Relationships are so difficult few of us can figure it out.
Add race to the equation and you’ve just turned the math into a calculus problem.
Add to that celebrity status and fame and you have a physics conundrum.
Add to that sex symbol status and you get someone like Tupac sending Madonna a letter to break off their relationship.
And we didn’t even touch on age difference.
The letter obtained by TMZ and going on auction later this month is a testimony to the unique challenges (to put it mildly) of their relationship.
Writing from prison in 1994, his words lay bare the complications of interracial and intercultural relationships. He wrote:
“For you to be seen with a black man wouldn’t in any way jeopardize your career – if anything it would make you seem that much more open and exciting. But for me, at least in my previous perception, I felt due to my ‘image,’ I would be letting down half of the people who made me what I thought I was. I never meant to hurt you.”
Essentially he broke up with her because she was white and he feared that their relationship would damage his reputation in the Black community. His mother, Afeni Shakur, was a member of the Black Panther movement. She became an activist after his death in 1996 at age 25 when he was the victim of a drive-by shooting. The murder remains unsolved.
Tupac was expressing a common feature of minority group attitudes towards interracial relationships. Minority groups tend to label those who date outside of their race as “sellouts”, adding an extra burden on the relationship. This feeling of betrayal that your own group expresses can eat away at a person’s sense of self, complicate personal identity and undermine an intimate relationship.
The rap icon also refers in the letter to a comment Madonna allegedly made during an interview, saying that she dates rappers and basketball players to “rehabilitate” them. This interview has not been verified, but his response in the letter nonetheless reveals the feelings those words would have elicited.
He wrote and apologized to her for his behavior following the incident:
“Those words cut me deep seeing as how I had never known you to be with any rappers besides myself. It was at this moment out of hurt and natural instinct to strike back and defend my hurt and ego that I said a lot of things.”
In the letter he alludes to Madonna’s status as a sex symbol as a problem for him in their relationship.
Please understand my precious position as that of a young man with limited experience with a[n] extremely famous sex symbol, he wrote.
Tupac’s letter exposes the unique challenges of interracial relationships. More than 20 years on, interracial relationships are no easier. Society may be more accepting of them, but that doesn’t make them any easier.