Commentary: How Olivia and Fitz are The New Normal

What, if anything, does it mean that more Americans are in interracial relationships?

Posted: 04/17/2014 12:00 PM EDT
Scandal

On Thursday April 17, life as we know it will pause for the 60 minutes between 10 and 11pm. That is when millions of Americans will stop what they are doing and shush everyone in their home to watch the season finale of Scandal. Who gets shot, who gets blown up and, most upsetting of all, who has a stomach strong enough to handle more Huck and Quinn S&M, assassin-style B613 sex?

It's too soon to know what will happen, but we are clear that it will be explained in lightning fast speeches. The only definite is that at least one scene will explore the love, lust and yearnings of Olivia and Fitz. Aside from being one of television’s most powerful and most powerfully whiny couples, they are also credited with breaking down a lot of TV taboos around interracial romance. When a kiss or Oval Office romp might have been shocking the first season, by now no one even blinks an eye when Olivia rolls around with the President—or with Jake—that she is the only Black one in the bed/on the desk/in the cabin in Vermont. For a show based on shock value, their race is presented as no big deal.

Apparently Shonda Rhimes is right for taking that approach. According to The Pew Center of Research, more Americans than ever before are in interracial relationships and 8.4 percent of marriages are couples of different races. Those unions are poised to change the very way that this country looks.  Nearly 10 percent of all children born in the US are two or more races. National Geographic dedicated it’s 125th anniversary issue last October to examining what the “average American” will look like in 2050. It included an extended photo essay of multi-racial people, daring readers who still believe that Black is Black and White is White to recognize that many of their fellow citizens don’t fall into what will be outdated categories. And now that the Census has expanded its categories, nearly 10 million people identified as more than one race in the 2010 national survey. 

Yet for all this change, does different mean better? Some could see the National Geographic story as an indication of documenting a societal shift. Others could argue that it is a visual oohing and aahing over the perceived “otherness” of people who are not Other, but in fact they are just not what we have grown used to calling Black, White, Mexican, Korean or however they identify. Will more racial mixing in America actually lead to an increased exoticization of Biracial Beauty, the kind that sparks people (in print, in conversations, on TV, everywhere) to say “biracial kids are the prettiest” or “you’re so pretty because you don’t really look Black” or “he’s got such good hair” or “I like the girl with the ‘Chinese eyes’.”  Or, on the flip side, maybe it will spark insightful commentary, like the stories shared in the 2013 book (1)ne Drop, which explores how bi-racial people form their racial identity.

Right now, it’s too soon to answer any of those questions, it’s going to take this next generation of Americans to react—ones who grew up in a world where interracial couples and biracial people are not an anomaly. How they come to define race, identity and even beauty will influence how the rest of us see and experience things. It could mean a peaceful transitioning out of the conversations we've been having for generations—or the change could be as explosive as the final episode of Scandal.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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