by Raissa Simone
This past summer, Miley Cyrus paraded across the VMA stage in a teddy bear onesie, bent-over, tongue-out, and with butt rattling against the crotch of Robin Thicke, who was decked out in wears-sunglasses-indoors-
Cyrus’ racism looked like the racism I experienced in my relationships over the course of the summer. It looked like the consumption, the spitting out, the entitlement that bewildered me. Though no stranger to poor treatment in relationships, this summer was my ‘last-straw’ summer, and it left me certain of what I already knew: that as effortlessly as Cyrus had demeaned that woman, my body would also be demeaned in my relationships with white people.
A part of my willingness to continue pursuing these relationships was pure demographics; very, very few PoC live in my small city, especially at the small, mostly white university where I study. But, it wasn’t only that. I had become deeply used to seeking the validation of white people – intellectually, romantically, and otherwise. Acclimating myself meant internalizing the racist reality around me, namely that these white people were the best arbiters of my worth. And within these relationships, I would often receive confirmation of my desirability while being demeaned at the same time. I reached a point where I gave up, believing that power imbalances in intimate relationships would always manifest and prove to be unforgivable.
In July, a white Italian guy in a two-piece rock band I’d seen at a show that night clutched my ass on the street without permission, pushed me against a wall, and urged me to go home with him. With his hand pushing into the back of my jeans, he growled in my ear, “You have such a great ass.” In August, a white guy I’d been sleeping with saw me at a crowded party. As I was leaving, he hugged me goodbye, and as I turned to walk away, he whipped his hand across my ass. Incredulous, I looked back and caught his drunk, self-satisfied grin as I passed through the door. A week afterwards, my white male friend sat with me in a pub and whispered to me about how he’d always wanted to fuck me. I politely pushed him away and steered the conversation elsewhere. He soon left, and while I was still at the pub he called to tell me he’d broken into my house, saying he “wouldn’t do that for just anyone.”
I’ve given up on believing that violence won’t be a part of these relationships. That somehow, with enough conversation, enough exerted effort, some magical white person will understand racism, will understand power, but I wanted them to. Bizarrely, self-destructively, I wanted these people with more power than me to understand – and more importantly, to validate – the existence of that power. As though it could only be real if affirmed from a white mouth. I’ve now given up believing that Cyrus’ gleeful smack wasn’t a metaphor for my relationships with people who hold more power than me, that as easily as a country-bred pop princess could jerk her body around a stage and swat the ass of a black woman, my white lovers could – and would – ignore the sanctity of my consent, my love, and let’s be real: my ass. I’m an unfriendly black hottie because I’m tired. I’m tired of expecting to be treated well, only to inevitably receive poor treatment. I’m tired of asking for better. I’m tired of hoping. I’m tired of watching my friends, other people of color, hoping with the same wish in their eyes.
Do not teach these lovers how to humanize you; they have never humanized you. Do not teach them the depth of your worth or the heights of your kindness and how many ‘benefits of the doubt’ you’re willing to offer them. Your strength is as foreign to them as your skin; they’ll rub against it several times and still never know it. I learned that I will always be groped, always be left for white girls, always be invaded, and then ultimately told to always be grateful. If there was speculation, or a cautious generosity, this has been my ugly proof of the impossibility of that generosity.
I learned how close white hands were always to my ass. I learned how close touch and fucking and desirability always are, and how far love always is. And I’ve been wanting love so badly, with my gut and my teeth, with my fingers out like kites; with my whole, dark tender body, and with my whole wound. I have been dusting myself over so much white skin and onto so many cocks, like I’ll always be in the air, always here to reach to, and always so untogether and unrooted. Like by being a ghost, I’ll become more white, and eventually, more lovable. Like if I could get closer to the surface of something real and then ocean-out – expanding and expanding because in love, we just want to be larger. And now, I’ve been spread over so many people that I can barely see myself. A horizon body without eyes. I have trusted so hard and so raw and so swollen and with heart well-stitched on sleeve. And I’m done.
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