This made my heart ache and my blood pressure spike: Actress Tamera Mowry, who is black, wept in an interview with Oprah Winfrey over the vile bigotry she has encountered because of her marriage to Fox News reporter Adam Housley, who is white. Misogynist haters called Mowry a sellout and a “white man’s whore.” International news outlets labeled the Internet epithets she endured “horrific” and “shocking.”
Horrific? Yes. Shocking? Not at all. What Mowry experienced is just a small taste of what the intolerance mob dishes out against people “of color” who love, think, and live the “wrong” way. I’ve grown so used to it that I often forget how hurtful it can be. Mowry’s candor was moving and admirable. It’s also a valuable teachable moment about how dehumanizing it can be to work in the public eye. Have we really sunk to this?
Young actresses in the 21st century forced to defend their love lives because their marital choices are politically incorrect? We’re leaning backward in the regressive Age of Hope and Change.
Let’s face it: Mowry’s sin, in the view of her feckless detractors, is not merely that she married outside her race. It’s also that she is so open about her love for a white man who – gasp! – works for reviled Fox News. Neither of them is political, but the mere association with Bad Things (Fox, conservatives, capitalism, the Tea Party, Christian activism, traditional values) is an invitation for unabashed hate.
The dirty open secret is that a certain category of public figures have been routinely mocked, savaged, and reviled for being partners in interracial marriages or part of loving interracial families (for a refresher, see the video clip of MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry and friends cackling at the holiday photo of Mitt Romney holding his black adopted grandson in his lap).
And the dirty double standard is that selectively compassionate journalists and pundits have routinely looked the other way – or participated directly in heaping on the hate.
Have you forgotten? Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was excoriated by black liberals for being married to Virginia, who happens to be white. The critics weren’t anonymous trolls on the Internet; they worked for major media outlets and institutions of higher learning. USA Today columnist Barbara Reynolds slammed Thomas and his wife for their color-blind union: “It may sound bigoted; well, this is a bigoted world and why can’t black people be allowed a little Archie Bunker mentality? . . . Here’s a man who’s going to decide crucial issues for the country and he has already said no to blacks; he has already said if he can’t paint himself white he’ll think white and marry a white woman.”
Howard University’s Afro-American Studies chair, Russell Adams, accused Thomas of racism against all blacks for falling in love with someone outside his race. “His marrying a white woman is a sign of his rejection of the black community,” Adams told the Washington Post. “Great justices have had community roots that served as a basis for understanding the Constitution. Clarence’s lack of a sense of community makes his nomination troubling.”
California state-senate Democrat Diane Watson taunted former University of California regent Ward Connerly after a public hearing, spitting: “He’s married a white woman. He wants to be white. He wants a colorless society. He has no ethnic pride. He doesn’t want to be black.”
Mowry is not alone. The Thomases and the Connerlys are not alone. Poisonous attempts to shame are an old, endless schoolyard game played by bullies who never grow up and can’t stand other people’s happiness or success.
Time doesn’t lessen the vitriol or hostility. Take it from someone who knows. “Oriental Auntie-Tom,” “yellow woman doing the white man’s job,” “white man’s puppet,” “Manila whore,” and “Subic Bay bar girl” are just a few of the printable slurs I’ve amassed over the past quarter-century. You wouldn’t believe how many Neanderthals still think they can break me by sneering “me love you long time” or “holla for a dolla.” My IQ, free will, skin color, eye shape, productivity, sincerity, maiden name, and integrity have all been ridiculed or questioned because I happen to be a minority conservative woman happily married to a white man and the mother of two interracial children who see Mom and Dad – not Brown Mom and White Dad.
Mowry’s got the right attitude. She wiped away her tears and told Oprah that haters wouldn’t drag her down. Brava. Live, laugh, think, and love without regrets. It’s the best revenge and the most effective antidote to crab-in-the-bucket syndrome.