thumbs-down

I am leaving the movie theater with one of my friends. He’s a tall man from Middle America with stark blue eyes and brown hair. He wears skinny jeans, plays the drums, and longs to flee The States (again). We’re writing partners, grad school comrades, oyster-addicts, and Brooklyn neighbors. We’re different, but we’re kinda the same.

I am his visual opposite – I have unruly Marley twists that need to be taken out. I am lanky and significantly shorter.  I wear thick plastic frames like a black Tiny Fey, and I’m a dark-skinned black woman – a very lovely shade of brown. I dream of relocating to Brazil to study Afro-Brazilian religions.

I’m originally from Long Island, New York.

The two of us are standing on a Brooklyn street corner chatting about the movie, when a man turns around to stare at us. He’s a short black man wearing a white suit with red lapels, which in itself is a little funny.

The man starts yelling. At first I think he’s on the phone, but then his words get very clear:

“This b*tch is bringing it back to Django days. A black woman with a white man is an abomination.”

He is screaming, and I’m uncomfortable, so I start doing what I do when get nervous: laughing and making snide-remarks.

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“A black man in that white suit is an abomination.”

“Wait,” my friend says, furrowing his brow. “Is he narrating us?”

“Whisper all you want,” the stranger yells in our direction. “You runnin’ around with natural hair, but you ain’t real. You sound white. You act white. You ain’t real.”

If I’m not real, what am I?

I link arms with my friend to antagonize the stranger, and together we walk toward the subway. The man continues to scream behind us, and we laugh. We both agree the man is crazy, and by the time we board our train, we’ve changed the subject.

But my thoughts linger. All my energy is drained. I feel tired and maybe even a little sad.

On the train ride home, my eyes are heavy and I lean on my friend’s shoulder. None of the passengers bat an eye, but now I notice. How does this appear? I’m ashamed of myself for caring. My friend has no idea I’m still upset.

I assume he wouldn’t understand.

What does it mean to be ‘real’? Who makes the markers of authenticity upon which we place our faith?  What if this white guy was my boyfriend? What if I fall in love with and marry a white man? Will my unborn children be heckled on the street?

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Why do I even give a sh*t what some random guy thinks?

He hit a nerve I didn’t even know was there.

“It’s one thing for a black man to date a white woman,” he yelled before we were out of ear-shot. “But for a black woman to date a white man? That’s different! You are taking it back to the slave days.”

I’m not super clear on the exact difference. I don’t understand why it’s okay for black men, but shameful for me. Today, I have no answers: only questions that go unanswered.

In the meantime, I flip my fake-ass twists over my  shoulder and thicken my beautiful black skin. After all, I probably need to toughen up. I’m open to dating men outside of my race.

SBM Family, Have you ever had an experience like this happen to you? Is there a double-standard between black women and black men?

I’m so confused…lol

Patia Braithwaite is a relationship writer, life coach and reluctant Brooklyn hipster. Her work has appeared on The Huffington Post, Clutch Magazine and Yahoo Shine! Check out her blog at www.menmyselfandgod.com