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<> at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 4, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. Getty

There seems to be a prevailing idea in the Black community that you must not love your people if you choose to date interracially. That idea is flat out wrong.

Last month, Black Panther star Winston Duke thanked Black women for helping him to love the way he looks. He credited much of his ability to overcome his insecurities to all of the unapologetic, unabashed thirst his performance as M’Baku in the Marvel film stirred up.

“At the end of the day, it’s been women from all over the world and all different cultures, but it was really started and driven by Black women and I wanna thank them for that,” he told Newsweek. “I have not always been in a position to think that the things that made me who I am have always been positive. My height and my size have also made me look like an aggressor without trying,” he added. “To now be in a space where they’re saying that’s what makes me beautiful and that’s what makes me disarming, that’s really humbling and it feels really good.”

Although many of us can relate, it’s hard for a lot of Black women to imagine that the Trinidad and Tobago native might not have always been the most comfortable in his skin. We’re certainly glad he is now and if no one has directly responded to Winston yet, I will: You’re welcome, boo!

Amidst all of the love being passed back and forth, though, some people had to f-ck up the vibe by reminding everyone that Winston is dating a non-Black woman as if that fact would negate what he said. His critics used his relationship to suggest that his recent comments were nothing more than pandering. The accusation bothered me more than his choice of companion. It suggested that Winston couldn’t possibly have an appreciation and love for Black women due to the mere fact that he’s not with one of us right now. And it’s a bad take for sure.

Black love is powerful to behold, but it is not the only qualifier of pro-Blackness. It is entirely possible to be pro-Black and date interracially. These two things don’t look like they go together at first, but they are not mutually exclusive. You have to ability to do both.

If all it takes to be pro-Black–or at least to have it “count”– is for someone to only date within their race, that sets the bar woefully low. It’s pretty cheap buy-in. This requirement makes pro-Blackness more superficial because it suggests that your support has to look right to others. Is this really all it takes? It can’t be.

I always thought that if anything is an accurate indicator of someone’s affinity for Black people, it’s their feelings and actions towards the community itself. I was under the impression that how much we actually listen to one another and how we lift each other up is what matters, not just who we go home to. Besides, dating and mating inside your racial group is not any guarantee that you love the Black community. There are plenty of Black people who are in relationships with other Black people who don’t seem to care anything about the Black community. Ben Carson, anyone?

To make it more personal, I’m engaged to a white man and I’m pro-Black. I love being Black. I love my people. I love our community. Being Black is a glorious thing. There’s something comfortable and luxurious about it when you allow yourself to love what you are and who you come from, embracing all of the things that have sustained us throughout the centuries. Despite whatever adversity comes my way, there is nothing else I would rather been than a Black woman.

But, I’m still getting ready to marry a White man later this year. I’m not marrying him because he’s White, I’m marrying him because he’s him. My relationship with my fiancé has nothing to do with how I feel about Blackness. I’m certain that statement will result in some backlash in the comments and I won’t be responding. My feelings for him have no bearing on the way I feel about the Black community. My relationship with him doesn’t mean I am any less supportive of Black people than I would otherwise have been if I were with a Black man instead.

Me being with a white man doesn’t keep me from supporting other Black people in their endeavors. It doesn’t keep me from celebrating every time we do something extraordinary. It doesn’t keep me from being the first in line to grab a ticket to the next movie starring us. It doesn’t keep me from tuning into our shows and reveling in all of the good, diversified representation we’ve been experiencing as of late. It doesn’t keep me from embracing the Black people in my family and in my friend group. It doesn’t keep me from appreciating the sense of familiarity and community among us. It doesn’t keep me from swelling up with joy when I see genuine Black love in a healthy, happy relationship. It doesn’t keep me from enjoying our culture.

Now, if you prefer to be with a Black partner, that’s great. Go for what you want. If you don’t have a racial preference, that’s fine, too. But let’s not pretend that the person who chooses to date within their race automatically loves Black people more than others who are open to dating and marrying out.

Let’s look at Serena Williams: She married a White man last year, but she still strives to be an inspiration to all Black youth. She still bought out a theater so that young Black women interested in STEM education could see Black Panther. She still advocates for better postpartum health for Black women. She dated plenty of Black men before meeting her husband. Does all of the good that she has done for the Black community and all of her love for it get discounted just because of who she married?

What would be better? For Winston (or Serena, or anyone else) to be in a relationship with someone they love regardless of their race, or to be in a performative relationship to make all other Black people feel validated? Would it be better for him to be alone because he wasn’t clicking with any of the Black women in his immediate circumference? Winston is free to date whomever he wants to date because he’s not the exclusive property of the Black community. And we shouldn’t shun the love and appreciation he bestows upon us simply because he is not dating one of us.

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