I started this blog so I could share funny stories from my woefully tragic dating life. I started this blog because I was spending too much time trolling the dating apps, sites and bars and it was driving me crazy. I started this blog to entertain and to fill the hole that being single created.
But once in a while I come across something so ignorant, so virulent, so damaging that I must stop what I’m doing and call attention to the big pile of bull shit some one is trying to pass off as a red velvet cupcake. (Can you imagine a more heinous offense?)
The other day, I read a post on Thought Catalog that was entitled “I’m Not Racist, I’m Just Not Attracted to Black Men.” (I’ll give you a moment to let your eyes roll back to the screen.) The author, Anonymous, bravely explains how his distaste for black men does not mean that he is a racist. It’s simply a preference and is not meant to hurt any one.
He continues on bemoaning the response he receives from people on Grindr when they see his “white for white only” tag line. As if everyone who reads that and takes offense, black, white or otherwise, is patently wrong for chastising him.
I won’t waste my time summarizing the whole thing but if you wish to read it, click here.
I know I’ve made sweeping statements like that about a whole type of human being. We probably all have. And I’m the first to admit it’s pretty fucked up. But everyone is entitled to having preferences and a type. For example, my type is a hilariously intelligent, gorgeous, wealthy, single, non-sex offending, sane man who texts back (If you know any one who matches this description, please send him my way.)
Identifying what we want in a partner is a critical part of finding love. So if Anonymous here “just doesn’t feel a sexual attraction to them,” (“them” meaning black men, in case you forgot) then shouldn’t we respect that that is his preference and back the hell off?
Sure. But the problem, and what is really rubbing me raw here, is that he is trying to justify that his preference isn’t racist. It is. It is undoubtedly racist. Whenever you lump a group of people together on the basis of race and then draw one conclusion about them, you are being definitively racist.
By claiming that Anonymous is not attracted to any black man on the planet, what he’s really saying is, “I will only see you, black men, solely for your color. And because I feel that your skin color and all of the assumptions that I make because of it are undesirable, I will never allow myself to consider the possibility that we might enter into a meaningful intimate relationship despite any compatibility of our personalities.”
What’s worse is that he references a conversation he had with his many gay black friends as if it validates his statement. A “Don’t worry, my black friends are cool with it” ethos. Only he doesn’t actually reveal to them his Whites Only sexual policy. Rather he expounds upon an argument he had with a black friend who shares his proclivity for the White wiener. (For the record: I would also argue that the black friend is being sort of racist too. And no “reverse racism” isn’t a thing, but I’m not here for that right now.)
I wonder why he doesn’t tell the room filled with black gay men that he’s not buying what they’re selling. I wonder if on some level he recognizes that it might not be well received by this dinner party of wall to wall black gay men when he admits that by virtue of their skin tone he finds them all sexually repugnant. I bet he knows he would be casting a shade so deep we may never again see the light of day!
I’m going to make an assumption that this man is probably some where close to my age because he’s writing on this blog that seems geared to people of my generation. Like me, he probably first learned what “racism” is in social studies when our teachers covered the Civil Rights movement (because no one calls it “racism” when they are actually practicing it.) They taught us about segregation, sit-ins, fire hoses, lynchings and other horror stories from the Deep South.
But things are different now and we don’t live it that world with those overt displays of hatred, right? We live in a world where black and white kids go to school together and a black man is even president. We get that we need to be tolerant of all peoples. We’re not like they were in the Jim Crow South. So we’re ok, right?
Wrong. And what Anonymous is demonstrating here is that he doesn’t actually understand what racism is. Sure, he may not be depriving gay black men the ability to be employed or sit where they want on a bus, but he is replacing their individuality with their color. And he’s trying to justify it publically.
I’m very lucky. Like Anonymous, I grew up in an almost entirely white community (wait, that’s not why I’m lucky. Keep reading!) In fact, when my hometown was established just after WWII, the sale of homes to any person of color was strictly prohibited. Racism runs deep there. But many of my mentors, collaborators, peers, and friends (some of whom are more like family) are of various races, ethnicities, orientations, sexes, and levels of crazy. And they have challenged me to have these hard conversations. I have learned from them because I have listened. (Admittedly, not always without crossing my arms, pouting my lips and getting defensive but I’m a work in progress.)
I’m not a paragon of equality and political correctness and, honestly, I’ve never dated any one outside of my own race (this probably has more to do with their lack of interest than mine… which is actually a trend that seems to transcend all races at the moment.) But honey, I work at it every damn day. I don’t think anything Anonymous’ gay black friends said at that dinner party sunk in. I get the distinct impression that Anonymous hasn’t been paying attention. And I’m pretty sure he’s not the only one.
Sometimes, my fellow white gay men make me uneasy.
A few months ago, I had a one-night stand with a white man. Let’s call him Cranston. (Prepare yourselves for a bad date story because I can’t help myself!) This isn’t something I do often. I met Cranston at a bar. He was relatively funny and looked vaguely like a man from Michigan I once loved. So I invited him back to my place.
We were in my room and I started asking him probing questions in an attempt to get to know him better. (I’m really bad at these casual encounters.) Eventually, we started sharing our coming out stories and talked about our families because seriously I have no idea what the hell I’m doing.
He told me coming out was challenging because his family is “very small minded.” Sure, I get that. My coming out was a struggle too. But he insisted his family is worse than mine or anyone else’s for that matter. Then to demonstrate how bigoted they are he tells me this charming anecdote about a family party where his grandfather went on a racist rant. And in order to further prove his point, Cranston dropped at least 4 N-bombs recounting Pop-pop’s tirade right there in my boudoir.
I delivered a side eye so wicked, my cats scurried under the bed. Aware that he said something wrong, Cranston looked confusedly at my cross face and said, “What? That word? It’s ok. I’m not a racist, I’m gay.”
Let’s decode the meaning behind his cryptic choice of words, shall we? The idealist in me wanted to believe the subtext was, “Please understand that now being a part of a marginalized group, I am critically aware of systems of oppression. I decided to appropriate that word so I may further the discourse of hate speech. I meant no harm or disrespect. I’m sorry.”
But I wonder if what he was really saying was “Hey man, we’re minorities now. We have license to say anything we want because we’re in the Oppressed Peoples club. We get it what it’s like. Don’t be so offended.”
But, really? We were two people, absolute strangers, and he made an assumption that he could freely use that word because somehow the fact that we were two gay men together granted us that permission.
This isn’t the first conversation I’ve had like this. And so I worry.
We, as gay people, understand oppression. I starting noticing my attraction to men at puberty, I had my first gay experience when I was 17 and didn’t come out until I was almost 21. In all that time, external factors of my environment made me afraid and ashamed to admit who I was. That is a system of oppression.
But our queer identity is quite unique when you look at other marginalized people. For many of us, it’s not something that is necessarily visible. Stick with me for a minute.
For a number of years I worked in a coffee shop in a massive office building. Every day, I would serve hundreds of 9-5ers, many of whom were much older and had probably not interacted with (m)any gay people. I’m not particularly masculine; I’m usually gesticulating with my hands too much and referencing some broadway show or pop diva in conversation. I sit into my hips when I stand. And yet, I could regale you with countless stories of when a male customer would make an inappropriate comment about my female coworkers and their attractiveness when they weren’t around or of when a female customer thought that my lady coworker and I would make a cute couple.
They were so conditioned to expect that everyone is just like them that they compulsively assumed I was heterosexual. I “passed.”
For many of us (but certainly not all), we can tuck away our sexuality. How many times have you been to a grocery store and some dick drop an F-bomb to his friend at the check out counter? Do we always confront Joe Dumbdick? Probably not. Should we? Absolutely. But sometimes, I’m just trying to get my eggs and get on with my day.
We face these little coming out moments every day and sometimes, for the sake of our own convenience, we keep ourselves closeted because ain’t nobody always got time to be teaching life lessons. But I worry that sometimes those of us who are white gay men forget that in these little moments when we decide to “pass,” we jump back into our seat of white male privilege.
So what am I getting at here? Opinion pieces like the one written by Anonymous, by a gay white man, horrify me. Because they make me think that we, white gay men, forget that there are people out there who have it worse than us. Who undergo more layers of oppression that are far more complex and damaging then our own.
Don’t get me wrong. Being gay is a struggle for all of us. We face laws that block our basic freedoms, bullying, being disowned, violence, and a host of other fucked up shit. And arguing over who has it worse is pointless. I think most people at some point have a shitty go at life. The actual amount of people on this planet who have never felt marginalized in some way is probably ridiculously small. It might just be George Clooney.
But when we, white gay men, come out and accept ourselves for the beautiful creatures we are and join this community of love and support, we are not freed from the responsibility of critically examining our culture and ourselves. No one is. So when some Anonymous boy says something as foolish as “I think black men are icky, but I’m totally not a racist for that,” it’s our duty to politely say, “Yes, ma’am, you are. I love you, but you are.”
We don’t need to run out and have sex with a person of every race like we’re trying to earn our “Egalitarian Lover” badge at the next troupe meeting. (Oh man, if the boy scouts gave out badges like that I might have lasted longer than two meetings.) But why draw a firm line in the sands of sex and love and declare that one type of person may not pass? Aren’t we just closing ourselves off to unfathomable possibilities.