Last night my sweetie told me some disturbing things. Things that had happened to him, personally. Hateful acts and words and objects thrown at him because he isn’t white.
And how much he wants to go see his daughter graduate, but how much he can’t tolerate that kind of behavior from anyone anymore, and is worried that such bullshit will happen again if he goes to the southern state where his daughter is graduating.
I’ve been harassed verbally, I’ve had my but pinched and slapped by random guys just walking down the street. But I’ve never been threatened with death, never had an object aimed at me and thrown from a speeding vehicle at lethal speed. Been called “Bitch” and worse names for my gender, but never the “N” word. Because I am white.
I was really upset by what he told me. Really sickened by the cowardice and hatefulness of those threatened him. But also I was upset by his trepidation, letting his fear of acts that probably won’t actually occur make him even think about missing one of his daughter’s most important life events. And I was immediately upset with myself for thinking that.
I felt bright hatred for the fucking assholes who tried to off him from their car. And all the fucking bastards that ever called him the “N” word. I wanted to hurt them, make them pay.
But just momentarily.
I want to protect him, but how? with my as-yet-nonexistent martial arts skills? with a gun? with superpowers that take their words, their weapons, transform them into thoughts of understanding and empathy, and bounce them back, right into their brains, transforming them into good, kind, non-racist people?
Then I thought about how he may never be able to come home with me, to my home state. Which is another Bible-Belt Southern state, 90% white.
And I cried.
I went to the bathroom so he wouldn’t see me crying. I didn’t want him to see how upset I was, how torn up I was. I wanted to show him how I’m strong and supportive. But I also knew that I was crying because I was being selfish. I have dreamed about him coming home with me, seeing the place where I grew up, exploring its hills, valleys, trees, streams. The first dream I ever had with him in it involved us driving down a one-lane road, surrounded by huge, shady, lush, green trees. I cherish that dream. We were both so happy in it, having the time of our lives.
I needed to sort out my feelings before I talked to him, but I didn’t accomplish that last night, much to my shame.
I just kept feeling selfish, somehow. And I didn’t want my feelings, my anger, my sadness, to take over his narrative, his experience. I’m familiar with how the privileged person’s righteous anger can overwhelm and distract from the non-privileged person’s sharing their experiences. My ex did that quite frequently. As if her liberal white anger needed the spotlight.
So I kept quiet. I listened as best as I could, but didn’t press for details, and didn’t tell him what I was feeling.
When he fell asleep, I cried a little more, ashamed that I couldn’t figure out a way to talk to him about it, and angry at the world, angry at the stupidity of humans.
So I write about it here. Seeking catharsis. Wanting to understand my white privilege better. Hoping to be able to be a good partner to him, a good listener, but unsure of how to help. How do I mitigate the suffering of my beloved? How can I help transform the world to remove the hate that causes so much suffering?