“Girl, I just need to say it out loud…”
I am part of a group that meets weekly. Four of us in the group are black women in relationships with white men. After details of the March murder by police in Louisville, Ky., of Breonna Taylor at her home in a failed raid came to light last week, we held something of an emergency meeting. We needed to talk about our grief, our anger and our despair. And we need to ask questions that we wouldn’t feel entirely safe asking in another space.
When black people are killed in incidents like this, how can we be angry or afraid of white people when the men we love are white people? How can we properly mourn the loss of a black person who lost their life or freedom while sitting next to someone who can never know that deep grief or fear? How can we share these feelings with our men without alienating them or making them feel like they have to fix or change anything for us?
Scott and I were bonded from the first hour we met. Twelve years ago. By signing up for drug rehab in Arizona.
I was a wreck, unable to stop drinking and taking pills. I was also in the middle of a divorce and desperately trying to heal for the sake of my two young sons. He didn’t try to fix me. Rather, as a newly sober and divorced father of two young daughters, his very presence simply validated how I felt.
Throughout each of our excruciatingly long 28 days there, I leaned on him and he let me. A month or two after we each returned to our respective homes (I live in Los Angeles, and at the time he was living in Park City, Utah), he started drinking again. This time he leaned on me until he could finally get sober a few months later.
So many other things we shared solidified our bond―sacred things. Like me standing sadly by his side watching both his parents die within a few years of each other. And he, who came during those incredibly painful first years after my divorce, making me laugh through my tears and holding me in his arms when I couldn’t stop crying.
If our friends and families thought it odd to see a white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed outdoorsman so indelibly tied to a natural-haired black former entertainment reporter, they kept it to themselves. Eventually, everyone seemed to accept without question what had become obvious to Scott and me early on; despite outward appearances, we are following suit.
The way his eyes narrow when he laughs is a balm to my soul. He’s the nicest man I’ve ever met (sorry dad, but it’s true), and I rely on him completely.
I can’t exactly remember the first time I felt this social divide in our relationship. Was it in 2012 when Jordan Davis was murdered in Jacksonville, Florida by a white man for playing his music too loud? Or it could have been in 2014 when Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri – a killing that sparked widespread rioting in the area.
With each incident that passes, certain facts of our life together begin to feel more important. The recovery chambers where he and I have sought sanctuary for the past 12 years are mostly white space. Our shared friendships are mostly with white people. Our conversations and the codes we use to communicate with each other are those commonly found in white American culture.
The longer we’ve been together and the more acts of violence against black people, the more surprised I am at how much I want/need to share these experiences with someone who, like me, understands these injustices in the world. cellular level. I want that someone to be the man I’ve chosen to spend the rest of my life with. And even though I know that’s not possible, I want that someone to be Scott.
I need to be clear here, it’s not about how Scott reacts to these incidents. When black people are murdered and terrorized, Scott is outraged, defeated and scared. It’s not that we see these injustices differently. I never needed to convince Scott that black lives matter or why such a movement is needed in our country. When Ahmaud Arbery was killed in February in Georgia — a shooting that only belatedly resulted in the arrest of two white men earlier that month, and a third Thursday — it was Scott, not me, who was went for a run on Arbery’s birthday, posting the miles he ran on social media in solidarity. The more Scott listens patiently and tries to learn and understand how he can be an ally, the more my heart wants to burst with pride and relief. He really cares.
But whether he cares or not doesn’t deny the fact that these acts of violence don’t happen to him. When you see stigmatized alcoholics or reviled divorced parents, you think, “Look what’s happening to us!” But when it comes to issues of race, all at once, we cannot be an “us”.
Whether I’m at home sleeping, walking, driving, shopping, or working, being Black in this country means risking my life every day. And while being white in America is not without risk, I have yet to see people here hunting down and murdering white people in cold blood because of their race. And even if it happened, it’s still different, because the system we live in is designed by and for white people.
And to be honest, I sometimes felt resentful that Scott never had to worry about the security of his blond-haired daughters in the same way that I have to worry about the safety of my sons. And then, of course, I instantly feel guilty because it’s not Scott’s fault that we live in a country where two different realities exist for our families like ours. If I’m not careful, I know these feelings could create a gap in our relationship that I won’t be able to fill.
I am grateful for my small affinity group, as I need to process these things as they arise. Otherwise, the fact that Scott and I do not share a racial identity has the power to put us on opposite sides of our couch whenever a tragic story about a black person hits the headlines.
There were times when I felt bad for white people being scolded by black people for saying the “wrong thing” while trying to stand together when racism rears its ugly head. Scott and I have never had the kind of relationship where we change how we feel.
Still, lately, I feel myself shutting down when I get mad at the black shoot of the day. I need to be able to scream, sigh or cry when people who look like me get murdered. And whether Scott says the “wrong” thing or hugs me, I would really like, as my friend Beverly says, to receive his efforts to connect. I want to continue to lean on him, as I have done from the beginning.
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