no wives, no sweet little grannies. Just bucks and wenches. Strong bodies to be used at their owners’ discretion.
And so thanks to the denial of black Americans’ humanity, black love officially died. In fact, it never even got the chance to be born, not here in the US. Unofficially, it lived in the hearts of slaves who, despite laws that prohibited them from marrying, secretly “jumped the broom” to symbolize their commitment and fidelity. Officially, though, there was no black love. After all, how silly is the thought of cattle getting married?
For generations, our love flopped and flailed, fighting extermination attempts of a society that strategically and vehemently denied its existence. Without record or recognition, black love survived only in the determined hearts of those who relied on it, those who saw its beauty and refused to be stripped of it. This is the story of our love.
Current Black Love Troubles
2012 marks the 147th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, but black love is still hurting. For many, it’s been squeezed and hammered into something completely other than what it originally was, what it truly is. That’s why some of us today still don’t know love. It has been so successfully withheld that some go their entire lives using mere sex as a consolation, painfully unaware of what they’ve never had.
Stereotypes and even statistical data suggest that, in general, we don’t get married. For some, their own family history suggests that, in general, we don’t get married. But we do have sex, that the stereotypes let us know for sure. Is their any being more sexualized that the black woman? And everyone knows the sexual prowess of black men. We’ve been objectified into a collection of walking, talking body parts, waiting to please, unworthy of love but completely capable of lust. This is the story of our love.
The Obamas Revive Black Love
In the midst of all of this, a black man who loves (and married) a black woman was elected president. And we don’t just assume he loves his wife. He makes it undeniably clear.
Again, love is just love, but given all that I’ve explained, can you begin to understand the magical fairy dust of black love? For all of us who know love in our own lives, the Obamas are validation. For all of us who doubt love because we’ve never really seen it, the Obamas are inspiration. And for those who know nothing about black love, the Obamas are an explanation. They stand against every negative image of the black family, and they stand with every assertion that we, too, can and do love.