by Ajah Hales
If you decide to date a white boy,
You are no longer pro black.
It does not matter that you were on the ground in East St. Louis,
That you stood vigil for Troy and Trayvon long before
Black Lives Matter?
was even a question
It does not matter
Black Lives Matter! was always your answer
It doesn’t matter what Angela taught you
(and why do you think she looks that way?)
Or that you would rather spend two hours Friday night detangling
Than smear creamy poison on your scalp.
It does not matter if your boyfriend is a civil rights lawyer,
A first generation Latvian immigrant, or,
It is still so obvious
(to some) You are compensating
You are compromising,
You Are Compromised.
If you decide to date a white guy
Your friends will become
Your black friends
Your white friends.
Your white friends will be ecstatic for you,
They will introduce you to other white people as “Rick’s girlfriend, Ajah” or
“John’s partner who-I-told-you-about?”
They will introduce themselves as one of your oldest and/or very best friends
(It will not matter if you met them yesterday, they will still claim a
Deep and immediate bond with you
Based solely on the fact that you had the good sense to date a white man).
They will use this bond
To try and touch your hair.
You will become far more conscious
Of the fact that you are black
When you are with your white friends.
Your shoulders will be tight,
The backs of your eyes will burn,
You will be uncomfortable without knowing why.
My married friends tell me
This goes away, eventually.
In the meantime, you still have
Your black friends.
Your black friends, who, although you won’t admit it
You will start to think of as your real friends
Because they are the only friends you can discuss
All of your life with.
They are the friends you can discuss your relationship with,
The Race Stuff
And The Sex Stuff
And the Oddly Distant yet Uncomfortably Prying Family Stuff
That you don’t know how to discuss with your partner, because you’re
“Not even really sure if we’re ‘there’ yet. You know?”
You’ll think of your black friends as part sounding board, part savior.
You’ll pretend not to notice when they treat your relationship like a phase
You’ll pretend not to hear when they make excuses for you crossing the color line
“Well, she went to Hawkins” or “You know her brother even married one”
As if jungle fever
Were an actual fever,
As if it were a disease for one to have a genetic predisposition to.
You will pretend not to hurt when you realize that
Tolerance is not the same as Support.
If you start to fall in love with a white person,
You will find yourself having ridiculous conversations inside your head.
You will ask yourself thousands of unanswerable questions, like:
“Am I attracted to his blond hair and blue eyes because he is handsome, or am I attracted to him because the dominant cultural narrative of anti-blackness has convinced me that those features are attractive?”
“If I yell at him about this, am I living into the angry black woman stereotype? Would I tolerate this behavior from a black partner?”
“If we had kids, would he be able to affirm for them all the amazing things about being black?”
The first time he doesn’t text you back you will feel like his chocolate freak.
The first time you apologize you will feel like you have disappointed the Ancestors
(even if you were wrong
sometimes especially then),
If not yours, then someone’s.
The first time you cry in front of him
You will feel like a Sphinx cat
A natural form rendered grotesque
In seeing what is best kept covered.
Flesh peach fuzz soft
Skin thin and membranous,
He will do one of two things:
He will cradle you gently, or
He will Bruise you.
If you decide to get serious with a white man
You will start to notice interracial couples everywhere.
Television commercials, grocery store parking lots and doctor’s offices
Will all seem to be subtle celestial signs
Encouraging your union.
The internet will bombard you with up-to-the-minute information
On celebrity interracial couples.
Loving will magically appear in your Netflix queue.
You will sit down on the couch with the full intention of watching it
And you will wake up one-and-a-half hours later with a puddle of drool on your upper arm and no real idea of what happened
But you will be happy
Because the movie exists.
If you decide to marry your white man,
Your family will be disappointed.
They might not say it
In mixed company
But they will find ways to let you know.
Your grandmother will call everyone east of the Mississippi
In one afternoon to tell them
You are ‘calling yourself’ “engaged to that white boy”.
You will tell her repeatedly
His name is David
She will give you the most dismissive glare you have ever received and go back to her conversation.
At family gatherings your male cousins will make jokes about master/slave roleplay.
They will speak in their white guy voice when they imitate him
They will call him Biff, Chad, or Steve-O
They will goad him into participating in infantile testosterone driven challenges that end up with you in the emergency room at three in the morning on a Sunday biting your nails past the quick as you wait to find out whether or not your fiancé needs his stomach pumped—
You will be making dinner the following evening when
A Great Aunt who you haven’t spoken to in years will call you on the phone to ask you what you were thinking and to tell you that you are not thinking of the future. You are not thinking of your children, your black girls
Whose father will know nothing about what they are going through
Your black boys
Whose father cannot raise them to be strong black men.
And in that moment of weakness
You will feel that maybe she is right
That maybe this is a sign
And you will not fight her.
You will say what you need to to get her off the phone
And go lay down.
If you decide to marry your white man,
You will be Tired sometimes.
If you decide to build a life with a white partner
Your children will be beautiful
And they will learn to be careful, so careful
In the world.
You will still have black friends
And white friends,
With a few crossovers along the way.
Random strangers will come up to you and tell you you are an inspiration.
They will place you on a pedestal,
They will thank you for having the courage to love
In a world full of divisiveness and hate.
Others will place you on a pillar
Of righteous indignation
They will hold you up as an example
Of all that is wrong
With the country,
Or ‘the man.’
They will hold you as a placeholder
For all their discontent
If you decide to build a life with your white partner,
You won’t fit in anywhere
But you will get used to nowhere.
You will be a bird and a fish,
But you will make your home in sea and sky
From Salt and Earth and fiery conversation
He will grow wings and
Will learn to dive.
And at sunset, you will rock on the porch with him
And push that lock of snowy hair
Thick, yet soft as spider’s silk
Away from his rheumy blue eyes
And talk of how the world has changed
And be happy
Because you exist.
Ajah Hales is a writer, small business owner and social thinker from Cleveland, Ohio. When her mother asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, Ajah replied: “A dictator.” You can find Ajah on Twitter @AjahsWrite