I’ve been coming to terms with my identity as a Black woman, and especially in understanding myself as a mixed-Black woman. Because while white people may see me as Black, there are differentiations amongst the Black community that I have to understand. Mixed-Blackness is not Black to many non-mixed Black people… as a Ghanaian said to me the other day, “You’re half-caste.” When I tried to challenge that, he said, “To white people, you are Black. But to non-mixed Black people you are not. You are not Black. Because they want you before they want me.” Checkmate.
I often look at the situation from the white-people perspective, without taking enough time to factor in the situation(s) of the non-mixed Black side: Separation exists between us because of generations of global white supremacist tactics (like colorism) that has fostered pain and distrust amongst our community.
Germany is actually the only place I’ve ever met so many mixed-Black people so conscious and proud of their Blackness. In the UK and the US, many mixed-Black people do occupy their time trying to get into whiteness, so it’s not confusing to me when non-mixed Black people approach me with caution.
On a personal level, it always hurts. It feels unfair. But these are mulatto tears. And if we really want these experiences to change, we just have to continue to use our existence to call out the mixed-Black people still coonin’.
So while anti-Blackness is my fight, I am also learning where the limitations of my own Blackness are because I am mixed, and that these limitations are based in privilege, not oppression.
Sometimes I’m so angry at white people. Sometimes I never want to see them again. Because they’re colonizers. And I was raised to love them. But right now I’m learning that perhaps my position is not to reject them. I went to a reading last week of Noah Sow, a famous Afrogerman author. She gave a presentation on Intersectionality and White Allyship to a mostly white audience. While I was disappointed that she wasn’t talking to me or the Afrogermans I came with, I was struck by her poise when talking about such violence. And the way the white people… listened.
Is that my place as an educated middle-class mixed-Black person? Am I a bridge like her?
I thought about my white boyfriend and this last year of awakening.
He was there for me for 4 years in all other aspects of my life except when it came too close to racism and sexism. In every other way, he was a comrade. Which is why the last year was so crazy confusing and painful. I thought he would clearly see his position in racism and sexism and he just totally retreated into White Fragility. So while transitioning is necessary, I don’t want to transition violently by using phrases like “break up” or “ex-“. His ignorance doesn’t invalidate his hospitality, the same way his hospitality doesn’t excuse his ignorance.
Now as I am in this transition of my life, moving to my own place, embracing my queerness, and trying my best to hear myself in a world trying its best to drown out my voice with racism, sexism and capitalism, I cling to my honesty. I have talked to all of my friends about these struggles I am having as a mixed-Black cis-queer woman. How liberated I feel having my own space. How much I desire consensual experiences with Black people. How far I want to get away from heteronormativity. And how relieved I feel in my new relationship with my white boyfriendish.
But, despite all of this, every. single. one. of my friends has asked me at the end of our conversations: Are you still sleeping with white boyfriendish?
And in this question, they are really trying to gauge two things:
1) how serious am I actually about this
2) are we actually still together
The question completely strips all meaning from my words. Because based in its answer is the “truth” they are looking for, regardless of the fact that I don’t adhere to any of these social rules. I’m making my own.
6 months ago I met Darkmatter in Amsterdam where Alok talked about the hypocrisy of our love as activists. That activist-work is the one area where we can have these contradictions. (Yes, I’ve blogged about this before.. It was a really eye opening experience and I’m still discovering pieces months later). They said, “People ask me all the time: Alok, how can you be fighting white supremacy and patriarchy and suck so much white dick?” I almost choked when they said it. It was so unedited. So real. And I think it did get the wheels spinning in my mind about my own contradictions (I went to this meeting with my white boyfriend).
So when my friends first started asking me this question, my first reaction was always laughter. I am open to talking about my sex-life with those who want to hear me out. What I’m not open to is answering questions so that someone can decide my seriousness in all of this or if I’m still “with” my white boyfriendish despite the fact that I’ve said time and again that I reject this relationship structure. But when I laugh, the friend immediately assumes “yes”. I laugh in incredulity and they have all individually said, “Okay. I got the answer.” And then I’m put on the defense, or I don’t defend myself and they smile with smugness that they’ve “exposed” me or something…
This happened to me (again) today… and Alok’s words flashed through my head.
I get it now. I get it now. I get it now.
So here’s my answer to the real question: “How can you be fighting white supremacy and patriarchy while fucking a white cishet man?”
- Well… I gotta go back to Thailand in September. 2014.
I was teaching English at a school for Cambodian children, but I had most of the day free to roam the island I would call Home for 4 weeks. It was in this experience that I would learn that being a Black woman alone in a place where white men can so openly express their colonizer desires is not my favorite experience.
An older Italian man began to stalk me. For days he would find me on the street or at the beach and try and woo me. He’d flash his money, have drinks sent to my table, place shells on my beach towel while I’d swim… And every time I’d reject him. It changed nothing.
One weekend, I went across the island to the party beach. Young people, good bars, beautiful beach. On this Friday afternoon, I was reading and sunbathing alone on this beach filled with young Europeans. I looked up and to my horror I saw this old Italian man walking the beach. Every cell in my body feared that he would try and join me and make it look like I’m his little young brown booty. FUCK. NO. I immediately reached out to the red Dutch girl next to me. This white girl saved me that day. She invited me to sit wth her and I ended up learning that her entire crew was actually a group of loan travelers who’d met up and clicked.
One of the guys was an AfroBelgian guy. “Half Congo” He said. At this time, I was still so looped up in my white supremacist beauty desires that I honestly spent most of the time talking to this linky white blue-eyed blond-haired Belgian. He told me about where he was staying really cheap so I went back with him to get my own bungalow for the weekend. I ended up right beside the AfroBelgian guy. He walked around his balcony without a shirt, and my Godddddd, I thought, he must be so conceited with a body like that.
Well, to my surprise, two days later we ended up in bed together. Actually, we ended up on the beach and then in the bed. But all I can say is I remember his eyes. I remember looking down at his body, at his skin — his BROWN skin, like mine! — and realizing for the first time that I had never seen something like this before. I had never experienced being with someone my own color. And it was the most beautiful, consensual sex I’d ever had. And seeing that understanding in his eyes as well made me feel so powerful. So beautiful. So satisfied.
For the rest of the year, I spent so much of my time obsessing over the experience and trying to find it again. I slept with other people. But they would do things like stroke my skin and tell me how “Black” I am “…but as a good thing!” And finally, after reading, watching, and listening, I understood that it was because they were white… That power dynamics don’t disappear even when your clothes do.
I went to Thailand again in September of this year, and met Pu. Like Winnie the Pooh, but just.. Pu. Pu was a dark-skinned Thai freespirit. His aesthetic wasn’t limited to cis-norms. He had long hair, wore dresses and pink and necklaces, and it wasn’t separate from his masculinity. He was strong and yet selfless. We spent one month together and beyond all of the other reasons why I loved spending the days with him, the biggest was that we are both brown. And in our union I felt strength. It’s a feeling I’ve only had with him and the AfroBelgian guy.
So I guess I put all of this out there to say, I’m not only fucking a white cishet guy. Or white cishet guys. I fuck who I want. I have complete sexual autonomy and learning about structural racism and the way we feed into that as PoCs has only given me more sexual autonomy. It’s not some subconscious bullshit I’m playing into. I know where I stand structurally and if I choose to sleep with someone white, it’s a choice I am making fully informed. While in Thailand, I had white guys begging me every night to go home with them. And my gut said no. So it was no. But if I want to sleep with the guy I’ve been with for 4 years, through thick and thin, trying to throw my politics in my face won’t work. I’m fighting white supremacy and patriarchy by learning as much as I can about these structures and harnessing complete control over my desires and actions.
2. Last night I sat on the floor staining wood shelves while my white roommate and I discussed selfies: Empowering or Destructive? I took the side of empowerment, seeing selfies as rebellious in nature because I love nothing more than women outside of the “beauty” box taking full control over their image and posting it unapologetically for all to see. My roommate could see my point, but spoke about all of the women who are already in the “beauty” box posting selfies that leave other women feeling insecure. Like her cousin. She said her cousin spent so much time looking at selfies of “beautiful” women that she obsessed over trying to look like them, be them, which had left her feeling even more insecure. My roommate said this had a destructive impact on her cousin’s life… Because she felt so insecure, when someone did like her, she would cling to them, but because of those insecurities, the person interested felt uncomfortable with the emotional pressure and left, leaving her more insecure. It was a tragic cycle to watch, she said. “They don’t feel comfortable, and unlike her family who has known her whole life and understands her struggles, these interested people don’t have to stay to know all of her. And they don’t.”
Something struck a chord in me about the story. This idea that relationships are supposed to be “comfortable” and the moment they are not, the value of that person is lost.
I had this argument with my white boyfriend so many times when we lived together. He would do something triggering, I’d call him out on it, and in making him feel “uncomfortable”, my value depleted. Then I’d call him out on that and these arguments usually boiled over into screaming matches like:
“You’re always calling me racist! Everything I do is racist!”
“If you just GOOGLED you would understand what I am saying! Educate yourself and change that shit!”
“I don’t feel comfortable with you anymore! I can’t even feel comfortable in my own house! When are you going?”
“Funny! you were comfortable when I smiled and held your hand and made you feel like a man, but as soon as the Exotic Beauty actually understands herself, you don’t feel uncomfortable and I have to go. Don’t you worry… I’m going as soon as possible, and I won’t be back! So you can feel comfortable all alone because that was the extent of your ‘love’! Colonizer!”
Yeah it got ugly.
It wasn’t insecurity that forced the relationship I have with my white boyfriendish to change. It was in understanding myself at the intersection of womanhood and Blackness that I really saw myself and my reality with clarity. Nevertheless, the result was the same. Understanding myself made my boyfriend uncomfortable. And in choosing to stay comfortable, he chose ignorance, and in choosing ignorance, he continued to inflict violence on me with his words and behaviors that I could not ignore. I felt every microagression full-force and called everything out. This made him more uncomfortable and he’d retreat into white fragility which made the experience even more triggering, and suddenly we’d be having full-blown arguments. Our relationship became unhealthy and while the love is there — and the love is there — in order for it to continue, things had to change. The home we shared together was not a safe space for me anymore, and I left as soon as possible.
Race is a huge part of my relationship with white boyfriendish. While it may have been in colorblindness that we got together, we are both very conscious about what we are doing together now. Becoming conscious at first made the experience triggering and unhealthy, and during this time I could not have sex with him.
Like I keep saying, I love him but I love myself more, and that includes sexually (duh). When I came home from Thailand, I felt the words “Never Again” fully summed up all of my emotions toward that white man. He frustrated me and hurt me and when I called him out on it, he said he was “uncomfortable” and played victim. It was a mess. After years of loving him, fucking him, being his Exotic Beauty and playing into that bullshit colonizer narrative, he refused to wake up with me. It felt unfair. I felt unsafe. And my sex-life reflected that because it turned completely off with him.
I couldn’t sleep with him because of the inflexibility of his ignorance. I couldn’t sleep with him because he would trigger me purely because he was lazy to learn and unable to listen… and the idea of a person like that cumming inside me? FUCK THAT!
So yeah, I laughed, because when my friends would ask me if I was sleeping with him, it felt like they hadn’t heard me at all. Or that what I was saying was irrelevant if I let him make me cum too. And even though the answer was no, I felt offended admitting that because it was like only in keeping my politics “respectable” were they validated.
Because again, the love is there. Despite everything, the love is there. And I always knew that if he chose to be a *real* ally, I would take the time for him. I would embrace him.
Now that the power structure has been [mostly] dismantled, my yt boyfriendish has come around. He knows it isn’t in whiteness that we can continue, but in honesty and MUTUAL respect. Our love is one that must be able to call out the colonizer bullshit. A love that’s honest and uncomfortable. And unlike my roomie’s cousin’s bad luck, in the end, this guy is willing to be uncomfortable in order to understand the whole picture, because he sees the way my liberation exposes his enslavement, and I now have the distance to feel strength and control when I am with him.
And this week we slept together for the first time in three months.
Not because he came around, but by coming around, I felt safe enough to express that with him.
Power constructs don’t disappear just because your clothes do. But I do think it is possible to minimize the bullshit by being aware of the way power constructs manifest in our personal lives, sexually or otherwise.
I don’t want to have white babies, I don’t want to be some mulatto trophy for some white colonizer, but I do have a connection to a white man, and our journey together is one I’ve never been on before. I’m not an apologist, and I’m very interested to see what I will think about this article in 6 months because… maybe these are just mulatto tears, but as for this moment right now, I think it’s ridiculous to reduce my politics to my pussy.