Listen up white girls: I ain’t yo mammy

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America’s favorite mammy

In an attempt to make new friends and generally be open and accepting to other people in my young adult life, I have extended the hand of companionship to the white women who are my peers, despite the initial feeling of skepticism and cautiousness that almost automatically accompanies any sort of interaction with white people. As much as I have struggled with my own evolving feelings about white people (from being best friends with them as a child to gradually growing farther apart due to the inevitable racial divide), I still make a concerted attempt not to let any of that cloud my openness when meeting new, unique individuals. It is a hard thing to do when so many interactions turn out predictably disappointing, but what is the point of us suffering from the effects of racial discrimination if we cannot learn from it? (Hint: there is no point to suffering from racism). So in an attempt to still follow anti-racist virtues of acceptance and “tolerance,” I open my heart, to white girls.

And at first it can seem okay. I grew up around white people and whiteness is ubiquitous enough in my culture (American culture) for me to know how to connect with them even if I hadn’t. Especially when we interact on those nights out, those nights where everyone is looking to let loose and have a great time, the connection can seem as if I am right back at my elementary school, giggling about boys to a girl whose race is the last thing on my mind: a Barbie to my Christie doll. The connections made on nights with substances can seem downright preordained – all the facades come down and it is straight friends friends friends, and there is nothing like women’s friendship.

Which is why it can be so disconcerting when those connections never seem to make it past the initial spark of camaraderie, like pushing tomatoes through a sieve and all the pulpy bits stay behind while the juice is left wondering like, wtf? In my experience it is hard for white women to get past that initial bit, the part where you go from acquaintances who really like each other to real, actual friends. See real actual friends are people with whom your relationship is mutual; you hold my hair and I’ll hold yours. True friends are interested in knowing about your life, what you’re feeling anxious about and what excites you. True friends can expect that you will listen to them rant about their new boss but also can be counted on to return the favor.

I know white women have the ability to be true friends, so what stops them when it comes to us black women? Maybe it is the stereotype that black women are strong, therefore why would we ever need a shoulder to cry on? Maybe it is the expectation that we will give tough, “no-nonsense” advice, so come to me with all your problems, I’ll tell it to you straight! Maybe it is that white women hold a certain level of uneasiness with black women’s emotions, because once we’re angry nothing can stand in our way, right? Whatever it is rooted in, it has got to stop, because not only is it perpetuating same old racism, but it is also preventing any true solidarity between women, keeping us the proletariat to the ruling powers of men.

See white women do this thing where they don’t ask us any questions about our own lives. It is almost so unbelievable as to not be believable, but even in friendships that have had longevity and supposed depth I have realized, oh this b only wants to talk about her damn self!  I have been sista-girled enough times to realize that even in the friendships that look and feel genuine, the level of understanding and concern returned to me by my white gal pals pales in comparison to what they take and expect from me. The moment you stop yourself from sharing your distress about some recent racist current event, the moment your “homegirl” relents about how she could NEVER go to jail – those are the moments that make you think: Can I really be myself around this individual?

It is not only that white girls seem so unwilling to give the support that black women need, it is also that perhaps they cannot; they don’t know how and are afraid to even enter into that territory, lest their delicate white fragility be challenged by the realities of our lives. And then let’s add to the mix men and constructed female competitiveness, and you can see who your real friends are, really really quickly. Perhaps you are nice to have around because their white boyfriends will presumably never find you attractive (you’re safe). Perhaps they will never want you around their “man” in case he has a case of chocolate fever. Bottom line is: white girl envy very much exists within faux friendships.

The most disappointing part is that, it becomes such a waste of invested energy. I don’t extend an olive branch to just any white girl, but when I do it is meaningful. It is me saying: regardless of the legacy of racism and how it could potentially make it impossible for us to ever find common ground (despite the fact that we are women), I am willing to give it a try; I am willing to weather the ignorance and lack of understanding you probably have about my experiences to forge a friendship with you, to enjoy the company of another despite the difficulties. And then when that woman tries to take the whole damn tree and even thinks that she is slick because of her casual racism, it becomes more and more discouraging to want to keep offering damn olive branches.

So white girls, here’s a note to you from a fellow woman, who is black. We are no different than you; we are not your saviors, your sista girl, your go-to pick-me-up to feel alive and sassy (cause white people always be feeling cool when they get to be involved in “black people stuff”), the Jennifer Hudson to your Carrie. While I am happy to share any of my black girl magic deep love vibes with the people I care about, you have to do your part too, to show you care, and to show that even if you don’t “get it” you are willing to try. The quality of our friendships, particularly over racial lines, can be such a powerful source for a broader mind, deeper understanding, and most importantly, a haven of solidarity against the forces of sexism that deeply oppress us.

In my phone I have the number of a white girl I made a wonderful connection with the other night. I’m still deciding on whether or not to call her. Make the first move, ladies. Show us that you are genuine. We are people too, and if you manage to see that clearly, the rewards to our friendships will know no limits.

In defense of my love for a white man

It seems silly to even start off calling this a “defense,” because we can always resort to the very idealistic notion of “everyone should have the freedom to love who you choose.” Of course in a vacuum this argument makes perfect sense and I support it whole-heartedly, but nothing ever exists in a vacuum that neatly, and is it not the point of cultivating consciousness to try to understand that?

I call this a defense because on many levels I must defend my choice to be romantically and intimately involved with a white man to myself, and I feel I would be doing myself a major disservice to not think deeply and honestly about these things, given that I aspire to live a deep and honest life. It is true that we do not choose who we love, or at least, it is very difficult to choose our attraction to others when it exists, even if we may have the choice of how to navigate that attraction and pursue it. As much as many things in my life may be made easier for me should I choose to change the nature of my relationship with this individual into a less conflicting one, it is undeniable the way I feel about him and the way he makes me feel in those times when it is “just us” and it is as if the dynamics and the pressures of the world simply dissolve into the air…

But it is not as easy as simply justifying my love for this man by saying that he gives me butterflies in my stomach and makes my heart skip a few beats. I am a person whose identity has been forged within the ideals of colonialism and imperialism – after all, I would not call myself the things I do were it not for the availability of the structures around me that allow me to do so. I am only a woman, a black woman, an Asian woman, a queer woman (with massive straight-privilege let me tell you), and all the other things I embody because there are structures in place against which I must define myself, and constructions available for me to do so easily. But let me not be careless – these constructions create a world in which it becomes a reality for me to have to consider the implications of my relationship in regards to my own sense of self and self-identity. I cannot simply sit here and say that because all of the bullshit has been constructed that I do not have to think about the impact they have on my life, even when my love for this man is not constructed in the least bit.

So what do I tell myself to make this okay, and how do I find peace with the fact that the dynamics of my relationship with this man exemplify the already existing disadvantages that our world imposes upon women of color? The truth is that I have not found peace, and perhaps I never will. I will never find peace with the fact that whiteness, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and all the different forms of oppression exist, because I am not okay with it. But somehow we must always find ways to persevere in our struggle and still remember to live, in resistance to the forces that try to stamp out our lives. I will never embody an existence that is free of any problematic aspects, given the privileges I am afforded that I did not ask for, and the position in the world I hold simply because of who I am. The question is, how much of myself am I compromising by choosing to allow this person into the depths of my heart, when so much of the spaces we have been born into are at clear odds with one another, and make it so very dangerous for me to trust them?

I have had to ask myself deeply what it is I believe in, what is at the core of my being, and the answer always comes up love. Love is what I live for – not romantic love but love as the energy frequency that can deliver us from the evils of death-loving ethics to the ethics of life and humanity. At the end of it all, I do not want to allow oppression to hinder me from experiencing love in any form, even if that love is so wrought with more societally-constructed contradictions and has so much higher of a risk to become distorted. The love that I feel is real, and on this I need no justification; it is simply up to me to deconstruct the noise that comes with it, to chip away at the bullshit so that the core of it, the part of it where its power lays, does not become clouded into obscurity by all the ways in which our humanity has been stolen from us. Oppression and death are always lingering, ready to distort any love that I should have with any other person, whether that person is white, black, male, female, queer, straight, or any other of these bullshit-ass identities that we still must bother with because we live in an identity-constructing world – “being with” a person more similar to me in terms of identity in the same way I choose to be with this white man does not guarantee anything to me, and in fact, even if I could date an exact replica of myself, I would still be conflicted because of the many privileges and oppressions I hold within my own body.

What matters most to me is love in its purest form, humanity that has not been distorted. I have found this man and we connect on that level, and if I choose to abandon that because of all of the heart-breaking constructions that have been placed around it, I would consider that a defeat by oppression; I would be letting death win. As long as I remain steadfast in my commitment to my own life and living, to always check with myself to be sure that my humanity is still intact in the myriad ways I have been working to cultivate its fullness, then I will choose to love this person and to challenge the impulses that fear and pain have placed inside of me.

There is no guarantee of his love. There is no guarantee of any of the things I looked for when checking to see if it would be “safe” to love him. It is never safe to love anyone, really. It is possible that I will find pain and heartbreak within my relationship with him, and that is also possible with anyone else. So far this union has only brought me closer to love, has allowed me to grow, has challenged the most paralyzingly painful parts of myself. At the end of it, as each passing day goes by, my heart still continues to remain open, and knows deeper and deeper what it is to exist in the paradise that is love.