When your partner isn’t black; he’s O.J.

Having a “woke” partner is a necessity. At least for me it is.

For starters, let’s address my first issue: I truly dislike the word “woke.” People who claim to be “woke” aren’t really “woke.” If you were smart enough, you wouldn’t have to announce it to the world. It’s as if you’re trying to over-compensate for something. Someone who is attractive doesn’t have to tell the world 9,600 times. If they did, we would all think, “What’s wrong with you? Are you trying to convince us or yourself?” And regardless, we don’t care if you’re smart. You should be smart. It should be a requirement in humanity, but seeing as to how our current national affairs are running, it’s clearly not a common thing.

My second issue is that the other group of “woke” people (besides those who are trying to reassure themselves that they’re so intelligent) tend to be those black cliques who only promote misrepresentations of black history just for the sake of outing the “white devil.” Their “wokeness” shows that they’re alive while the rest of us are shamelessly still sleeping on being kings and queens of Egypt. (Because, clearly, ALL black people are ONLY from Egypt.)

But for the purpose of this topic, we will continue to use “woke” to reference those who are in the know of their social, political, cultural, and economic surroundings.

Nonetheless, how do you handle someone in a relationship who is not “woke”? This person may be only acutely aware of what’s going on around them, but they do not delve deeply into any particular subject. And you, being an educated, conscious person, how do you handle conversations with this possible significant other? More importantly, does race play a deeper role in their level of “wokeness”?

Personally, I don’t know how we could ever progress into having a future if the person I was dating couldn’t engage in intellectual conversations. I need someone to mentally challenge me. I enjoy debates. Hell, I joined a debate society in college for fun on Friday evenings.

But despite being intellectually stimulated, I need to know that the person with whom I spend the majority of my time is there for me. For my sake. For my concerns. For matters that sincerely focus on me. How could this person allegedly care for me but not the issues that have the chance of dictating the rest of my life? Racial politics. Gender politics. Economic politics. Environmental politics. Even the simple argument of black students who went to HBCUs versus those of us who went to predominately-white institutions. Petty debate, but I’m still involved in the equation.

Dating men outside of my race, skin color, or cultural dynamic, naturally I’m always curious with their perception of who they think I am and who they want me to be. It’s not as if it’s something that I’m hoping for, but it’s me accepting the reality that everyone has some sort of preconceived notions. As a fair-skinned black woman, I’m paying attention to see if they view me for some sort of fantasy that they want to fulfill or if they truly see me without the visual. Could this person potentially take everything that comes along with me — the baggage in all forms. I’m a black woman, and with the way history is set up I’m going to be fucked up to a certain extent. There are certain aspects of life that I cannot deny.  But when dating men with whom I do not share a common background, I always wonder how empathetic they are to my racial-social history.

I think that any woman of color would experience this when dating outside of her race. It’s a given. No matter what, we’re used to a different status quo in a variety of ways — cooking, hair, skincare, language and dialect. And as welcoming as it is when a man of a different skin color welcomes our culture and melts within it, it’s frustrating when they nearly refuse to acknowledge that there are social differences. It’s even more heart-aching when they don’t care to do anything about it; obviously because it doesn’t pertain directly to them.

And I’ve dealt with this — a few times. Trying to explain to a man why I’m crying inside when I hear of continued police brutality while so many people turn the other way and accept the situations at hand. Because they truly believe that “blacks are more violent” and “we didn’t handle the cop in the correct manner.” But how can they understand that my heart is crying because I see my brother, father, uncles, cousins — myself — living in fear? The fact that I dread my nephew and future sons enduring the world that has become so crystal clear — to me, at least — and growing along with it?

And as much as this bothered me, to have to explain to a man why I’m upset, why we as a people have to run to catch up to others who have been walking their entire lives, it became more frustrating when I’d have to explain the same situation to a black man. A man who is supposed to share my history, my pain through ancestral degradation and triumph.

At least with a white man, I’m giving him a new book to read. He may not understand it, he may have to keep looking up new terms in the encyclopedia, and he probably doesn’t agree with it. But it’s a new concept and I’m forcing him to understand at least my point of view.

But my black man, why should I have to explain his own struggle to him?

And then for him to tell me that it’s a pointless story to tell?

It’s one thing for someone to be ignorant and unknowing, but another for someone to be stupid and deny the truth. As a black woman who has always been invested in politics and social movements, I’m vocal about my beliefs and want to be in relationships with people where we see eye-to-eye on major issues and discuss some sort of resolutions. Being proactive. Having debates with black men (as long as they do their research), I don’t mind it as much if we disagree. I will probably still think they’re out of touch if they swing too far on the right side, but at least they have formed some sort of an analysis on the facts at hand. But I should never have to tell my significant other what’s going on in his community what the last major presidential election was about (HOW THE HELL COULD YOU MISS IT) or the latest issue affecting communities of color.

A black man who refuses to acknowledge the truth of his surroundings was called an Uncle Tom during the Antebellum South. Unfortunately, he still exists. But now, he can get really cleaned up and take you to a fine dinner and wine tasting on Friday night. But can he explain his viewpoint on the discrepancy between the current widespread heroin epidemic in comparison to the massive crack cocaine addictions of the 1980s-90s?

I would get so frustrated when trying to explain my emotional heritage in relation to racial politics to men outside of my race who seemed more judgmental. They wanted to understand, but I could tell that there was still some level of criticism as if they were grading how black people formed our way in American life. Then, I would take a step back and have, maybe, 30 percent of that conversation with some black men and realized that I’d be better off teaching a class of white students on African-American history. 

Where have we gone in our society that we still fight so hard to be black in our music, fashion and beauty trends, entertainment, and household dynamics, but we neglect the groundwork to prosper above our statuses during Jim Crow era? Is it not important anymore because black billionaires and politicians exist? Is it not a necessity because we now live our lives individually for ourselves alone? Or do we think we’re O.J. now?

The color of a man’s skin should not dictate the social politics that he knows. However, his source of receiving them will definitely be skewed. I always felt that when dating a white man, I’d have to teach him my history and who I am before I was. Before my mother was. And her mother. And her mother.

But trying to instill the same information on a black man comes across as if I’m taking one step forward and two steps back. I can’t wake him up if he wants to keep taking cat naps.

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