Interracial celebrity couples show cheating is colorblind

OPINION - Infidelity and violence, are unfortunately, far too common in American marriages and the races of the partners - as in love itself - has nothing to do with it...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon claims her white husband cheated on her. Stacey Dash alleges her white husband beat her. What does that say about interracial relationships between white men and black women? Aren’t things supposed to be “better” once you “cross over” the color line? Or do these celebrity women’s relationship troubles tell us that interracial marriages are what many African American people fear them to be: returns to the victimization of black women at the hands of white men?

Of course people have been asking me these questions. I’m the woman who wrote the book encouraging black women to expand their mating options to men of other races—white men in particular. Don’t these celebrity stories poke holes in my arguments?

Not at all.

At the same time Garcelle and Stacy were making their experiences public, ex-Giants football superstar Tiki Barber’s interracial marriage was also unraveling as a result of infidelity, according to rumors. And Cablinasian Tiger Woods’ return to the Masters Golf Tournament revived the stories of his serial cheating on his non-Cablinasian wife. Even same-race celebrity couples had their infidelity and domestic abuse issues in recent headlines. Everyone’s talking about Sandra Bullock and Jesse James. Shaquille O’Neal and wife Shaunie are splitting and Shaunie told Essence magazine last month that Shaq’s multiple infidelities played a part in the end of the marriage. Charlie Sheen is still dealing with the public fallout of an allegation of domestic violence against his wife.

Being famous certainly brings unique stressors to couples, but these couples’ experiences mirror what is happening in relationships throughout America. According recent statistics, over 50 percent of married men cheat on their wives – whether that man is black, white, Asian or Latino. In other words, one out of every two married men will cheat, no matter what color he is. Personally, I think comedian Chris Rock was onto something when he quipped, “A man will be as faithful as his options.”

Often, the perception is that black people seek out interracial relationships to “escape” from their bad experiences in black relationships. Sometimes you’ll even hear those men and women say that their interracial relationship is so much “easier” or “better” than their same-race ones. But even though the perception might be that it’s race that’s made the difference that’s probably not the case. If anything, it’s the difference between individuals and the differences in expectations that make some relationships work and others fail. In my book Don’t Bring Home A White Boy: And Other Notions That Keep Black Women from Dating Out, I spent a whole chapter on one critical point: there are good men and bad men of every racial and ethnic group. There are black cheaters and white cheaters, Asian cheaters and Latino ones. Similarly, there are abusers (predators, pedophiles and rapists) of every ethnicity.

There are also good, honest, loyal, faithful and hardworking men of every race. White men as a group aren’t necessarily any “better” than other men. But taken as a group, they aren’t any “worse” either. Rather, it comes down the individual man. Sometimes a woman can tell what kind of man she’s got before they commit. Sometimes, she can’t. Sometimes, he changes. Sometimes, she does. Sometimes it works. Sometimes, it goes horribly, painfully wrong.

If anything, what Garcelle’s and Stacey’s (and Sandra’s and Elin’s and Halle’s, and Mrs. John Edwards’s and Mrs. Eliot Spitzer’s and Mrs. Mark Sanford’s and …) experiences tell us is that beauty, wealth and the glitz and glamour of fame isn’t any protection from the trials and fears and hurts that plague many average women in their marriages. Infidelity and violence, are unfortunately, far too common in American marriages and the races of the partners—as in love itself—has nothing to do with it.

Karyn Langhorne Folan is the author of Don’t Bring Home A White Boy: And Other Notions That Keep Black Women from Dating Out>