We met on a January night, when I was out with 3 girlfriends visiting from other cities. The night called for hard dancing, and laughing. All of the twirling, twerking and drinking took its toll and led to empty stomachs, so we called ourselves an Über. The driver was kind despite the hour, and offered to drop us at a restaurant allegedly better than where we were originally headed. The ride over was so pleasant that he even asked to dine with us. Tipsy and happy, my friends and I were excited because we’d picked up a new friend. Epic nights always begin like this.
His name was Drew. He sat next to me at the restaurant, and eventually my three friends huddled into their own conversation, leaving he and I to fend for ourselves. Stories of passport stamps, music, and philosophies became our buoys; we didn’t have to fight for our lives out there alone – good and easy conversation kept us afloat, freely. He dropped us off at our hotel, and smoothly asked for my number. The girls giggled, and I blushed…and obliged.
The texting began. The calls began. The crush began. And then, our first date. What started off as brunch (where we both confessed our intentional avoidance of commitment) turned into 10 hours of non-stop fun, intriguing conversation, outstanding food, sightseeing new parts of Atlanta, the occasional 3rd chakra palpitating gaze, and some him-initiated hand holding. He even brought his dog along. The date ended with an impressive kiss [read: we made out], and I was titilated by his tenacity.
“Him ain’t scared?? Nawl, him ain’t scared at all….” and hell, neither was I.
Because after leaving a “good” job, moving to a new state and leaving behind people who love me, living in my aunt’s back bedroom/office and getting a part-time holiday job at Nordstrom just to keep gas in my Honda, i’d bout maximized my fears and delighted in an opportunity for some revelry.
February came, as did the yearning. I moved into a beautiful and spacious loft with a couple I’d met some weeks before. Drew was there on moving day (and even brought a friend), lugging the heaviest furniture as my male friends and family looked on. He stayed over a few nights later, and at a point late in the evening he confessed that he loved me. It sounded like a record screeched and stopped in my head.
Me: What in the hell?! You don’t know me! You can’t love me, bruh…
Him: I don’t have to know you, to feel you.
….see, this is the kinda smooth shit that gets you everytime…
The morning after, I had an early AM meeting at work and left him to sleep until I got back. He looked so good, asleep in my bed. The morning was cold and bright, and the sun was on his sleeping cheek. And I watched him lie there, breathing. I smiled to myself, thinking to myself that life was finally turning around…my own place again, a new handsome gentleman, and headed off to what could be a new career. I rode the wave of inspiration, and wrote him a poem to read when he woke up before walking out of the door. But by my return two hours later, all hell had broken loose.
My roommates, who knew I’d had company that night, were shocked in the morning to learn that my company was White. But not just shocked….livid even, and disgusted.
We don’t want to share a bathroom with White people! We don’t want to be under the same roof with White people! And, we’re shocked that you would be with someone who’s White, because…you’re Conscious.
That bastardized word, which often represents spiritual awareness, somehow has become synonymous in some communities with natural hair and extended conversations about the pineal gland. And exclusion. It was my fault, I suppose…I DID wear a shaved head, and DO use an Akan name. And the beads…the beads throw everybody off, right?
I’d been blindly subjected to a social paper bag test, which concluded that while I was really Black, I still wasn’t quite Black enough.
I moved out at month’s end.
It’s true that I grew up as a black girl child in the American South, and thus had defining experiences with both racism and racial discrimination. I’ve been called nigger, been a petting zoo, been harassed by the police, and been socially ostracized plenty. In part, I went to an HBCU because many of my early experiences with White peoples wasn’t so good.
And it’s true that, as a dark-skinned girl in the American South, I was a victim of colorism in my own community because my dark was too dark. I was called many names, including Crunchy Black, snake, & Miss Black-Ass America (after I started winning pageants). I was subjected to skin shade comparisons. People often volunteered their confusion at the juxtaposition of my attractiveness paired with my skin tone…because they somehow didn’t belong together. In part, I left The South because I felt very ostracized from my community.
When I moved to Mozambique for eight weeks in 2008 (Obatala, I see you), my life was flipped upside down. Seriously. I returned from Africa as a new person, and in an effort to extend the life I’d fallen in love with, I sampled Black Nationalism and Afrocentricity in grad school. But the ostrization of God’s other children to account for centuries of racial injustice STILL didn’t work for me.
Thus, my experiences w/ racism, colorism, and so many sorts of isms have made me a champion of diversity, and my circles have come to liken an ad for the United Colors of Bennetton, by design.
The slow-trickling rumor stream began that I was dating a gasp! White man. And then the questions came –
Does he try to act Black? Does he wear gold chains? …really??
Oooo! He took you to dinner? I need to get me a White man! Or perhaps just a GOOD man will do. Because good men also like dinner…
So, why ARE you with a White man? Are you upset with Black men? Umm, because he’s good to me?? And he has swag for days. Goodness is not binary, and Black men are beautiful.
Black men ain’t shit…i’m done. You’s a damn, bitter fool…
Who is this n****, I mean, cracka on FB?! I see you in a picture with The Oppressor, so i’m curious… [vocalized expletives]
You that type of black that White men like! They don’t want the yellow…they want’em DAAAARRRRKKKK? Oh really now? Thanks for the expertise.
You see, when White men date a Black woman, it’s because it attracts an animalistic nature inside of them. It’s carnal! Pull up, bruh. Pull up. Just…come back.
If you ‘gon date a white man, make sure he has a trust fund! Wait what? You date men in their 40s without checking accounts…
My husband doesn’t like White men with Black women…although he dated an Asian woman for a few years. You two should come over! Because we want to self-subject for experimentation?
My unborn children have already been called mulatto in jest, because 1827 never ended for some people, thus the potential fruit of my womb is laughable.
When one friend asks of Drew around company, he never fails to share in an aside – He’s White! I have yet to understand why this news matters, or if it’s simply setting the stage to introduce my relationship as entertainment.
Cultural and communal pressures guide standards for dating and mating, especially among American Black women. While American marriage rates are lower among black women compared to white women, black women are also the group who are least likely to “marry out” across race lines. Thus, an American Black woman who balks this trend and mates outside of her race will likely be subject to ridicule.
I was struggling with opinions (and sometimes still do), which I now knew to be cultural ignorance, disguised as truth because of popularity (remember when the Earth was flat?). And, I began to struggle under the pressures of realized judgement, preemptive judgement, and general shock.
The people who righteously volunteer their disappointment…or those who I once laughed with who won’t acknowledge my good love because this time, my Love’s eyes are as blue as peaceful waters… [draws a blank] As I detailed this new struggle with my Love, he offered a peaceful position –
If loving you gives other people the opportunity to grow, then I welcome it. And i’m excited.
My God…I think we have a winner.
He and I talk about everything, and nothing is taboo, including topics of race. My blackness is not used as fetish.
I’ve had to be an ambassador, explaining to him why Rachel Dolezal was out of order. Why playing the “mental health” card after a racial massacre is dangerous. Why I just can’t find race jokes funny. Why many Black people STAY enraged. Why it’s hard sometimes for me to get on Facebook.
Love and love alone makes those conversations worthwhile. All that we are is because of the one who revealed the promise, and brought us together.
Hot & Bloody Summer
It has been a violent year in America. So many Black men and women have been killed because of police violence. There was a riot in Baltimore. A white woman posed as Black, and lead her local NAACP. #BlackLivesMatter became under siege by #AllLivesMatter. A woman climbed a flag pole and cut that shit down. A biased governor turned out to be Indian. Swelling racial tensions on all sides. My Facebook feed was inundated with daily injustice, and I honestly tried to log off.
But then, there was a shooting in a Black church in South Carolina. And my President sang “Amazing Grace”.
In the wake of that massacre, my Facebook feed was in a fury. And one FB friend posted that she would never again sit with her back to a White man.
“This racial separation is what the Enemy wants…”, I thought to myself. Why else would the Media keep it rolling 24/7?
That week, Drew and I went to a Braves game, and had to walk through “the hood” at night to get back to my home. I was frightened, and my senses were heightened by instinct. Because I am a woman who doesn’t look like the locals, walking through the hood near midnight, with my full purse slung across my shoulder. And i’m walking with a White man during one of the most racial tense weeks of the year. I felt like a mark.Drew held my hand as we walked through the neighborhood, and he told stories to try and distract me from my panic. He confessed that he was not afraid, be it his spiritual resolve, or because he never had to learn the same fears as me growing up. I took off my precious gold ring, and put it in my cheek in case we were robbed. Fifty feet from home, we approached a group of locals under a streetlight, and my fears got the best of me.
I let go of his hand.
Because what if the sight of us together incited something that we couldn’t be saved from? I felt like Mildred Loving. He held my hand to secure us, and I let his go to do the same. It broke his heart.
This seems to be a central lesson in our relationship – how to love in hard places, and hold on when it seems most impossible. To not let go when a good Love is threatened by fear and anger (real or imagined) from the outside. To love and be compelled to overcome the threat as one. And how could I not, when he loves me so damn…professionally?
I have been mis-loved and mistreated (by Self and others) in expert quantity. The parting gifts that I earned from mastering “Good-Dick-and-Good-Convo-But-Conditional-Commitment 5201” are torn, outgrown, weathered, broken, and trashed. Out with the old and in with the new.
I have finally fallen in love (or risen) with a good man, because the support I always imagined found me without my asking. My partner…my lover…and my friend. Who just so happens to have the bluest eyes. God be a painter….
Because a love like this is unadulterated, and not subject to the angers and judgements and fears and ignorances of people nor nations. Because, in case you never heard –
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