Through the years, countless media stories have focused on the perils of black love, from articles pointing to the supposed undesirability of black women to the numbers behind failing black marriages.
Princeton professor Imani Perry joined HuffPost Live on Tuesday and discussed this troubling narrative surrounding black relationships. According to Perry, their mere existence has historically been steeped in controversy and heavily policed.
"Something particular that we focus on is whether black people are able to build loving relationships given the history...of coming into the United States being slaves, ... of having our gender relationships from the outset depicted as disordered, [of] confronting the reality of not being able to control intimate association, whether that be with partners or children," she told host Nancy Redd.
Duke University professor Marc Anthony Neal agreed, calling black love a "revolutionary act" because it represents an opposition to black stereotypes and an ability to "publicly acknowledge" love for another black person through marriage, an act that itself was illegal in antebellum America.
Neal decried statistics about out-of-wedlock births among black families and single-parent households, suggesting that the numbers paint a deceiving picture. He explained:
Those numbers don't capture the ways that black folks have historically tried to maintain connections, even when those relationships were not loving, around the idea of parenting. So even if you might not have been in love with the person you had children with, there was still a love and a bond to the children that allowed you to parent past your relationship in very loving ways and those are the things that are not captured in the numbers that talk about the destruction, if you will, on the black community or on the black family.
Despite the "impediments" that black relationships have faced, ranging from Jim Crow to mass incarceration today, Perry had a positive outlook to the grim history of black love.
"Nevertheless [African Americans have built] loving relationships and [have] deep ties to community. There is something incredibly resilient and beautiful about the capacity to be living under difficult decisions and I guess black love falls under that rubric," Perry said.