White Mayor, Black Wife: NYC Shatters an Image

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In this Sept. 10, 2013 file photo, mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, right, kisses his wife Chirlane McCray after casting his primary vote at the Park Slope Public Library in Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

She sees this trend in real life and fiction, from McCray to first lady Michelle Obama to the Olivia Pope character in “Scandal,” the hit TV show about a powerful Black political operative in a relationship with a White president.

Monet has Black, Cuban, Jamaican and Puerto Rican heritage. Her boyfriend is Korean-American. She noted that McCray and her brown children not only helped de Blasio connect with Black voters — “their love functioned like a political technology” — but McCray also was a key player in de Blasio’s campaign and will be an important part of his Democratic administration.

“It’s fair to say the most important voice in my life is Chirlane McCray,” de Blasio said after his victory.

As de Blasio and McCray celebrated on election night with their two children, Tiya Miles saw them on television and stopped in her tracks. “I was very moved,” she said.

Miles, a Black University of Michigan professor, recently wrote a column about being stung by the sight of so many successful Black men choosing White wives. It feels like “a personal rejection of the group in which I am a part, of African American women as a whole, who have always been devalued in this society,” Miles wrote.

“I think Black women sit there with these feelings and they fester, and they take little bits of us over time,” Miles said in an interview. “We can deal, we can manage, we keep on moving because that’s our job in life, but it still affects us.”

So for her, de Blasio and McCray’s victory feels like confirmation — especially since McCray does not resemble the type of Black woman that mainstream America usually deems beautiful, like Halle Berry or Beyonce.

“A woman who has darker skin and natural hair, and a White man,” Miles said. “To see a Black woman who is in a long-term relationship with children and her partner, who does not fit that stiff, narrow, idealized image of what a Black woman should look like, I think is powerful.”

It’s more a simple sign of progress for Love, the mayor from Utah and a rising Republican star.

“I tend not to look at race in any issue,” she said. However, “the fact that people are able to marry someone outside of their race without feeling as if they are going to have any issues or repercussions is a great thing.”

Interracial marriage is not entirely accepted. A recent Cheerios ad featuring an interracial family inspired so many racist remarks that YouTube stopped allowing comments on it. And there remains some Black resistance to marrying White people — it’s widely accepted that if President Barack Obama had married a White woman, or even a light-skinned Black woman, Black voters would have caused him problems.

De Blasio was elected in New York, perhaps the most diverse city in America. But he is connecting with people across the country, especially the children of interracial marriages.

“Thank you, New York City, for this gift,” wrote Liz Dwyer, whose father is White and mother is Black, on her losangelista.com blog.

“It’s just the resonance of it. How much it means for families to see a family like them in a visible place,” said Ken Tanabe, a New Yorker with a Japanese father and Belgian mother. He is the founder of the Loving Day organization — http://www.lovingday.org — which organizes annual events celebrating the 1967 Supreme Court decision that struck down laws against interracial marriage.

“Within our community, when someone does well, it feels like an affirmation,” he said. “Not on the scale of a Barack Obama, but sort of a local version of that.”

Said Cohen, the former defense secretary: “It says a lot about this country. Where we’ve come from, how far.”

“The mayor,” he said, “has shattered an image.”

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Jesse Washington covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press. He is reachable at http://www.twitter.com/jessewashington or jwashington@ap.org.

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AP Researcher Judith Ausuebel contributed to this report.

 

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