I Promised My White Husband The Space To Fuck Up On Racism — And It Hurts Like Hell
Back in December, there were some interesting developments as people sought to ease the pain of America’s latest and most heinous gaffe — the election of the tangerine nightmare that is days away from representing our country. The development I heard and saw most often was the desire for “both sides” to meet and discuss our differences, to reconcile. These entreaties sparked a discussion between me and my significant other (S.O.) that caused a discernible rift in our relationship.
It’s something that we are still working to heal.
I’m not going to lie; the discussion sucked. Needing to have the discussion sucked. It sucked because I promised him the space to be wrong as he learns more about racism and oppression. I promised him the space to fuck up and grow from his mistakes. I promised him that I would continue to help him address and dissect his cultivated white supremacist education… and it sucked.
It sucked because there is a huge space between making that promise and delivering that promise, and it is filled with pain, self-doubt, and heartache.
It sucked because he didn’t see how he was wrong. It sucked because I thought we were past this bullshit where we gave any legitimacy to the “other side”—the side that doesn’t respect my humanity. The side that thinks I am subhuman. The side that is actively fighting to keep me in a space where white people can use, abuse, and discard me at their discretion. The side that is fighting to ensure their perceived superiority. A side that he was raised to think is the way things are supposed to be.
But he’s white and white people have controlled the narrative of who deserves equality and who doesn’t for hundreds of years. And apparently, it takes more than seven years with me for him to understand that it’s a lie. And immoral. And dehumanizing. And a violation of my personhood; my humanity; my life.
He doesn’t understand how dangerous everything is right now.
I’d been irritated at Trevor for his New York Times op-ed, which had been published earlier in the week, and decided he wasn’t about shit. In fact, I’d written an essay a couple of weeks earlier that went live the same day as his op-ed about exactly what Trevor was doing — legitimizing and doing the work for white supremacy.
He’d done this work by inviting right-wing media figure Tomi Lahren — a documented racist — on his platform, and then going out of his way to be nice and accepting of her. By having her on his show, that nasty little hatemonger gained access to an entirely new audience. His op-ed explains why he thought that bullshit was the right thing to do. But for him to willingly share his following with an active and vocal, intentionally ill-informed white supremacist is baffling to me, and I’ve been openly and actively vocal about what bullshit this was.
Then Charlamagne, a personality I’ve never paid any attention to, started being a Tomy-ite, all while conveniently claiming on Twitter that Black women don’t do exponentially better shit than that vapid, racist shit storm Lahren.
It made for a week where Black women found themselves being attacked and delegitimized by Black men who claimed their attacks were fair. Isn’t it interesting how “fair” is about letting someone who shouts ignorant, informed, racist shit access to your audience while elevating their media profile? Bene Viera said it best in her essay for The Frisky:
“Thanks to black men, Tomi Lahren has been all the buzz in media for over a week. She didn’t have to do anything but cozy up with black men and let her mediocrity and proximity to them do the work. The way she hustled these fools reminds me that 13% of black men voted for Trump. As much as things change they remain the same.”
As much as things change, they remain the same.
My relationship with my significant other has changed a lot over the past seven years—from his complete avoidance of talking about racism to him becoming active and vocal in speaking against it.
But then he posted that interview between Noah and Charlamagne—two agents of whiteness—as though it’s totally fine to have two black men advocate for racists. My S.O.’s reason: “Nothing will get better if the two sides don’t talk to each other and that’s what they were talking about.”
Two sides, he said. What two sides? The side that says “Hey, we’re all human and deserve equal rights and protections under the law” vs. the side that says “White people have run this shit and if you don’t like what we’ve allowed you to have you can leave…or we can kill you, and understand that we’ll do both.”
I’d told my S.O. that Noah and Charlamagne’s whole “nothing’s going to change if both sides aren’t talking” stance ignores the hundreds of years that Black people have fought to get this far. It ignores that many, many white people don’t want to have these conversations at all. It ignores thepropaganda machine that operates expressly to devalue the needs of Black people; the systems that exist to actively destroy any cohesion and make every day a fight for survival.
It ignores the escapes, the hiding, the building, the destruction, the casual, unjustified murders of Black people. It ignores the violent and homicidal rampages enacted by white people on Black people who were doing nothing more than living their lives. It ignores how every fucking way we push back against this is somehow a problem.
It ignores the fact that many white people participate in the destruction of Black people, both explicitly and implicitly, including him. And yes, he needs to continue working on himself and the white people in his life to destroy this shit. And it’s not going to happen in his lifetime, but he still fucking needs to work on it. Always. Just like I do. Like many Black people do. Like we must do because this is about the right to our humanity and our survival.
I shared my personal experiences of racial discrimination with him and he said that there are white people who experience the same discrimination, bias, and threats of violence. Really? REALLY? Who? His response was that he could find someone online. Somebody online.
So, nobody he knows? Nobody he can call on the phone? Because I caninvite 30 people over today who can tell him about the racist shit they’ve had to deal with. The threats. The discrimination. The inequities in the law and social imbalance.
And this is always my question for white people: Who the fuck can you call who’s experienced racism from Black people? Who do you know? Who was assumed to be a bad influence and removed from classes as punishment?Who had their privileges revoked because they were NEAR an altercation? Who had their teachers, professors, counselors assume they didn’t understand the lesson, accuse them of plagiarism, tell them not to aim high because that success wasn’t meant for someone “like them”? Who do you personally know who lived on toxic land surrounded by white adults who would threaten to kill them for entering their neighborhood?
I don’t need to read a fucking essay to understand what racism is and how it works. I live it. And I know I’m a goddamn privileged exception with my Ivy League education and high-paying job. I KNOW this. And despite all this fucking white approval, I still deal with racist co-workers and racist systems that explicitly deny me entry to certain circles. I still work for unqualified white men who somehow “earned” their place despite having zero experience. I still know that an interaction with police or some angry white person with a gun can result in my death, and that my corpse will be blamed for my murder.
But you got a fucking YouTube video. Get the fuck outta here.
This is the shit people in interracial relationships skate past. These discussions where you have to look at the white person in your life and realize this motherfucker is a white supremacist in denial. My S.O. has on more than one occasion admitted that he thinks this way and he’s trying not to. He’s trying. But all the information he’s getting from white sources are feeding that belief system and he’s fucking up.
He’s hit his white supremacy reset button and that is a motherfucking problem.
While he no longer says that racism isn’t real and no longer claims that he doesn’t benefit from racism, he still seems to think that racism isn’t as dangerous as it is. He seems to think the people on the “other side” have the right to fight to oppress Black people and other people of color without repercussions. He seems to think that their fight for dominance is not problematic. That it’s okay for them to fight to keep Black people beneath them and under their control.
He doesn’t accept that the white people fighting to maintain this oppression don’t think I’m equal. He doesn’t grasp that there is a large part of the country that thinks he married a beast and is dirtying himself by being with me.
He doesn’t accept that these people do not want to be at a table talking to me. They don’t think I have anything worthwhile to say.
And he believes that I’m being mean when I acknowledge this. He’s trying to protect them and their hate that he doesn’t quite interpret as hate. To him, it’s just a difference of opinion.
How did we get back here? How does the man who is astounded at the recent mistrial in South Carolina despite video evidence, who donated and supported Standing Rock and was outraged by the media’s silence about it, say these things to me? Believe these things?
Did he lie to me about knowing these things aren’t real? Did he lie to me about understanding that “reverse racism” isn’t real? And why is he making my conversations about racism about his feelings? Why is he trying to tell me to soften my stance about the shitty things white people do?
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Right now, in this moment, I feel like I’ve wasted years of my life. Do I hate myself? I must hate myself to put myself through this.
Can I trust him? I’m starting to wonder…again.
Is this worth it? I honestly do not know, and whether I love him is irrelevant. I’m aware enough to know that loving a person doesn’t mean they are healthy for you.
White people, if you are truly in this shit, in this fight for supporting and enforcing equal rights, you got a lot of fucking work to do. You got a lot of self-reflection, analysis, and introspection ahead. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to reveal some very hurtful things about yourself, and you’re going to backslide because it sucks feeling like a shitty human. But this is your chance to work on changing that about yourself.
If something I’m saying hurts you, fucking examine that shit. Ask yourself why. If something I say makes you feel defensive, stop and ask why that is.Take the time. Do the work. Understand your reactions to people of color when they talk about racism, white supremacy, and white privilege. Learn why you fight so hard to deny it.
If you are about anti-racism work, this is a huge part of it. Embrace the pain that is fighting for the rights of everyone. Do the self-care so that you can stay in the fight. This is your time to fight for the rights of everyone.
People of color, this is the shitty ass work of being with a white partner. This is the knife’s edge you will find yourself perched upon as we establish our equality.
They will try to make us doubt ourselves. Don’t let them.
They will try to undermine us. Fight them.
They will try to dismiss us. Understand and believe that you are right and deserve to be here, fighting for your rights, and that if they can’t see that, they are the problem.
We will hold our ground and make them bend. Our humanity is not in question. Our self-worth is not conditional. Our rights are not up for fucking debate.
There are not two sides to establishing my goddamn humanity and I will under no circumstances pretend that there is. I will not have a conversation to debate my rights. I will not remotely entertain the idea that you are worth listening to. I am human. White people, you either work the rest out or go join your brethren who are working so diligently to deny my humanity.
Either way, get the fuck away from me.