They smoked weed in their parents’ houses with abandon. If they wanted me, I thought, it was because I seemed free like them. Since college I’ve had five boyfriends, and all of them have been white. They’re no longer the object of my affection, a mirror for my self-worth, or an affirmation of my beauty. The night Trump was elected, I wrote about feeling lonely.I wanted to be comforted — but I wanted it to be by someone who had an inkling of the anxiety I felt for my family, my loved ones, and for myself.“Can I say the N-word if I’m singing along to a song? ” (I don’t know dude, I ask myself the same question every goddamn day.) I know that I shouldn’t feel compelled to always speak for my race, but I can’t expect a white boyfriend to stop asking some of those questions if we’re to come to a mutual understanding.Lately, though, I just don’t feel like answering them.Even more hurtful was the night he and I were standing outside a bar in Bushwick and someone we both knew started making racist comments.While I tried to explain to this man why what he was saying was offensive, my boyfriend stood there in silence.What I’m craving right now from a partner — more than feeling beautiful, more than anything — is a “black nod” version of a relationship.
When we do, I look his way every so often to see if he’s staring back, to see if we’ve got what my best friend and I call “the affinity,” a mutual acknowledgement that we one another. But while they chased after blondes and brunettes, I was ignored.Later, I tried to convey how hurt I was that he didn’t say anything, but he didn’t seem to understand how bewildered I was.There are, in my relationships with white men, so many moments like that. It’s a pretty good way to pass the time from Brooklyn to midtown. I spent my childhood surrounded by black and brown kids, but when I got to high school, suddenly everyone around me was white.And on those rare occasions a white boy kissed me in the copy-machine room at our high school, or when a white boy told me over the phone he had a crush on me, the acknowledgement made me feel chosen. The white boys I grew up with were cool: They rode their skateboards on private property. White men have preoccupied me my whole life, from the schoolyard to the subway, but these days I’m seeing them differently.In every relationship I have with a white man, there comes a moment when they come to understand a simple fact of my life: that racism is an intimate part of my daily existence.