Communication is necessary for any healthy relationship, and in an interracial relationship it’s paramount.Every white man I’ve dated has, sometimes consciously and sometimes not, asked me to explain to them some aspect of blackness.They’re in the streets, calling senators and congressmen, attending community board meetings, and holding sign-making parties. But while the political universes of my white friends are cracking open, I’m feeling more inclined than ever to cloister myself.
No matter how close I held the mirror up to their faces, sometimes their good and liberal wells of understanding and compassion were simply inaccessible.On election night, I thought about all those moments, and I felt overwhelmed at the possibility of taking that on over the next four years.In those moments, I’ve wished to be sitting in front of someone who could relate.Despite knowing I can feel intimacy with white guys, right now what divides us feels like a chasm.And too many times, those same white boyfriends decided to sit out being my partner.
I lost count of the times my boyfriend in my late 20s would tell me to “just leave” parties or social events when I complained of being the only person of color in his all-white friend group. It’s a pretty good way to pass the time from Brooklyn to midtown. I spent my childhood surrounded by black and brown kids, but when I got to high school, suddenly everyone around me was white.And on those rare occasions a white boy kissed me in the copy-machine room at our high school, or when a white boy told me over the phone he had a crush on me, the acknowledgement made me feel chosen. The white boys I grew up with were cool: They rode their skateboards on private property. White men have preoccupied me my whole life, from the schoolyard to the subway, but these days I’m seeing them differently.The store had some, but none that matched my skin tone. Once, in my late 20s, my boyfriend and I were stopped by police, and I quickly became frantic about the weed in the car.He put his hand on my knee and reminded me that I was safe with him. Racism isn’t something white people to face every day.In every relationship I have with a white man, there comes a moment when they come to understand a simple fact of my life: that racism is an intimate part of my daily existence.