Black people are standing up and demanding to be seen and to matter in ways I have read about in history books but have never experienced in my lifetime. Whether we are talking about #themovementforblacklives or #sayhername, as a community we are requiring that our full humanity not only be recognized but that safe spaces be created for the expression of that full humanity—whether good, bad or ugly.
Of course, Black folks’ petition to take up space extends to the police who take oaths to serve and protect us, and the political leaders who are responsible for enacting legislation that will hold those who oppress and abuse us responsible, but our demands must also extend to those who claim to love us.
This notion of loving Black people radically is not a new concept, and loving Black people radically means more than just sexing us, partnering with us or even creating family structures with us. It means bearing witness to our struggles and our pain; it means transforming silence into action regarding those struggles and that pain. Because we all know that silence often means complicity, and we’re out here trying to get all-the-way free.
In an essay published on medium.com titled “Stop Having Sex With Black People,” Iesha Mason gets to the root of loving Black people radically (especially with regard to interracial dating and specifically Whites who date Blacks). She writes:
“I have noticed a trend of white people who like to have sex with black people but never actually show their solidarity with black people when s*** gets real. It’s like they can f*** us unapologetically but can’t stand up and speak out for us unapologetically. Frankly, I’m sick of it. I’m sick of seeing my white friends with mixed babies ignoring the racist realities of this country that are plaguing the black community. I’m sick of white people fetishizing black bodies when they’re laying up with them and then continuing to objectify black bodies as they lay bleeding in the streets due to a trigger happy racial profiling cop by justifying that officer’s actions. Or just completely ignoring the tragedy altogether.”
To be clear, it’s not only Whites who desire Black bodies in their beds without being outwardly concerned about what happens to similar Black bodies in the streets; many other races of men and women stand for anti-Blackness while laying with Black bodies, too. Mason’s thesis is clear: Keep your hands to yourself if you can’t use those hands to uplift Black people in our ongoing struggle for liberation. Don’t use your voice to tell Black folk how beautiful they are if you can’t also use that voice to champion our cause of Black lives mattering. Otherwise, non-Black people dating and mating with Black people are showing us that they can only commit to loving parts of us, but not all of us. And in the words of Mama Toni Morrison, “Thin love ain’t love at all.”
I absolutely stand with Mason’s demand that Whites (and I’d add other people of color) stop loving us thinly. It is why, while I don’t object to interracial dating, I would require any non-Black person I’d date to be anti-racist, to do more than hint at not being racist or being “colorblind.”
Author extraordinaire Marlon James does an excellent job of breaking down the difference between being nonracist and being anti-racist here; get into it. And while we’re at it, let’s recognize conversations about colorblindness as what they are: violent erasure. Erasure of Black people’s lived experiences and our hopes for a better, brighter future. No Black person in this country, whether president of the United States, homeless or anyone in between, can live their lives believing in colorblindness. Therefore, any allusions to colorblindness from non-Black people is an exercise of a privilege that Black people can’t afford, and it’s bullsh*t.
But it is also our responsibility as Black people to pay close attention to the people we choose to date and form relationships with, and insist that those people stand in solidarity with us during our fight for true emancipation. Gone are the days when Black people should shy away from public (and personal) conversations about race, White supremacy and politics—because someone as dangerous and vile as Donald Trump is, for real, a presidential nominee in this country with a serious and peculiar chance of winning it all.
The fight that we are engaged in is debilitating and exhausting. We want to truly believe that in 2016, we are a post-racial nation. In the same way, we want to believe that because a person outside our community might sleep with us (and even marry and have children with us) it means that person couldn’t possibly be racist. We are trained, like everyone else, to believe that racists wear white sheets and brag about killing unarmed children, but that simply isn’t true.
If you are a Black person sleeping with a non-Black person who refuses to call Trump the insufferable bigot that he is, or a non-Black person who petitions that #alllivesmatter or #bluelivesmatter as a retort to the current Black struggle for human rights, you are sleeping with the enemy—or in the least someone who is an enemy of Black progress.
Is calling non-Black people who sleep with Black people but do not stand up for causes that support Black lives extreme? Maybe. But we live in extreme times. Black folks, stop having sex with non-Black people who refuse to see you fully.