“I’m in an interracial relationship– I’m white, my girlfriend is black. I need help learning how to respond to all the little comments and microaggressions that happen when we’re together. It can be hard to know how to (and even whether to) respond. Any thoughts?”
- Question submitted by Anonymous with a reply from the scattered, disorganized desk of The Bad Gay, Mo Willis, as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
Ah, the complex and challenging interweavings of love. And Blackness and Whiteness. And relationships. And 3 out of 5 sentences/statements that begin with “I” or “I’m” when talking about a we-thang. Though, there is clear cause to lead with self here. Like, who else would you be asking on behalf of? Who else is asking the question? Is this even a learnable/advisable situation?
(Overwhelmed, days later I returned with a rapid-fire, long-form, shortish list.)
1. Racially-motivated “micro-aggressions” are happening to your gf more than she’s telling you. I’m saying that because you need to understand the magnitude of “micro-aggressions.” (Which let me just take a second to side-eye the hell out the term “micro-aggressions.” What the fuck is a micro-aggression? Are we actually trying to say “all non-violent aggression” or should it be more like, “he didn’t outright call me a nigger aggression” or am I to understand it as a “run-of-the-mill, just your everyday following me around the store aggression”? I don’t know. I’m not really sure what it means.)
2. Similarly, what is a “little comment”? Is it in the same pre-school playroom as “micro-aggression”? I just want to point out that what’s happening here, over all, is the diminutization (or, “making smaller”) of pretty fucked up moments that are happening with enough frequency that you feel compelled to ask about it. (Let me restate that more clearly: YOU are engaging in the act of making what you may think are small, petty things, small and petty. No matter how your gf reacts, know that those moments are exhausting, terrible, annoying, hurtful, deflating, unnecessary reminders of how the world actually feels.
3. I don’t know you. I don’t know your personality. I can only speak for myself. I be gyad-damned if I am with my gf somewhere and someone says or does some racist shit. I’m saying something. I’m doing something. We’re leaving. Admittedly, I’m not speaking from a place of being in an interracial relationship. But, as an ally and partner, your role is to support the ways she needs to process and to make no secret of your position of unwavering support. Just because you’re with a black person does not mean you not about that racist life. It just means you are dating a black person. Showing your support can look a lot of ways. Sometimes it looks like leaving. Sometimes it means looking at her and asking if she’s okay. Sometimes it means giving the finger. Sometimes it means holding her tighter. Sometimes it means having a white person-to-white-person call out time. Sometimes it means taking up even more space as a couple, intentionally. Sometimes it means not saying a fucking thing and standing there. You will become more comfortable and familiar with the responses that work best for you when you do work to understand what is happening–and maybe even understanding how/if you’re contributing to it.
4. You are never going to ever come close to being able to identify, understand, or address the kabillion ways she will experience anti-black racism in her life. That’s not your role. Your role, forreal, is to: a) stop acting like it’s little shit when what you’re actually witnessing is a fucked up system of oppression at work and to b) Talk to your gf. Together, maybe y’all can identify ways she feels most supported when inane, ridiculous bullshit happens simply because she has the audacity to be…alive.
5. When people treat you, as a mixed couple, in a shitty way, y’all need to tag team. That’s my totally unproductive advice. How will you clown these antiquated fools out here in ways that keep y’all safe and entertained? How are you dealing with it together? What would make your relationship feel protected and yet give you the glorious taste of “Mm. They shoulda known we weren’t standing for that shit.” Or, if you’re the type of people who take refuge in putting things quietly away, do that. But process. Unpack. Don’t be afraid to ask about it. Don’t be mad if you’re met with silence. Give tenderness. Be honest.
That’s it. There is never a point at which your work and investment will be done. Saddle up. Be sweet to each other. Pay attention. Use your words. Good start, asking questions. Keep going.
Mo Willis is a co-founder of Brooklyn Boihood, a collective whose mission is to “spread love through community-building events, music and art while sharing our journey as bois of color who believe in safe spaces, accountable action and self-care.” Support Mo and the rest of Brooklyn Boihood by visiting their website and online store!