Loving white American men is like eating melon: it is exactly what I want until I put it in my mouth and recall its insistent, aggressive blandness. Even when they are cruel, they are casual. One white man told me that, before me, he’d always found black vaginas “kind of disgusting.” Another made a joke about me being like “a bitch in heat.” The one I thought I’d marry said he couldn’t love me because I was a “downlooker” and he was an “uplooker.”
The very worst thing a white man ever said was nothing. We were visiting his family, sitting around the kitchen table, talking about urban wildlife—possums, cougars, squirrels, that sort of thing. His stepsister told a story: her boyfriend had been hanging out in their backyard when he suddenly shouted for her to bring his shotgun.
“But it was just a raccoon.”
What had he thought it was?
“Oh,” she said. “A black man.” She turned to me. “No offense.”
Heat in my ears, I looked down at my plate, intently cutting a carrot. The conversation moved on. My boyfriend’s mother apologized later, in private. My boyfriend explained on the car ride home why he couldn’t say anything: this was new family—his mother had only just remarried—and he didn’t want to start a fight. He was the “wokest” white guy I’d ever dated. He wrote punk songs about Palestine, short stories about Mexican kids. One time we went to a wedding between a black woman and a white man. I opined behind my hand that it felt super white—a Penguin Classics theme? No Electric Slide? My boyfriend lost his shit. Said I had insulted his friends, wouldn’t talk to me for hours, made us leave early. I am their wrong fruit too. I am exactly what they want until I am not.