“There is a difference between loving white people and loving whiteness.”
This is something I often say when I begin social justice conversations around topics related to race. For some, the concept is easy to process and we begin a conversation around what it means to be white and a person of privilege. For others, the concept seems to be extremely hard to process.
Since hearing about what transpired in Charlottesville, Va., I have struggled with this notion of knowing that the person who shares so much of my life is, in fact, a cisgender white man. I also struggle with watching him process what is happening in our country and never having the right words to make me feel safe in times where I feel like all elements of my intersectional existence are under attack.
A question I know most black people struggle with is, how do you continue loving white people when whiteness hates you?
When addressing what it means to be white, we have to acknowledge that both whiteness and white supremacy are systems cut from the same cloth. While each system helps to benefit the lives of white people, we have to think about the ways in which the white people we love are working to either uphold the systems or dismantle them. What’s key in these types of conversations is recognizing when white people love and care enough for you to step back and do their own work.
As someone who is partnered with a white man, I often get asked questions of how I negotiate loving him in moments like these. Being that I spend most of my days teaching people about race, racism, white supremacy and white fragility, I will admit: It does become difficult not to see elements of these issues come up in my own relationship. Especially when a few of my extended family members share the same views as “alt-right” assclowns. But what I often challenge people to think about is how to quantify systems of whiteness and how the white people they love either feed into and choose to benefit from these systems or help in their struggle to get free.
I have been with my partner for a little over seven years, and it has been both an educational and sometimes exhausting feat. Helping him to understand his white privilege and what it means to benefit from white supremacy can be an exceptionally taxing task. Helping anyone navigate how they can remove themselves from a system that benefits them is always tough. But sometimes it’s about the moments when you see the person you love do the work, step outside of their whiteness and fully get it.
Here’s the tea: Any person in an interracial relationship will tell you that loving a white person is difficult. Having to negotiate the moments when my pro-black stance might rub his white fragility the wrong way takes a great deal of work. And I am not just talking about the moments when he makes a comment filled with white privilege or elitism. It is often the moments when you just want someone to see your struggle. Moments when you really want someone to see you and the pain that is often being a black queer man in an all-white world.
I often tell folks who are in interracial relationships or have a high number of white friends to also step back and do a bit of their own reflecting by asking themselves if they are in the relationship with ulterior motives. I am a true believer that all races can benefit from whiteness, and it is important for us to ask ourselves if we are involved with the person for the leisure that whiteness provides or because of what the person brings to the table.
I realize that in moments like these, it is about acknowledging the complexities of what life and love look like while making sure you don’t lose yourself in the process. No matter the race of the person I love or whom I choose to surround myself with, I recognize that I will always be black and will forever call out the injustices that happen to me and my people. And as someone who is working day in and day out to end anti-blackness in all spheres, I will still tell him to check his privilege.
Yes, I love me some white people. I love them profoundly. But you better trust and believe that I will always remind ANY white person when their white privilege is showing.