The first hiccup was so innocuous that it only revealed itself to be a hiccup with the benefit of hindsight. We'd been dating for a few weeks when she asked, "How were you even single? You're a good-looking black man with a really good job. You should've had a girl in every city."

"I don't know. I guess I'm just not that smooth."

"Not the smoothest, but smooth enough to be trouble."

"Girl, I'm not trouble. I'm innocent. Can't you see my halo?" The conversation pretty much descended into laughter at that point. At the time I didn't interpret the question as being particularly racial. I was ten years younger than my peers at work, and I rarely encountered any other black people of any age with a similar position. 

But my interpretation of that conversation changed when I received a forward from her a few months later.

But my interpretation of that conversation changed when I received a forward from her a few months later. Her forwards were nearly always dirty jokes, so when the comment was "you'll really like this," I presumed it either just another dirty joke or more "shoppers of Wal-Mart" pictures.  

What it actually was was a list of stereotypes and grossly exaggerated statistics about black people and education, intelligence, criminality, and laziness. It wrapped up by noting that black people "enjoy" life like this. As in "what people need to understand is that the problems black people have aren't a product of racism, they're the product of being from an inferior culture."

I struggled to grasp why she'd sent this to me. Was this some sort of weird congratulations for having "transcended" my race, or a messed-up way to break up with me?

When I got to her place to discuss the e-mail I wasn't in the best of moods. When she tried to kiss me, I pulled away from her, and we wound up arguing in her kitchen. 

"I really just don't understand how you could send something that racist to me. Did you really think I wouldn't find that e-mail offensive? How can you even say you care for me with a straight face if you're sending me stuff like that?" 

"Don't say that! You know I love you. The e-mail wasn't offensive — it was sad. Black people don't have to live like that, they could choose..."

I cut her off and held up my hand, wiggling my fingers at her. "Um, you do know I'm black, right?"

"I know, but you're different. You're educated and you have a good job. I don't really see you as black."

That was a twist of the knife. I'd been told all my life (by blacks and whites) that I wasn't "really black," either due to my clothes, the way I speak, the way I grew up. Was this the inevitable conclusion? I wind up dating women who are racist, but don't see me as black? Just a white guy with curly hair who doesn't need sunscreen?  

"That's nonsense," I snapped. "Black is the color of my skin, not my education and income. Either way, I don't understand why you thought you could send me something like that."

"I wasn't trying to hurt you. The e-mail wasn't racist — it was just stating facts."

"You do realize this is the same kind of garbage that the KKK would say, right? The same type of language and everything?"

"Come on, you know I'm not like that! It may be similar language, but you know I'm not a racist."

Her last statement threw me for a few beats, not because of her words, but because of the look in her eyes. She looked hurt. It was a bizarre thing to process — the racist girlfriend is supposed to be the one who doesn't want people to know, someone who gets off on the fetish or taboo aspect of the situation. You're not supposed to see hurt in her eyes when you confront her. She's not supposed to be afraid of losing you.

"No matter how you spin it, calling people inferior because of their race — not to mention saying I'm not black because I'm educated — is racist, period. I don't think I can be with someone like you. I can't be in a situation like this."

She tried to reach out to me. "Please don't say that. You know how I feel about you — can't we just forget..."

"No, I can't do this. I just can't."

She started to cry, and I instinctively reached out to comfort her. But she backed away from me and shook her head, walking over to the stove and turning away from me so I couldn't see her face.

I had always thought that if I wound up in a situation like this it would be easy to leave, but people are complicated, and it's hard to separate the layers we love from the layers that repulse us. I'd wanted us to have a bitter confrontation that would confirm my worst fears about our relationship, reduce her to a racist caricature, and end with my triumphant exit. Instead, I found myself standing awkwardly in her kitchen, struggling to reconcile the fact that this racist person was also a kind woman who loved me. Taren had one of the biggest hearts I've ever seen on anyone. But I still wasn't going to compromise myself for her, no matter how much it hurt to lose the side of her that I cared about.

I hate admitting this, but I took two steps towards her, stopped myself, and then turned around and let myself out.

Tags Breakups

Commentarium (216 Comments)

Mar 02 12 - 1:30am

Good for you.

That can't have been easy--at all. But leaving her took courage. And it's funny how blatantly racist some people will be while not recognizing themselves as such--as if racism only consists of KKK cross-burnings, and hate crimes perpetrated by skinheads in the deep south. So many people--too many--justify their thoughts, and vocalize them, when they believe they've found the exception to the rule.

Sincerely, someone who's heard the very similar lines from well-meaning (in their eyes) white people.

Mar 03 12 - 3:32am

I think that Markham didn't have enough love blossom, in his heart, to stay in the relationship, before the relationship was sorely tested. Yes, the KKK isn't the only form of racism. The most racist reactions I have seen, regarding interracial dating, (NYC) were from "black" men towards "white" men dating "black" women. Perhaps that has changed, as that occurred in the early 90's.

Until we realize there is no black or white, just different shades of brown, emotional hurt and inequality will continue. Even the whitest person is capable of tanning (excepting Albinos?), and the blackest is just really dark brown. It helps me seeing the supposed duality as a continuum of one color. Being of Brasilian heritage, moving to upstate NY, where I turned very white in the winters, and now living in the SW, where I am tanned year round, I believe this to be true. Evolutionary science says pigmentation from "black" to "white", or vice versa, can happen within 200 generations, depending on latitude position.

Markham that was a great article. My advice, as another fallible human, it to forgive her, but I understand if you don't.

Mar 02 12 - 1:35am

wow. great

Mar 02 12 - 2:06am

I seriously hate that. The "I don't see you as black, but then I'm going to make obviously racist comments and claim I'm not racist" people who do that, and claim they care are lying to themselves and me, because I will always be black and they'll always be ignorant.

Mar 05 12 - 6:14am

Yup. I've had that happen to me I'm bi-racial and yup. Just last month, I foind out my (now ex) boyfriend from Italy was racist. He came to visit me in St. Louis and wanted to leave because he couldn't understand why black people were walking around. Like, on the street. He said "I'm Europa and we keep people separate."

Mar 05 12 - 4:56pm

In the absence of hurtful, racist claims, I think that this "forgetting" happens in most trans-racial close relationships. I'm white, and a Mexican/Peruvian friend of mine once gently reminded me that she wasn't white (I don't remember the context but I think I was complaining about white group thought, and she looked at me quizzically and gave me the reminder). I also had a tight network of Asian friends in college, and they would routinely make white people jokes in front of me, only for their eyes to grow big and for them to gasp that they had forgotten I was white. (Note, not forgotten that I was there. Forgotten that I was white.) Because none of these comments were awful, it all seemed like an amusing quirk of the human brain: those people we really love, we perceive to be like us. But I agree that it's also an excellent way for underlying prejudices to reveal themselves, if they're there.

Mar 09 12 - 2:43pm

This is just so weird to read. And tough to digest. It seems that this woman was more ignorant than racist. That she didn't understand the depth of what she had done. I am white and I have dated lots of different people in my life, black men and white men included. I gasped when I read this. It would be like dating someone only to receive a Nazi-like email from them (I'm Jewish). Ugh. I would have to leave, too I guess. Real dissonance. In any case, I love men, period. I see them as men. But I respect who they are and where they come from. I can't imagine saying to a person, "you aren't really black." Sigh. Tough call Markahm but a good one. Cheers.

Mar 02 12 - 2:21am

Good for you for leaving.

Mar 02 12 - 2:58am

Fantastic, I know exactly how you feel. The irony is I was a black woman dating white men in Wisconsin when this type of situation occurred.

Mar 02 12 - 3:00am

I meant to say: fantastic piece and well written. Not fantastic that it happened.

Mar 02 12 - 3:27am

This piece broke my heart a little. Thank you for writing it.

Mar 02 12 - 6:48am

It made me really sad.

Mar 05 12 - 4:39pm

Ditto again. Holy crap. My heart breaks for the author, but this was truly beautiful writing.

Mar 02 12 - 3:27am
Calamity Kate

If she honestly had no intention of hurting you, as the story says, then she's guilty of ignorance. She hit a spot that was obviously an issue for you..."I'd been told all my life (by blacks and whites) that I wasn't "really black,"... unknowingly. And you drew a line in the sand, which is your right. But I don't see this girl being that important to you, if this was your first conversation about race and it ended this badly...

Mar 02 12 - 4:47am

If she were ignorant about an abstract concept or a fact of the world, that would be one thing. But to be ignorant and in denial of the total life experience of one you are dating is, I think, a complete deal breaker.

Jun 06 12 - 3:12pm

I agree with Calamity Jane

Mar 02 12 - 3:36am
You should

hate admitting that you slunk out the door. What a huge, huge missed opportunity! I guess you couldn't get past your own self-absorption long enough to wonder if she was more ignorant than racist. You saw the hurt in her eyes, and very clearly understood, at least in hindsight, that she sincerely had no conception of how offensive the email was. Um, teachable moment? You tossed what sounds like a good, loving relationship. For what? Your momentary pride? If she's half the woman you say, she's certainly capable of learning something about racism. "Middle of nowhere Wisconsin." That's pretty homogenized up there, and I don't mean the milk, though the color fits. And I don't mean that orange crap they put in the cheese.

Mar 02 12 - 5:06am

because its his responsibility to teach white people not to be racist.

Mar 02 12 - 5:28am

Sorry, but I kind of agree. If the relationship was otherwise perfect, and the harmful deed was done unintentionally, then it was a shame to break it up. The true test of love is if you can survive your first major blowout; and everyone ends up, at one point or another in a LTR, saying something that comes out horribly offensive, whether race is involved or not. It's a shame this otherwise amazing relationship couldn't get past unintentional hurt/ ignorance.

Mar 02 12 - 5:44am

It's not about responsibility.... it's about love.... don't colour it that way (pun intended).... I grew up in Ireland in the 70s and also had absolutely no exposure to people of other races growing up...... it's more about ignorance than malice....... I have no experience of what educated black people experience when they hear this back-handed compliments that are rooted in ignorance..... though I do remember living in London in the late 80s and being complimented on the fact that I spoke with a well-educated voice (I do voice overs)... and being told that they didn't consider me to be if that was a f**king compliment..... ignorant assholes..... and I stress the word ignorant.....not mean or nasty....

Mar 02 12 - 10:18am

First off, fantastic piece of writing. Second, I definitely see both sides of this coin. If couples can forgotten birthdays, carelessness, even cheating, etc....why couldn't he forgive this one slip-up? That said, I definitely see where he was coming from and I think he made the right decision. Her big problem wasn't just the was the denials and explanation after the email. At that point, it transforms from a small hurdle in a relationship, to a pretty big character flaw.

Mar 02 12 - 10:20am

there's supposed to be a "forgive" in there

Mar 02 12 - 11:59am

I don't think it has much to do with "this one slip-up" in particular, but how revealing it was of her general opinions towards black people. The bottom line is she truly was a racist, who believed lots of damaging stereotypes about black people and was only capable of loving the writer by seeing him as not really black. Yes, there was probably ignorance and not cruelty behind her beliefs, but it was not his responsibility to go the extra mile to try to convert a racist.

Mar 02 12 - 12:44pm
Spook Juice

I agree with "nope." Perhaps I'm pessimistic but I don't think there's much hope of enlightening people like this woman. Though they may be able to humanize the "exceptional negro," they still have deep-seated bias against folks who aren't like them. Think of having to go through life with such a person and always having to be qualified in order to justify your worthiness in being with her: "He's not like (other black people)." "My, but he's so articulate!"

If she has that attitude, likely the rest of her family would harbor similar sentiments, and he could never have been completely at ease around them. And she would have a problem with his family and friends is they weren't 100% benign, devoid-of-any-hint-of-ghetto black people ("Is the rest of your family like you? How did you get like this?"). I've had non-black people (sincerely) look upon me with astonishment that I was not the thug-life stereotype they expected, quizzed as though I had some privileged upbringing in order to be intelligent and speak so...articulately (that word always carries a note of condescension when some white people are assessing black people).

The writer had no responsibility to educate her more than he did by being a decent human being; that should have been enough to show her that her premise was flawed. His life with her would have been hell - any conflict between them, any anger on his part, would have been perceived as an instance of him "acting his color." The attitude is what I refer to as The Default Setting in such people. Good that he walked away, and I can only hope he never encounters another person like her (although I know better than to think it won't happen).

P.S. - Fuck you, sigtunafish.

Mar 02 12 - 12:49pm
Spook Juice

Typo correction: she would have a problem with his family and friends IF they weren't 100% benign, devoid-of-any-hint-of-ghetto black people

Mar 02 12 - 1:01pm

yea white women, white people don't like being called racist. if they just own up to it and actually sit and think about what is offensive is better than denying it and then crying about it to flip the blame and making you think yr inconsiderate for calling them out, because they are so sensitive and didn't mean any harm. yes. white women love to cry when being called out on their shit and then yr supposed to feel bad for them. some feminists of color articulated this better than these here words.

Mar 02 12 - 2:16pm

Well said, Spook Juice. It's pretty unbelievable that the burden is being placed on him in this situation. And your one point about how knowing him and loving him should have been enough to make her change, or at least question, her world view is completely on point and the heart of the matter, in my opinion.

Mar 02 12 - 8:14pm

Indeed, aa, the "crying white woman" phenomenon, which I think we can see playing out very nicely within this comment section. White woman says something racist, person of color calls her out on it, white woman starts crying and all sympathy is directed towards the white woman. Goes back to a long, racist/sexist cultural history of treating white women like fragile princesses/children whose needs and feelings come first in every situation.

Mar 03 12 - 5:45am

I am so amused by all these "nice white people"who would consider a partner's love for Britney Spears a dealbreaker but a partner who is an ignorant racist? You crazy kids can totally work it out! What the fucking fuck? Part of the reason the "teachable moment" idea is such bullshit is because of the blindly defensive reactions illustrated in this comment section

Mar 03 12 - 8:10am

The person who wrote this story is a prideful monster with no compassion for the ignorant.
The young women doesn't know how lucky she is to have avoided someone like this.

Beliefs, like sexuality, are not voluntary. They are born from the character of our unique experiences. She was no more responsible for her beliefs than he was for the color of his skin.

Mar 03 12 - 9:22am

@NN: Bullshit. Absolute fucking bullshit. Only true for young children. As soon as you are able to think and process independently and critically you have no excuse for being a racist.

And furthermore, I have no idea how not wanting to be with someone who fundamentally disrespects a part of your identity makes you a "prideful monster." Even if her beliefs were completely involuntary (which, again, bullshit) there is no reason he should have to subjugate his hopes for a fulfilling relationship so that she might learn something. His life and time and feelings and needs are not secondary to hers.

Mar 03 12 - 10:21pm

Any commitment to anti-racism includes an obligation to educate. She wasn't his to abandon yet.

Mar 04 12 - 1:31pm

Regardless, he has every right to not want to date someone he has to educate about racism. I mean, I don't even want to educate someone I date about how to use and iron or cook a meal. I'm a teacher for a living, I don't want to date students.

Mar 05 12 - 11:07pm
gd anon

Being black doesn't mean you have an obligation to teach white people everything about your culture. It's one thing to say he could have tried to teach her, but I've had white friends who expect me to advocate for hip hop at every party, made out with girls who wanted to call me "my N-word" for the night, and am regularly asked if I play basketball. Educating people is work. A relationship, when done right, should not be an emotional drain like that. Consenting to be with someone doesn't necessary mean that you have to accept them fetishizing or mocking your heritage.

Mar 11 12 - 11:46am

Perfectly put, gd anon. I'm sorry you've had such fucked-up experiences, especially the girls with "jungle fever." That is motherfucking humiliating, and 100% not your fault. That's coming from a bisexual, biracial Asian/white girl who not only fights stereotyping when dating (especially men) but who fights it even more when female friends don't understand why it's a problem that people think I'm a "hot commodity." I'm actually a person, not a commodity at all, and don't want to be treated like some sort of exotic imported delicacy. I was born in Omaha, for fuck's sake. Friends will JOKE about it, and that's fine if it's clear that they get it, but when white girls are genuinely jealous that someone wants to objectify me, I search fervently under the couch for both feminism and racial understanding. It's got to be here somewhere.

I'm behind Markham all the way, too. It's not his job to teach this girl, even if and especially since she didn't get it. Obviously she's not a bad person overall, but none of us has to date everyone who isn't Hitler. The fact that she resisted so fervently Markham's points about the problems with her email demonstrate that he wasn't about to get anywhere with her, on the "educating" or the relationship. The irony is, if she's got any kind of learning curve in the brain behind her pretty white face, she probably spent weeks or months in the time she was grieving over the loss of the relationship realizing that she had been in the wrong. If she didn't realize that, all the better he got away from her.

Mar 02 12 - 3:55am

It's tough to learn that good people can have terrible prejudices. I had a kind, giving, creative friend who I eventually learned was pretty homophobic (whereas I'm a staunch supporter of gay rights and marriage equality), and it was a big shock to me. It's not as emotional a situation, but I know it's a surprising lesson to learn. It just makes me wish (naively) that good people could be good all the way through. Sorry for your experience. I think you were right to leave her. It's not about momentary pride, it's about a disconnect with what racism actually is and the effect it has had on you/people that you care about/a group you feel connected with. I think that's a big deal.

Mar 11 12 - 11:50am

I once had a big stinkin' crush on a guy and was out with him and others at a bar. It was clearly mutual, he was vibing me big time, and he was getting his ass taken home with me until he started arguing against gay marriage. That night, he married his own male hand, at least as far as I was concerned.

Mar 02 12 - 5:16am

What a self-righteous prick. That was a teachable moment. Taren didn't WANT to be a racist, she just didn't know any better. Whom did she grow up around? Where did she get her news? Who was going to explain to her what racism actually is? If someone so great to be with and with such a big heart came at me with something like that, something so inconsistent with everything else about her, it would have been worth an hour or two of my time to at least TRY to straighten her out. Odds are Taren would have said, "Oh, my God. I am so sorry. I had never looked at it that way before."

She's better off without someone so judgmental, so unwilling to listen and so unforgiving. Oh, and I'm SURE the self-righteous prick has never in his life said anything sexist. Or made any unkind generalizations about white people. Riiiiiight.

Everyone needs forgiveness sometimes. Everyone.

Mar 02 12 - 5:48am

Wow.... visste inte att det var så klokt folk från Sigtuna :-) (didn't know there were such sensible people from Sigtuna )

Mar 02 12 - 2:29pm

As a woman, I can appreciate what you're saying about whether or not the author was ever guilty of sexism but frankly I think you're WAY oversimplifying in order to make your point. Realizing that one holds sexist/racist/homophobic or any other of the many biases one can hold in this world is almost inescapable. We're all culpable of this to a certain degree.

However, occasionally catching oneself in a sexist or racist thought at times is in no way the same as being enough of a damn true believer in one's bias as to send the email she sent. If you really believe that "an hour or two" of talking with this person would have resulted in her transforming her racist beliefs then I think you're being very naive. She'd been living in an urban center, not Wis. And I know many people, myself included, whose families hold beliefs we don't share because we used critical thought and ethics in examining issues i/o just having a knee-jerk acceptance to whatever one's family/community believes.

Mar 02 12 - 5:35pm

What on earth?? Why the FUCK do you have to be a "true believer" in racism to forward that bullshit email?

It sounds to me like a scared, raised-racist midwestern girl fell in love with a black man and had to do some mental gymnastics to rectify it. The fact that the Author of this piece could have corrected her assumptions about blacks in just a few months of uncomfortable work, eliminated a racist from the world (AND kept a woman he loved around) makes this a boilerplate overreaction.

I've had a mexican friend of 2 years stop talking to me for one racist sentence (that neither of us remembered 2 hours later). It was fucking GARBAGE and this article is no different.

Mar 02 12 - 6:09pm

Thanks for putting in that last sentence. It was honest. And it also explains the rest of your rant quite nicely.

Mar 02 12 - 7:42pm

She is a grown ass woman, she should know that suggesting that everyone from a particular race is supposed to be poor and uneducated IS racist, it isn't his job to teach her that.

Mar 02 12 - 8:17pm

"A few months of uncomfortable work"? Do you hear yourself? She was his girlfriend, not his charity project/child/student/whatever. They are supposedly a relationship of equals where both people get something out of the relationship. It is seriously unbelievable that people expect him to ignore his needs and feelings for the benefit of a racist woman that broke his heart.

Mar 02 12 - 11:14pm

"I've had a mexican friend of 2 years stop talking to me for one racist sentence (that neither of us remembered 2 hours later)."

Can't shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding.

Mar 03 12 - 6:07pm

Let's be clear here, I don't remember saying anything in the slightest. Nobody who was with us did either.

If you're really willing to sacrifice months of a meaningful relationship for once incident, that's fucked up. Racism isn't some super-special mistake that instantly terminates every good thing you've ever done.

Mar 04 12 - 7:52pm

didn't sound like it was 'one incident' from reading the piece. Racism is racism, it's vile, and if you've ever had to live with it in most spheres of your life then the thought of it infecting the person you're supposed to be sharing your soul with is unthinkable. It's obvious that you see racism as The Other Guy's Petty Problem, so you just don't get it.

Mar 11 12 - 11:59am

Indeed, mercury, nope, and KS. If my only experience of white people were the ranting of the Markham-is-an-asshole-for-not-taking-this-girl's-shit crowd, I'd be tempted to start an email forward about how all white people are ignorant and want blanket immunity from it, except I know this not to be true since I've actually bothered to talk to many of them about race, mutual understanding, and many of them do get it within a few minutes because THEY LISTEN, including my own mother (who, despite having been married to my Asian dad for nearly four decades and raising my brother and me, didn't understand how people perceived us until we told her). Taryn's resistance to the education Markham tried to give her initially shows that she had/has a long road to understanding ahead of her, and those "few months of uncomfortable work" would be better spent grieving, moving on, and meeting women who weren't racist.

Mar 02 12 - 6:28am
mr. man

The author struggled with the contradiction of loving this person who also had deeply rooted ideas about race that surely came from her upbringing. But that was a very deep cut she gave him, even though she didn't seem to realize it. His walking away was surely a powerful lesson to her for the future. We don't have to say whether it's right or wrong; that doesn't matter. Either way both people learned things that hopefully help them in the future. A moving story.

Mar 02 12 - 6:34am

it seemed like this girl is ignorant and not racist. this could have been a good opportunity to teach about her own stereotypes. however not everyone wants to do the teaching with their emotions, which I suspect why the guy left

Mar 02 12 - 1:57pm

I'm Asian and, like the author, I've dealt with ridic stereotypes most of my life too. It's not my job to educate some racist who really thinks they're not racist. I can choose to, or I can choose to walk away. Just like you can choose to stay with a parter with bad BO or who snores, or who watches too much TV, or has friends you hate, or you can just call it a deal-breaker and move on. Some gulfs are just too wide to bridge, and if someone is an adult, now living in a multicultural city (regardless of their original upbringing), yet they hold on to ridiculous and offensive stereotypes, maybe they are either A/ stupid, B/willfully racist after all.

Mar 02 12 - 2:34pm

Stokely, I was thinking the same thing re: that she now lives in a more cosmopolitan area and that despite her big job is either dumb or absolutely a racist. I get tired of hearing about how it's just "ignorance." This is a person who clearly had a decent education and who was now living in an urban center. My vote is that she has deeply entrenched racist feeling s that would not be easily let go of. And as Spook Juice so brilliantly pointed out, (and I'm paraphrasing) if knowing him wasn't enough for her to at least question herself about race issues, she's a lost cause.

Mar 02 12 - 7:06am

I don't think the problem was her being racist, but her denying up and down that the email she sent was racist. If we are in a romantic relationship, and I tell you your manner offends, it is your duty to take my word for it and apologize (even if you think I am being silly or overly sensitive). What if the script was flipped, and he sent her some email about how women are inherently weaker or less smart than men (or was pro the transvag abortion ultrasounds)? If he got all up in arms about how he wasn't sexist she would have dumped his butt, rightfully so.

Mar 02 12 - 7:45am

Good point..... we don't have the benefit of hearing the conversation they had about it..... maybe her attitude made him conclude she was a lost cause..... still I find it hard to believe that she would deny the feelings of someone she obviously cared so much about...... oh and this was a fantastic piece by the way...

Mar 02 12 - 2:52pm

Have you had a lot of relationships, IB? Because from what I've experienced of my own and my loved ones' it seems that most problems stem from just that: one person being defensive and/or denying the others' feelings. And it has nothing to do with love and caring, and everything to do with the inability to face oneself's issues.

Mar 02 12 - 8:54pm

Gee... what's a lot? :-) I'm 42 divorced with children. And yes I have had a lot of relationships.... enough to know that in the heat of the moment the writer could easily have gotten himself into a state on the way home, filled with a lot of memories of things that had nothing to do with the girl...... that one can react to what one imagines the other person is saying and that later when you calm down and really listen .... that you realise you projected your own issues on to them .... unfairly..... and that really meant something quite different..... - it all hinges on what went down in that kitchen and I know enough about relationships and arguments to know that you need to hear both sides....

Mar 02 12 - 9:04pm

You completely missed my point. The point I made is that unfortunately people very often deny and/or become very defensive in the face of their loved ones feelings. Something you said you didn't think someone who cared about another would do. My point is that people most often do it with their loved ones because they simply care the most about those relationships.

Mar 03 12 - 3:13am

I think I understand.... one can act differently when it means more, and especially when you suspect you're somewhat in the wrong..... overly defending something that in other circumstances you wouldn't..... I've certainly done it.... But we are talking about two different things, I'll give you that....

Mar 02 12 - 7:15am

Ugh. This fantastically well-written piece left me with a lump in my throat. I can´t imagine anything more surprising or heartbreaking - I´ve experienced my fair share of racism living in a country where the Inuit people are stereotyped as a drunken lot, and the women additionally have a reputation for being easy. A very, very tiring thing to have to fend off again and again. But at least, when one expects it, it is easier to tackle. When racism comes from someone you least expect it from, it really breaks your heart every time you think about it for a long time after.

Mar 02 12 - 7:53am

Goes to prove that the greatest distance in the Universe is between a man/woman heart and his/hers mind.

Mar 02 12 - 9:55am

"You keep it up/ You try so hard/ To keep a life from coming apart/ And never know/ The shallows and the unseen reefs that are there from the start/ In the shape of a heart..."

Mar 02 12 - 11:25am

As a black woman whose rarely around other black people due to my career, it's amazing how many people I encounter just like the author's girlfriend. People who mean well but are highly offensive. It is exhausting to be a teacher, and take advantage of 'teachable moments' all the time. Because its a necessity in the professional word, like the author, I would not tolerate it in my personal life. Also, oftentimes, when I try to argue against these stereotypes, the most common reply is, "well you're different though."

Mar 02 12 - 11:30am

Brilliant response to all that "teachable moment" malarkey.

Mar 02 12 - 1:03pm

I'm very interested in your take on this, Yatti. I can imagine that it gets very tiring indeed to always be the teacher. Yet, the only way that racism is going to go away is if there is more day-to-day integration among people of all races. It might seem unfair that you have to be on the spot constantly, but think of it this way: your teaching is one small step towards a better world. We can't all be MLK, but we can do what our place in the world allows us to do.

That's one reason why I'm in the "teachable moment" camp regarding this story. It was one episode, one time. Sure, if the author had done his "teaching" over and over again and she just never learned, that's a good reason to dump her. But what kind of deep-down-true racist dates a guy of a different race and gets along with him so well for so long?

Racism is just long-term ignorance. The more we do to reduce that ignorance, the better. I don't think dumping her served that purpose.

Mar 02 12 - 1:11pm
Spook Juice

Sorry - she had her "learnable moment" when he broached the subject of the e-mail with her. She denied any wrongdoing. Case closed.

Mar 02 12 - 2:39pm

Meola, I'm sorry to say that from what I've seen in the world many racists, of all colors, date outside their ethnicity for the thrill of breaking their own taboo. It does not absolve them of being a racist, in many ways, it only reinforces their racism. I'm not saying that's what was happening here but I'm talking generally in answer to your question about what kind of true racist would date outside their race.

Mar 02 12 - 2:47pm

Also, as Yatti said, it's exhausting to have to be "teaching" all the time. And moreover, when you're in an intimate relationship, you make yourself very vulnerable to your partner. I personally feel that it's asking way to much of almost anyone to make themselves vulnerable to someone with such abhorrent beliefs about one's own race. Fuck. That.

The world is already hard enough for everyone, and esp women and people of color, why let the bullshit into your emotional/personal realm. Again I say, Fuck That.

Maybe Meola you just have amazing patience as a person. Or maybe you're not someone who's had to deal with "teachable moments" over and over and over...

Mar 03 12 - 12:30am

Suggesting that people of color need to be teaching all the time--or that it is their responsibility to teach us white folks how not to be racist--is a huge part of the problem. We white people need to take the responsibility (at least some, if not all) of teaching and combatting racism. It's not fair to keep it with the people who bear the brunt of the problem in the first place.

Mar 05 12 - 4:45pm

I'm with Spook Juice: he tried to dialogue with her. He tried to tell her how the email made him feel. And did she apologize? No, she got defensive then accused *him* of attacking *her.* The author handled this in the most compassionate way possible without becoming a complete doormat. I really feel for him.

Mar 02 12 - 11:35am

Wow. Great piece. I think there's a lot of naivete to the people talking about "teachable moments" in these comments. I grew up in an immigrant family that was fearful of many "American" things, among them black people. And I grew up in an all-white area. And yet even as a child I knew that the racism being exhibited around me was bullshit. Just as I knew the sexism being exhibited around me was bullshit. Every time a racist thing would come out of my mother's mouth I would think, "That's not true, it just comes down to the person, not their skin color." And I was 10 yrs old, for God's sake.

You either have an internal barometer for these issues or you don't. And it isn't the author's job to try to install one in the woman he thought he loved. This woman wasn't in Wis anymore and clearly hadn't been for a while. What she did was incredibly offensive, not only did she send the email but she prefaced it by saying he'd "really like it." Like by virtue of being a well-educated black man he'd agree with her ignorant, racist email. Then defending her position with "they choose it and don't have to live that way" and not really seeing him "as black."

Yes, we can teach people we're in relationships things. And hopefully we'll learn things from then as well. Absolutely. But it's an extremely difficult road when we don't agree on the fundamentals with our s.o. I wouldn't date a person with her opinions and obviously I'm not black.

I'd like to remind everyone on here condemning him about HIS pain in this, too. Loving someone and feeling loved back is about feeling seen, hear and understood by your s.o. Being made aware that a significant part of who you are is not understood at all would be enough for most of us to cut bait, regardless of the way in which we were being misunderstood.

You cannot teach someone who clearly doesn't want to learn.

Mar 02 12 - 9:40pm

Yes! I've been thinking of my response all day but it's basically this. I'm from southern ky and my family is just as stereotypically racist as you'd expect but even as a small child I just knew better. And as I got older, I read and I was educated and I really knew better. You all give her way too much credit. If Taren is a racist, she's a racist and its not the authors job to change her mind.

Mar 02 12 - 12:06pm
Nick K

Great piece and you totally did the right thing.

Mar 02 12 - 12:15pm

Author of the story, I want you to know that you're not alone. My heart started sinking when I realized where the story was going because I could feel myself back in the situation all over again. All of your emotions, it was like I was the one writing the story. You were much smarter than me though, you got out right when you found out. It really is hard to reconcile the two realities of the person you love.

The funny thing is, in the end, I'm the one who is too ashamed to admit to other what he was. I'm so embarrassed, how could I have been so blind? I've only ever told one person, and told everyone else he cheated on me. It's much easier to deal with than telling them the truth.

I hope in the end you weren't too broken by it. I couldn't bring myself to date anyone for almost a year. I kept questioning myself, wondering if I was the one attracting this kind of attention, was I not "black" enough? Was I not a good judge of character? What did I ever do to deserve this? It was a really bad time for me, made worse by the fact I felt that I had no one to confide in. I trust people a bit more now, but I'm always guarded. I don't want to get too involved because it might mean getting hurt again. The worst part is, he's ruined dating out of my race for me. The entire idea makes me so nervous, I don't think I could go through that pain again. It's probably just a healing process, and hopefully in time I'll be able to look back on this as a learning experience but for now it's just painful.

Mar 02 12 - 1:06pm
Spook Juice

No beef with you, AA, but I see only once race of people. Culture, however, is another matter - and I hope whomever you choose is open to all cultures.

Mar 11 12 - 12:10pm

AA, I'm so sorry for what you went through, and glad that you acknowledge that you've got some healing to do (because dating someone outside your race who's serious about knowing YOU could be genuinely rewarding for you, eventually, when you're feeling up to it). Your response is the best retort to the "teachable moment" crowd.

Mar 02 12 - 12:17pm

Teachable moment my ass. Should women be out there agreeing to date and love misogynists so that they can "teach" them to love women? What a bunch of BS.

Mar 02 12 - 1:08pm

"Misogynist" is just a label, just like "racist". If a woman responds forcefully to poor treatment by her man, and makes clear that this kind of behavior will have severe consequences, she just might convert the seeming-misogynist into someone a lot more careful with his words and actions.

Mar 02 12 - 2:09pm

Gah, I totally agree and Meola if you're a woman I assume you've been lucky enough to not encounter too many real misogynists. Let me tell you a lil' something: They run like hell when a strong woman is around. They don't stick around one long enough to "learn" anything.

Mar 03 12 - 1:25am


Leaving the misogynist is "responding forcefully" .

People who want to change do the work themselves. You can "teach" or lecture someone into changing their deeply ingrained sexist or racist views. It doesn't matter if they are well-meaning or not. Furthermore, it's disrespectful to oneself to be with a partner who is sexist, racist, anti-semitic, etc, and not able/unwilling to change.

Mar 03 12 - 1:29am

that's "CANNOT teach."

Mar 03 12 - 2:00am

Meola-just a label? All words are arbitrary sounds and symbols. "Misogynist" and "racist" are meaningful (and useful) descriptors. Its as though you've taken the argument that hateful language loses its power if we reappropriate it or stop reacting to it (not that I necessarily agree with this idea), and turned it around to provide a potential defense of those who hate and degrade others.
Your comment is vaguely reminiscent of a white man born into a wealthy family talking about people "pulling themselves up by their bootstraps". I'm not saying that's who you are. But you come off as someone who is either a) defensive, or b) completely unacquainted with some of the harsher realities of life.

Mar 03 12 - 7:51pm

I'm not defending those who hate and degrade others. Misgynistic and racist acts are unacceptable. That doesn't mean the first act when you find out your significant other expresses misogynistic or racist thoughts should be to get up and leave the relationship. People say lots of stupid things either out of sheer ignorance, or because they take a joke too far, or whatever. So the correct response, the first time it happens, is to tell the SO that if it happens again, there will be consequences.

Look. I know what I'm talking about. I've been in an interracial marriage for more than 15 years.

Mar 07 12 - 11:12am

Wow, the comments just keep growing on this piece!
meola, in case you read these comments again, I wasn't saying you defend those who hate and degrade others. I was just pointing out the fact that your argument about labels could be flipped that way. And I'm glad you're in a long-lasting marriage. However, the way you frame this information suggests that either you or your partner has had to deal with racist comments from their partner. I hope that isn't true; I just don't think people should have to deal with that shit when it comes to the person they love, trust, and build a home with.

Anyway, my point was simply that words have real power, and people should remember that.

Mar 02 12 - 12:47pm

Great piece... as a jew I've gotten into similar arguments with anti-semitic girlfriends. It always ended badly.

Mar 02 12 - 1:14pm

Great piece. I would love to see more stuff like this on Nerve - surprising, heartbreaking non-fiction that makes readers think.
It's really strange to see sigtuna and others berate the author for being "judgmental" and claim that his ex girlfriend isn't racist. Such responses bolster claims that deep-seated racism still exists in a country with a black president.

Mar 02 12 - 1:43pm

Such a well-written piece! And so true - the people who have done the most offensive things have not usually come from a place of hate, but a place of ignorance. Even those from one's own race can say something ignorant or offensive and not understand why it's not OK. True, there was a teachable moment but at the same time, that is a LONG commitment to really change the way she viewed black people and he has no obligation to do so.

Mar 02 12 - 1:46pm

this is one of the best things i've read -- on nerve or elsewhere. you bring up a really interesting point about how complicated people are. i respect your choice to break-up with taren and am inspired by the perspective you've gained after this experience. good for you!

Mar 02 12 - 4:14pm

You know, he could've stayed with her - and instead of walking away from a bit of ignorance, stayed with a woman who loved him and taught her something.

We've all dated someone who turned out to be not quite what we imagined them to be - but how many of us were strong enough to stay the course? I feel badly for both of them, but worse for her - because she simply didn't know.

Mar 02 12 - 4:44pm

Big shock - there are still people that subscribe to antiquated racial stereotypes.. What kind of a name is 'Taren' anyway?

Mar 02 12 - 4:47pm

Really, dude? You are going to let this amazing woman get away, because of one stupid email forward she sent? She was clearly upset when you confronted her, she clearly showed remorse, and she clearly didn't realize that you would react this way, but you're just going to walk out on her? Your own damn fault then! As everyone else (with some common sense) on this comment thread has already said, it was a "teachable" moment, a moment of opportunity to deepen the bonds of your relationship even! But no, you chose to take the easy way out. Indulging instead in a little self-pity party. Playing the race card always works, doesn't it. Sounds to me like YOU wanted to get rid of her. And another thing, as you mentioned, this is a woman who adopts dying animals to give them a few more moments of happiness before they die. But yeah, she is also an evil racist KKK member who wanted to make fun of the Black Man and twish the knife in his heart - yeah! She was probably plotting this behind your back all along! Anyway. You're an idiot. The End.

Mar 02 12 - 4:57pm

Let me guess--you're a white guy. I bet you have no personal experience of racism, but you're being awfully authoritative about someone else's experience.

Mar 02 12 - 5:22pm
Spook Juice

Um, dude... Yes you, 3:47pm Dude: How is it playing the race card when he defends his culture against her perpetuation of stereotypes? This woman's charity toward animals may be admirable but has nothing to do with - as in being a defense of - her attitude toward black people. It could be argued any time that historical bigoted folks had more regard for their pets than they did for black people, let alone the ones who were enslaved. I'd tell you not to be such a stupid fucking shithead but it's far, far too late for that.

Mar 02 12 - 6:13pm

Hey, whocaresaboutcolor was making a valid point. This woman was not "having more regard for her pets than her slave" - in fact, she was in love with the man! Christ almighty, when will this type of dialogue cease.

Mar 02 12 - 7:55pm
Spook Juice

The point was that the two items - her care for animals, and her perception of this man - have nothing to do with one another (did you see what I wrote?). So, in regard to that, the dickhead above was not making a valid point. Additionally, you don't know for certain that the woman loved the author.

Mar 03 12 - 2:24am

whocaresaboutcolor-do you actually know what is meant by the phrase "playing the race card"? Because your use of it made absolutely no sense. And where in the article is there any evidence that the author wanted to "get rid of" his girlfriend? Where did he call her an evil member of the KK? He went out of his way to describe her positive attributes (including the fact that she cares for animals) so that the reader would understand why he had conflicting emotions after the confrontation. Therein lies the crux of the piece. If you choose not to believe anything he actually wrote up until the confrontation scene, then why bother to comment on the article at all? Why not accuse him of trying to pass fiction off as non-fiction?

The author wasn't too lazy or sick of his girlfriend to "teach" her not to be racist. He describes a racism so deep seated that its perpetrator couldn't recognize it even when she was confronted with proof. An email like the one described should be a dealbreaker for anyone.

Mar 03 12 - 3:44pm

If he "pulled the race card" then she pulled the "crying white female" card. Grow up.

Mar 11 12 - 12:18pm

Another small point of order for the "teachable moment" arguers-- the phone does dial both ways. If SHE had any intention of saving a relationship that meant something to her, she could have picked up the phone and told him she was sorry to have hurt him, or even that she still didn't understand what went wrong but she felt he was too good to lose. Doesn't sound like she did make that call, so I see no onus on him to pursue her. As someone else above pointed out, no matter what the issue, if you know you hurt someone you love, you apologize and try to make it right. She knew she hurt him and got defensive in response. Yes, I know she was hurt, too, but in response to being called out on something she did. That's when anyone sensible would cut their losses with that person.

Mar 02 12 - 4:59pm
No way

Actually, "common sense" dictates that when a person who claims to love you also believes awful, racist stereotypes about a race of which you happen to be a member, it's only a matter of time before it ends. Better to leave sooner than later.

As was said above, the "teachable moment" was all the fucking time she spent with him during their relationship. If that didn't make her question her racist views, her racism is most likely too deeply lodged to be dislodged.

Leaving at that moment? Common sense + self-respect.

Mar 02 12 - 5:18pm
No way

FYI, the above was a reply to "whocaresaboutcolor's" post. A pretty ironic moniker given the argument he/she posted coupled with the fact that obviously the author's gf cared a lot about color.

Mar 02 12 - 5:18pm
*eye roll

Why is there a huge argument about whether this was a "teachable moment" and whether the author was "right" to break up with his girlfriend? They were in the early-ish stages of a relationship and didn't even live together. No marriage, no mortgage, no kids. In this stage, it's okay to walk away simply because something doesn't feel right. There's no reason to judge this guy. He probably dodged a bullet breaking up with her when he did.

Mar 02 12 - 5:49pm

how can people give this guy grief? she's the one who forwarded klan humor to her black boyfriend and refused to own up to the hurt she caused.

what is all this teachable moment bullshit she's a fucking adult

Mar 02 12 - 6:11pm

Exactly. Thank you.

Mar 05 12 - 5:11pm

Well put, wtf. And the sad thing is, is that it sounds like he DID treat it as a teachable moment. He tried to talk with her instead of breaking up with her right off the bat. He hoped that there had been some misunderstanding. What more was he supposed to say than, "No matter how you spin it, calling people inferior because of their race — not to mention saying I'm not black because I'm educated — is racist, period." What else is there to teach?

Mar 02 12 - 6:01pm

I wrote like 5 versions of this response. Its offensive, so be prepared. First, I am a jew. my own friends crack jokes all the time. it is all about intent. If you have never heard of how many jews can fit into a car go look it up. You better understand its not the first nor the last time you will deal with it. Intent is what is obvious here. Her intent was to be funny. Not "break my BF's heart because he's black"
Plus she obviously is not racist since she was FUCKING you. You can't be racist if you are fucking the race you are supposed to be racist against.
I don't get why people get upset. Black people tell me themselves that there are "black" people and there are "niggas." So if there is a differentiation within the race itself and it is recognized, why is it wrong for others to recognize it? I couldn't even make this up. So what the hell do you care if she told you that you were different? You are in fact different.
The problem with stereotypes is that they are created by the people they are about.
Bottom line- You over reacted and handled it in a bad way. This story sucks, but is amazing. I agree with others that its one of the best I have ever read. If my GF said something like that do me, I would say 3 things that that would be it.
1. you made a mistake- admit it
2. apologize
3. never again.
and then you move on with your life. Obviously you couldn't move on from 1 mistake. Really, if she was racist, she wouldn't date you. You both handled it terribly

Mar 02 12 - 8:07pm

he DID ask her to apologize, but she refused to admit that the email was even racist, yet alone apologize for it, so breaking up with her was a good choice. and to reply your question, YES it is offensive for someone that isn't black to call a black person the N word, the same way it is only offensive when straight people call gay people "faggot"

Mar 02 12 - 8:10pm
Spook Juice

The problem with stereotypes is that they are used to justify an idea that certain characteristics are inherent, that people are predestined to be objectionable in a way specific to their kind: Cheap, greedy Jews, for instance. Big-nosed Jews, for example. Christ-killer Jews, you know. Evil, horned, devil-tailed, fake-ass homeland having Jews, right?

Except for the horns and tails, there may be some Jews who fit the bill. But the stereotype is still offensive. You may enjoy such jokes among your friends and think of it as nothing but I guarantee that I could offend you if I met you and chose to insult your culture. You'd probably want to fistfight. I'd bust a cap in yo ass, tho - because I'm a nigga and we be's like dat. An shit.

Besides, if the account is accurate, the woman didn't apologize, nor admit an error in judgement. She defended her position, so there was no need to give her any more consideration.

Mar 03 12 - 8:50am

Seriously, you can't be racists against someone whose race you are Fucking? So a slave owner who sleeps with their "property" or a Nazi who slept with their prisoner isn't a racist? Strom Thermon wasn't a racist despite a career fighting for White supremacy because he had a daughter by a Black woman?

Just because she "had a black friend" doesn't mean she isn't racist. It just means that she has forgiven him for his sin of being black by being successful.

Mar 03 12 - 3:47pm

EXACTLY. The original post to this stinks of My-Best-Friend-Is-Blackism

Mar 04 12 - 1:43pm

"She can't be racist because she is fucking you."

Can a person not be a misogynist because he is fucking women? Nope. That doesn't fly.

Mar 02 12 - 6:32pm

Wow. Bob, your whole premise is assbackwards.

Bob: "Plus she obviously is not racist since she was FUCKING you. You can't be racist if you are fucking the race you are supposed to be racist against."

What a simple-minded, uncomplicated world you must have in your head in order to actually believe this.

As LT mentioned above, you most certainly CAN be a racist even if you're fucking that race. I'll summarize that post: Many people love the taboo of fucking another race, this in no way means that they are not racists.

People are complicated. I agree with what you said about intent but here's the problem: Your own racist assumptions are showing. No surprise given our media. The percentage of Black middle class households is only 5% less than the overall percentage of overall middle-class households in this country.

The real attack is on poor, uneducated blacks. And here's why she's a huge, fucking racist: Because the same could be said about the White poor but she's not bothering to talk about how "they could choose differently" or how she herself is "different" from the white poor. She's targeting only poor blacks, and that makes her a racist.

And by the way, I'm a jew, too. Which I didn't feel the need to mention, like it means I'm automatically more racially sensitive or something (b/c it doesn't.) Am I a "different" jew cuz I always tip well? Because I don't think money is the epicenter of all things?

Also, I completely disagree about her trying to be funny with the email. He doesn't mention anything that would make someone believe it was supposed to be a joke. Instead she expects him to "really like" the list b/c she probably thinks he will feel smug about being better than those OTHER black people.

Oh, and finally, the reason black people can differentiate between blacks and niggas and the rest of us can't is the same reason you can insult your own family but other people can't.

Mar 02 12 - 6:35pm
No way

Above post by "No way." Sorry LT I was thinking about your post when I entered the name.

Mar 02 12 - 9:18pm

As long as you keep posting things I agree with, we're good ;-)

Mar 03 12 - 3:50pm


This needs to be read again and again: "The real attack is on poor, uneducated blacks. And here's why she's a huge, fucking racist: Because the same could be said about the White poor but she's not bothering to talk about how "they could choose differently" or how she herself is "different" from the white poor. She's targeting only poor blacks, and that makes her a racist."

A lot of people argue that race shouldn't be considered as much as it is, and that socio-economic class should be--and sometimes they're right. If she were in that camp, however, she would be classist. Instead, she's racist.

Mar 02 12 - 6:55pm

what made the strongest impression on me was the fact that I was surprised to find out the author was black.

Mar 02 12 - 8:43pm

boop - Oh my God..... you're taking the piss aren't you? Brilliant.....

Mar 02 12 - 10:24pm

I'm actually not, unfortunately. (Are you?) It's a little frightening how racist you can be without realising it. (Also, are you from England?)

Mar 03 12 - 11:52am

I have to ask- why were you surprised? Because Nerve is a primarily "white" site? Or did it have something to do with his writing that led to your assumption that he was of a non-black race?

Mar 03 12 - 2:27pm

I think that it may be because I didn't grow up with any black people around - although where I lived was actually fairly multicultural - and so I don't automatically factor them into my imaginary human landscape

Mar 11 12 - 12:25pm

And boop, I'm certainly not about to verbally jump you, but instead thank you for posting this. That does happen! Shit, I'm mixed-race and when I was little, I used to picture the world as only white, because whites were the vast majority of whom I saw in my small, middle American town. The sad part is, it's not even because the town isn't diverse, it's because it's intensely segregated, and that's the crowd my parents apparently fell in with when they moved there (because they're both from elsewhere).

Mar 02 12 - 8:23pm

I would also like to comment just to say this is definitely one of the best things I've read in a while, certainly one of the best I've read recently on Nerve. Thought-provoking without simply being obnoxious or just telling people what they want to hear; beautifully honest and not a story I've heard before; and ultimately, just really well written. I especially appreciate that the author allows us to see what he found so attractive about this girl and how they really clicked at the beginning which really helps you understand the mixed emotions of the ending.

Mar 02 12 - 8:38pm

"I know, but you're different. You're educated and you have a good job. I don't really see you as black."

Because a black person can't be educated and have a good job? The above sentence illustrates her racism. Lot's of people have told me I don't sound "Mexican," does it bother me not? Not really. But if I was in a relationship with someone and they spouted racist bs, I would leave too. Teachable moments, my ass.

Mar 11 12 - 12:39pm

Exactly. All this "teachable moment" nonsense has me seeing the words "The More You Know" above my head, with that silly star graphic and ding-ding-ding-DING jingle. Because apparently, as a person of color, I don't get to make decisions about whom I do or don't want to be with, even if they disrespected who I am, because I'm not a human being, I'm a goddamn PSA on legs. People who argue teachable moments don't seem to get that people of color are inundated with those on a daily basis and would at the very least like for their partner to see them as a person, not as a member of or exception to a race.

Mar 02 12 - 8:42pm

Beatiful piece. I'm glad you were true to yourself.

Mar 02 12 - 10:10pm

omg you are beyond retarded....obviously she wasn't racist if she was in a relationship with you! was just a stupid email forward..take a pill....throwing a relationship like that away over something so dumb makes you a complete idiot! lol...stop being so anal and loosen up a will live longer..not everyone out there is trying to bring you down lol

Mar 02 12 - 11:47pm
thinking about it

It would've only been a "stupid email" if she hadn't tried to rationalize the action of sending it. Like, if she had tried to see what he was saying and said something like, "You know what? That was a STUPID EMAIL and I regret sending it" - then maybe it wouldn't have been that big of a deal. HOWEVER, what this woman did was try to defend what she sent him. She basically told him that she thought this "stupid email" said was completely true (i.e. "The e-mail wasn't racist — it was just stating facts") and that he wasn't black because he didn't fit whatever stereotypes the email contained. And then she doesn't apologize. If it was so stupid and really didn't matter, why couldn't she just do that one thing. So, like people have been saying, they weren't too serious and he had a right to leave if he was uncomfortable with her actions. I just feel that if she really liked the guy, beyond what she believed, she would have made an effort to make it right.

Ultimately, it was her defense of the "stupid email" that probably turned him off, not just the email alone.

And to the article writer: very well written, by the way!

Mar 03 12 - 1:51am
No way

Well MJ, between your "omg," "lol" and use of the word "retarded" as a slur, I can see how you're really in a position to attack someone else's intelligence. Especially someone who wrote such a powerful and well-written article.

Honestly, the nuance of this situation is clearly too much for your brain to process so please leave the discourse to your intellectual superiors. Honestly, there are many posts on here I don't agree with but the vast majority if them at least display some introspection and intelligence, unlike yours.

While I admire your polite reply, "thinking about it," I'm afraid my disgust has overwhelmed my good manners in this case.

Mar 02 12 - 10:29pm

I often wonder who is more racist - the person who makes the ignorant statement or the person who attacks the statement? I get tired of both sides of the argument as they arguably feed off each other.

Mar 03 12 - 12:02am

Attacking an ignorant statement is racist? I'm having trouble wrapping my head around your statement.

Mar 02 12 - 10:30pm

I personally think that walking away was probably the most teaching the OP could do in that moment, frankly. "Being a racist = losing people you love" sounds a lot more profound a learning experience than "Being a racist = pissing off your boyfriend".

I don't see how the author was supposed to suck it up because she thought those things but rationalized their relationship as his "being the exception." What's supposed to happen when the lust haze fades and the author suffers some sort of setback like losing a job? Does he have to live in fear of defining these stereotypes he knows she believes in? Fuck that.

I'm a woman (although white as Wonder Bread) and I can see why he walked away. I couldn't date a guy who thought that women were generally lazy, stupid gold-diggers but who liked *me* because I myself managed to impress him with my smarts and my paycheck. The guy would always consider himself superior, and me "less inferior than most oh my kind."

There's a big difference between being with someone who's making an exception for you (in their mind) and being with someone who considers you their equal.

Mar 03 12 - 12:43am

What actually pushes me towards the "understandable over-reaction" side of the argument is the surprisingly brief conclusion to the story. A pretty wonderful and enjoyable build-up, with a little grumble of thunder on the horizon, and then "holyshitracisti'mdone", and cut scene.

I am a white guy from a small town in the Western part of the Midwest; my own exposure to non-white people was just as limited as you would expect. This does not make me a racist, though it does outline a predisposition for being clueless (there have been a blessedly few times where I have said something that I truly had no idea would have any negative connotation to it; thankfully, I've always been corrected and forgiven, and I think that the constant struggle to be honest and a good person helps with that).

The bigger thing to take away from this, I think, is the dualistic nature of this confrontation. This was very much a yes/no situation, and pretty indicative of what's going on in this country right now. I'm not being a racist-apologist by any means--I very much think that it's a serious problem that needs to be addressed--but nor do I necessarily think that all-or-nothing is the right choice. The notion of us vs. them is exactly what is being used to rip this country to shreds, especially in the past few years, and our collective response really does need to have more nuance than "I don't like your point of view, so I don't accept you at all". It's very idealistic to say "us instead of us-versus-them", but it's maybe more constructive and realistic to say "not us, and not us-versus-them, but us-them-and-this-other-thing", and introduce dynamism into the conversation.

Mar 03 12 - 1:57am

I do see your point JH. I do however also think that if someone is denigrating your race in such a flagrant and non-apologetic manner, it is in fact an all-or-nothing situation.

And I don't think conflating politics and intimate relationships makes a whole lot of sense in this case, either. That said, I do wish the political discourse of our country was based more on compromise and less on a take-no-prisoners attitude. However, I don't think the author would have served his soul or his self-respect by staying in this relationship.

Mar 03 12 - 11:04pm

You raise a good point; politics and intimate relationships shouldn't necessarily be blended. I default to that primarily because the state of politics in this country seem to be a good reference point for what is going on in this country, right now. And I think that we can agree that this country is a god damn mess at this time.

I tend towards the "teachable moment" camp; I'm not necessarily saying stay with her, or even stay with her past that night, or longer than the next few minutes. But just walking out is, while an understandable thing to do, almost as fearful as sticking to a clearly racist e-mail and defending it. Maybe there really wasn't any hope for this, but what makes this story compelling is the fact that the author does recognize that she just doesn't understand what she did wrong. She was not above hope, and it's entirely possible that there could have been a lot of useful energy brought out of that conversation--especially if it was a conversation and not a screaming match. And, again, maybe not. But I suspect that the author does wish that it hadn't happened that way.

Mar 03 12 - 1:07am

You know, this whole discourse reminds of a group that only see's thing in black or white (I'm not referring to skin color). The old "you're either for us or against us" argument. That sort of simplicity makes for pretty idiotic decision making. I'm not saying the writer of the piece is an idiot. But life is never an all or nothing proposal, no matter what the situation. That's why we're gifted with the freedom of choice.
Unfortunately, with these big brains of ours, we are also very impressionable, at just about any age. But keeping an open mind, recognizing that life is full of grey areas, anyone can unlearn or learn. Another bonus of these big brains.

And if you were wondering what group I was referring to, think about the state of the republican party right now.

Mar 03 12 - 1:36am

The people saying that he broke up with her without reason aren't really getting it.

This is his LIFE, and who he IS. It's not an abstract theory that they disagree on. It's not an unrelated theoretical belief. His girlfriend was not able to acknowledge the guy's experience as a black man. That is fundamental to the person he is. I'm sure he was very sad to leave her, but I don't see how he had much choice, if he wanted to maintain self-respect.

Mar 03 12 - 2:28am

Exactly. Well said.

Mar 05 12 - 11:23pm


Mar 06 12 - 4:07pm

Thanks ibg for putting it so succinctly and eloquently.

Mar 03 12 - 4:06am

Very interesting - both the well-written story and the discussion. It's one of the most sincere discussions of race I seen in awhile. I think the quality of the discussion was notably better because of the quality of the story. Thanks! (should I say what we White people *love* to say in this setting? "You're so a_________." ).
Any, to throw in my 2 cents, one of the good things about the story is that either approach could be justified - walking away or trying to make it a teachable moment. However, there was enough resistance and denial to believe that she was fundamentally so rooted on one side of the racial divide that it would've been a mistake to try to make it work.

Mar 03 12 - 5:32am

I'm in agreement with all of the comments I've ready by Spook Juice. After all, who said that he didn't provide a teachable moment for the racist woman? He brought up the email to her and when she showed her utter denial, he decided to eventually walk out on her. Now that's a teachable moment that she'll never forget.

Mar 03 12 - 5:34am
Manuel A. Huerta

...meant to write "read by"...

Mar 03 12 - 7:25am

I understand how a white person saying 'yeah but i dont really think of you as black' can come off as pretty deeply insulting. But at the same time, a lot of white people dont really think of themselves as white either. They dont really consider race consciously. Like the girl in this story. She seems like an otherwise good person. She knows that being racist is bad. But she's from the lily-white monoculture of the upper midwest hinterlands. Believe me, its really a confusing time to meet super progressive, gay-marriage supporting, charity-giving, tolerance-teaching white people who dead-pan say things like 'oh there's been a lot of People from Chicago in town' to mean, 'there's been a lot of black people coming through.' And somehow you dont know if they realize what they've just said. Or if they do if they actually meant it. And its not like they could be blamed for noticing in a town of 5,000 people all of whose ancestors came from the same fjord. Its easy, from that remove, to know that there is nothing inherently 'less' about different skin colors, but still be prejudiced against Black Culture, which really has little or no overlap with upper midwest hinterland white culture.
Seriously though, when i moved to the midwest from seattle i thought people were fucking with me when they explained People From Chicago. Nope.

Mar 03 12 - 1:40pm
Spook Juice

It's not to be divisive that I write this: It's the rare white person who does not ultimately see himself as white. For all the hardcore rapping of people like Eminem, Kid Rock (who underwent a major outward transformation from ghetto-wannabe to Skynyrd-esque redneck), for all the soul singer aspirations of artists from Elvis Presley to Adele, they can always retreat to the safety of the dominant culture. It's like Chris Rock once quipped, "There isn't a white person here who would trade places with me - and I'm RICH!"

I don't think it's an identity one easily forgets, just as black people can never forget who they are. Being the dominant culture, white people are allowed to dabble in the sub-cultures and still "go home" when it's convenient and comfortable. Darkly pigmented people - particularly those of African descent - don't have that option because their culture (or behavior), in the perception of others, is so concretely linked with their skin tone. They don't have the luxury of such a nebulous classification as "white."

Mar 03 12 - 4:09pm

I dont think we're really of that divergent of opinions. I was more trying to make a point about racial identity, I would have been more accurate to say that a lot of white people dont place a huge amount of importance on their race when forming their identity. Or, more simply, unless prompted in terms of race, they would not identify in terms of race. I do think, at least, the average black person is confronted with far more things that necessarily must be viewed in terms of race than the average white person.

Mar 11 12 - 12:52pm

That last sentence is exactly the thing, sb: white people get to forget about race because they are rarely if ever confronted by it or judged for theirs. That's why they don't understand why people of color get so up-in-arms about it, or why anyone suspects that opposition to the president has more to do with his color than most people admit, or why there's a divide between many white people and people of any other color in so many discussions about race. Ditto to Manuel, above, about connecting with everything Spook Juice has said. And, just a little food for thought for anyone who is *certain* they're not racist in any way:

Mar 03 12 - 7:44am

I think also, you have to remember that a lot of us white folk, even the super racially sensitive ones, have been in a position of 'wait, nonono, wait, I'm totally not racist!'
We all have unexamined prejudices, and its rather mortifying when they get confronted publicly, and easy to get defensive when the one doing the confronting is a loved one. The 'teachable moment' people seem to be missing the point that this girl probably has had more than a few moments to dwell on what he said on his way out the door. I think it would be interesting to know how long ago this interaction was, and what the girl's take is on the situation once she's had some time to mull it over.

Mar 03 12 - 11:08am

who is the intolerant one in this story? its not your first guess...

Mar 03 12 - 6:03pm

Would you date someone who said derogatory things about women, Jill? I'd say you were setting yourself up for a world of trouble and heartbreak if you said yes. And by the way what is it with ya'll that you don't know what a "false equivalence" is? Seriously, holding racist opinions and disliking racists are worlds a part in their logic. No one in philosophy takes issue with the "hypocrisy of being intolerant of intolerance"-thing that simple (and dishonest) minds can't seem to understand.

Mar 04 12 - 7:38pm

Bottom line is that you understand it from the source. I am Irish and an African American ...believe me...I get my fair share of offensive humor...but I understand where it comes from and it is not a place of hate. We have all become just a little too judgmental and lost our sense of humor. Laugh wit and at your fellow humans instead of trying to put them down all the time will make it a much happier place to live.

Mar 03 12 - 12:24pm

I didn't see the ending coming any more than the author did, and it hit me as strange, strange behaviour--hers, not his. And a lot of the comments seem odd to me too. Surely the "teachable moment" that people are talking about was their entire relationship BEFORE the racist e-mail. He didn't need to do any teaching: he himself was the lesson, right there nice and clear in front of her for her to learn from if she needed to learn. I can see why the poor guy was completely gobsmacked. Racism almost doesn't seem the right term for what she proved to suffer from: it's more like a case of terminal stupidity.

Mar 03 12 - 2:38pm

THANK YOU. Why should the onus have been on him to educate her? She's obviously an intelligent person who doesn't live in the middle of nowhere anymore. If she were really willing to make it work and understand him, she'd ask questions and have conversations--not throw absurd chain messages around and claim ignorance later on.

Mar 05 12 - 4:36pm


Mar 03 12 - 1:30pm
marching ablisl

I'm not so sure she's a racist so much as she holds some deep-seated stereotypes about blacks and their culture. It's a fine line, but without knowing her personally I think she's more on one side of the line than the other. If she was truly a racist would she actually be with a black man? Probably not.

I think she also has some trouble treating people on their own merits rather than based on those stereotypes she holds in her shallow mind... but that doesn't actually make her racist, either.

IMO the Big Bad "R" Word is tossed out far too often, especially around these here parts. Rampant political correctness and classic liberal guilt, me thinks.

Mar 03 12 - 3:08pm
No way

I get so very tired of the "political correctedness" card being pulled by those who simply don't want to take a long hard look at the history of racial oppression and acknowledge the huge damage it's done to an entire people. This damage is still happening and to pretend otherwise is extremely ignorant.

Also, wtf are you talking about that she's "not so much a racist as someone who holds some deep-seatred stereotypes about blacks and their culture??" What exactly is it that you think racism is? Surely holding deep-seated stereotypes is part of it.

IMO, the "R" word as you called it, is not used enough anywhere, here included, as people are so damn afraid to confront their own racism.

Mar 03 12 - 5:39pm
soutiesc UNTO

Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. Holding a stereotype does not automatically equal discrimination.

And I'm sorry, I disagree 100% that the accusation of racism is not used enough -- these days you can't even discuss race without being accused of being racist. It's far overrused, not under. And that's not to diminish the awful things that have been done, both historically and today, as a result of racist motives. But not everything race-related is racist, and I stand by my original comment that the subject of the tale of woe above was not acting racist, just stupid.

Mar 09 12 - 10:41am

This comes from way in the future and I'm sure you won't see it but: "Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination." First of all, no, racism is privilege + prejudice, and 'prejudice' does not need to be nearly as extreme as what you are outlining. Second of all, even if you use your own personal definition of racism, it is EXACTLY WHAT HIS GIRLFRIEND DID. She believed that inherent traits in black people (laziness, whatever other racist shit she came up with) caused them to be satisfied with poverty and a lower quality of life in America. Their racial traits beget discrimination. By your own definition, this lady is racist as fuck.

Mar 09 12 - 3:50pm
But Trifitio

"racism is privilege + prejudice"

According to whom? That's not the dictionary definition. The whole idea that only "privileged" people can be racist, sexist, or whatever is a very recent claim, and frankly I think it's an uncommonly stupid one because it only validates right-wing claims (e.g. that social justice movements aren't really about fairness and equality). I mean, seriously, does the left have to insist on committing this kind of holier-than-thou suicide time and time again?

Mar 09 12 - 11:02pm

Um, sociology? The people that actually dedicate their lives to the study of racism and the promotion of anti-racist behavior? Any sort of anti-racist work and examination of racism in the modern era is obviously recent, that doesn't make it wrong. The point of that definition is that institutional racism really does only work one way, same as homophobia, misogyny, what have you. Frankly, I think having to frame anti-racist work so that it might not upset right-wing sensibilities is ridiculous. We know that conservative people do not like to be called out on their privilege; that does not mean that we should stop doing so. "Fairness and equality" does not mean ignoring current institutional inequalities and pretending that everyone is born on an equal playing field. I have no idea what is "holier-than-thou" or "suicide" about any of that.

Mar 03 12 - 1:37pm

If the author is still reading these comments, I would like to toss an observation into the bag.
From your excellent description of Taren, it sounds like her dating you was a misguided extension of her deep impulse to adopt animals that suffered from a terrible condition. In your case, your terminal affliction was - yep, you guessed it! - being black.
So she sends you that e-mail, and she supposes you may react with something like the following, "Oh Taren, I see you understand how difficult it is for me to be black, how much I've had to overcome - not in people's perceptions of me! - but the essential fact that I'm of an inferior "people." It's so brave of you to love me in spite of my blackness, you make me feel special. You're wonderful! Let's be together, forever, and agree that blackness is an affliction that - with your help! - I'm managing every day."
She meant something quite deliberate with that e-mail, it wasn't an offhand "oops."
Dismantling that degree of ingrained racism would require her to willingly undergo a complete cognitive, behavioral and personality overhaul. Cutting bait was a perfectly rational response.
Thanks for sharing. ;-)

Mar 03 12 - 1:50pm
Spook Juice

This is the most beautifully impressive bit of cynicism I've ever read. I salute you (sincerely).

Mar 03 12 - 2:16pm

Spook Juice, that means a lot! I was keeping your incisive and brilliant comments above in mind when I wrote it. Thx

Mar 03 12 - 2:35pm


You nailed part of Taryn's problem on the head. It's easy for someone to say it's cynical when they want to pity the sad, hot girl who adopts dying animals. (And, perhaps, makes them feel guilty, too.)

Mar 05 12 - 5:20pm

Caitlin, spot on. I'm actually a little embarrassed I didn't see it until you wrote this.

Mar 11 12 - 1:09pm

Ditto all this praise. I didn't think to see it that way either! Caitlin, that comment is the shit. Also, I see a new pharmaceutical in the works: Ablify-- if you think you might be black, discuss Albify with your doctor today! Side effects may include depression, anxiety, self-loathing, nausea, and anal leakage.

Mar 03 12 - 3:53pm

Kudos to the author for writing such a brave, smart piece. You had to have known that any post concerning race would be a hot-button topic.

This may seem off-topic, but I'm glad he got out when he did. I obviously have no idea how serious they would have become, or if they would have had kids (or if either of them even wants any), but I shudder to think about the self-hating children they would've brought up with a mother like her.

Mar 03 12 - 5:34pm

Incredible piece. I haven't read something this well written and touching in quite some time. Amazing job.

Mar 03 12 - 6:15pm

This week's video is related to the banter

Mar 03 12 - 8:04pm
But Trifitio

First off, I think this is a well-written and effective essay, so hats off to the writer. And I respect his decision to end things right then and there. That's his right, and it's not his job to teach this woman, or to try to meet her halfway.

That said, there's something icky about the enthusiasm with which people are falling all over themselves to denounce this girl, and branding everyone who doesn't as an archetypically privileged, clueless white person who doesn't really, like, UNDERSTAND the unknowable essence of what it is to be a minority in this world. (As if someone physically handicapped, Jewish, homeless, or gay doesn't understand what it's like to be looked at with distrust and distaste and ignorance.)

There's a fine line between being vigilant against racism, and indulging in a masturbatory witch-hunt. And after all, there's a visceral pleasure in denunciation: we thus have someone whom we can brand as evil, whom we have permission to hate, upon whom we can take out all the frustrations and disappointments of our life. In other words, it's much the same impulse that's behind a lot of racism, sexism, and hatred of LGBT people: the desire to turn a three-dimensional person into a two-dimensional thing, to get revenge for real or imagined wrongs -- and above all to feel superior, regardless of whether one has actually done anything of significance in one's life. (In fact I daresay the less accomplished the person, the more they tend to seek out opportunities for self-righteous indignation.)

Also, conflating race and culture is a very bad idea. I used to know a guy who was happy to hire black immigrants from Africa (his shop was mostly Ethiopians and Eritreans), but didn't normally hire African-Americans because (he claimed) they had a terrible work ethic and a chip on their shoulder, and he felt that his odds of getting a good employee were better if he looked elsewhere. Is he a racist? If "yes", then are we saying that race = culture, and that no one is allowed to critique any culture or have a negative opinion of it, ever, unless they're a member of that culture?

Full disclosure: one of my best friends is a racist -- at least, as that word is defined by posters in this thread. He says things about "the blacks" or "the Jews" all the time, and expresses his disappointment with their collective behavior. And you know what? I don't really give a fuck. Whenever he says something particularly egregious, I challenge him on it (but not by jerking myself off while screaming "You fucking RACIST!!" in his ear), and he's always open to seeing things from another point of view. More to the point, he's the sort of guy who will happily talk with anybody from any background. If he saw someone in need (broken down by the side of the road), he wouldn't hesitate to go to their aid regardless of that person's skin color. How many of the high-and-mighty posters in this thread (at least the white ones) would really pull over to help a black motorist, and how many would just drive on by, suppressing a little shiver of TV-movie anxiety, and convincing themselves they don't have time to help? How many cross the street when they see a black man coming?

We all think WAY too much in binary, this-or-that, black-or-white terms. Some awesome people have questionable beliefs; some shitty people have impeccable credentials. Most people of every race, including most posters in this thread, harbor beliefs that could be called racist. That's to be expected, because racism, or at least cultural ethnocentrism, is the normative state of humankind. Most people -- black, white, Latino, Asian -- are woefully ignorant about cultures other than their own, and view other cultures in terms of gross generalizations, and with a mixture of contempt, fear, and amusement.

Is this ideal? Hardly, but we'd be better off accepting that it's part of being human, and letting it organically dissolve through experience, instead of trying to purify the world through hatred and opprobrium. Those things will NEVER, ever work; in reality, they fuel racism by deepening resentment.

Mar 04 12 - 11:14am
261 untstuve

This +1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Mar 04 12 - 2:38pm


I do agree that some measure of patience is necessary in dealing with racism--and there are definitely gradients in how people of an ostensibly unified group (all black people) treat each other (Caribbean-Americans/African-Americans, etc.).

But I don't think that in this example the writer was unreasonable, and I think that it's different from your relationship with your, as you call him, racist friend. I don't know all of the things he says (and I'm not looking for any examples), but one thing he seems to indulge in is a measure of ACCOUNTABILITY. The writer's girlfriend refused to even acknowledge that she may have been offensive. As someone said earlier, if you really care about someone, does it matter if you immediately understand why they're upset? How is it fair to expect him to take the time to see what she meant, when she obviously wasn't willing to meet him halfway? Race/class/culture aside, compromise is crucial in any relationship and she was more willing to play the victim when she became uncomfortable, than she was to step outside of herself and admit wrongdoing--intentional or otherwise.

Mar 05 12 - 5:28pm

But Trifitio, would you date your friend? Marry your friend? (assuming the sexes and the orientations align) Many of the comments above have mentioned tolerating mild racism in the public sphere. But then people start drawing boundaries in the personal sphere, letting only people with less harmful beliefs be their friends. The closest boundaries get drawn with romantic partners. There's no indication that the author is overly sensitive in general. This was his girlfriend, someone he trusted, someone with whom he was vulnerable. When he discovered that she had a very low opinion of people who looked like him (presumably including his family), I really think that he had no choice but to leave.

Mar 07 12 - 2:13am
But Trifitio

@JO: Like I said, I think the author had every right to leave if that's what he felt was best for himself. That's beyond question, and beyond argument.

As for the girlfriend's reaction, I think it's complicated by a couple factors. One is that accusing someone of being a racist is serious shit in today's society (at least in blue states), and it's not hard to understand why someone would go into turtle mode.

Another is that it's hard to know what the author's demeanor and attitude were like, given that this is such a hot-button issue for him. Many people tend to shut down or panic in the face of someone else's rage or contempt. And many people tend to dig in their heels if they feel like the other person's aim is to humiliate them -- which, in a way, IS the ultimatum behind a charge of racism, i.e. getting the other person to hang their head shamefully and confess to being a total piece of shit. It's an inevitable power play even with the best intentions, and totally incompatible with a continuing relationship -- I'm sure it stunned the shit out of her -- because the situation essentially meant that she had to prostrate herself and beg his forgiveness.

And in truth, maybe she really DOESN'T have any respect for African-American culture (since I think this is mostly about culture, not race), and didn't want to mime words she didn't mean. The fact that he's so sensitive about being accused of being "not black enough" probably means that he doesn't conform to contemporary mainstream African-American culture (and he says as much), and maybe that's exactly what she liked about him. It's not like it's hard, or particularly offensive, to imagine a minority woman telling a white guy how she appreciated the fact that he didn't act like a stereotypical white dude (there may not be one stereotype, but there's certainly a collection of risible pigeonholes).

@KH: The sexes and orientations don't align, but I'd happily fix him up with a few of my female friends. And -- again with the full disclosure -- I've dated some people who have had what some would call racist views, e.g. refusing to date anyone black, or having disdain for everything associated with hip-hop, or using race as one of many avenues through which to express near-universal contempt.

Personally, I like dating people for whom nothing is sacred, and anything is fodder for ridicule, so that last one wasn't a problem for me. Conversely, there's nothing quite so tedious as dating someone who enjoys getting offended, because it's usually just another power play cloaked in self-righteousness.

Mar 07 12 - 8:59am
Spook Juice

But Tifitio, I'm going to zero in on one aspect of your post, which I hope will illuminate the issue for you. You've dated and had as friends people who, by your definition, held racist views. As distasteful as their ideas were to you, you were not the object of their bigotry. There is a difference between "overhearing" an unflattering view of a culture or skin color, and being the focus of it - whether directly or peripherally. I've never found people who utter such views to be trustworthy. To cite an old Richard Pryor bit in which someone tried to get him to agree that another black person was dumb, Pryor said, "I'm thinking, if I agree with this motherfucker, what does he think of ME?" So, yeah, you may find "your racist friend" (a title of songs by both The Specials and They Might Be Giants, BTW) cool and all that but I prefer not to be in the company of one like that - or you, for that matter.

As opposed to people who enjoy getting offended, there's nothing so tedious and grating as being in the company of someone who has no decorum - the person who takes the attitude that freedom of speech doesn't require one to have any common sense. Besides, I've always found them to be hypocritical: They claim nothing is sacred...but I'll find a way to get to them and, suddenly, I'm an asshole for doing so.

Now, maybe they felt shamed for having been upbraided but it's their choice to feel that way. You see, I was engaging in a "teachable moment," one in which they could have taken the time to be reflective. Instead, I guess they wanted to hang their heads - or it was just the anger of being outdone.

Mar 07 12 - 3:23pm
But Trifitio

Spook Juice, I appreciate your thoughtful post (well, outside of the dig about preferring to avoid my company). Obviously I agree with a great deal of it, and I know how tiresome your typical Brooklyn I-say-anything-that-comes-into-my-head hipster can get, let alone a teenager who's watched too much Family Guy. The problem is, I think our public discourse about race is actually making people more bigoted.

(I don't say "more racist" because, again, I think that 95% of this is about culture clash. Yes, there are some people who genuinely believe there's a genetic component to all this, but they're idiots and I think they're in the vast minority, especially in urban, liberal circles.)

I personally wouldn't be especially offended if someone took a dig at any of my cultural affiliations or cultural ancestry; in fact, people have done so and I've usually found it amusing. Gross generalizations don't bother me unless the person fails to see them for what they are: a lazy but useful shorthand that elides a complicated truth.

If I were dating a world traveler from outside the country, who opined that Americans are ignorant, provincial, and crass, I wouldn't feel the need to bristle with rage. I'm not insecure in my cultural identity (and don't particularly identify with it) and I can handle the idea that I may be a member of a group whose collective behavior is, at least at times, arguably objectionable.

If that person insisted that I was inescapably ignorant, provincial, and crass because I was an American, and filtered all my behavior through that, it'd be different. On the other hand, if that person said they appreciated the fact that I didn't embody those qualities, I'd probably be flattered. And yes, I recognize that "Americans" aren't a historically oppressed people and that changes things somewhat, but only up to a point -- a history of oppression isn't really a valid reason for saying that a culture is sacrosanct and immune from outside criticism.

We've come to insist that that way of talking is barred from public discourse. Perhaps that's for the best. But it doesn't really remove the points of friction between cultures. To put it as bluntly as possible, there's a lot of shit about the average white American that the average black American doesn't like, and vice versa. And those views are formed from a combination of preconceptions (bigotry, if you prefer) and actual experience, i.e. white people doing shitty things to black people, and vice versa, or just getting on each other's nerves by dint of their differences. This isn't ignorance, but genuine antipathy, felt on both sides -- and while some of that comes from FUD, some of it comes from encountering people and simply not liking who they are or how they act.

Being polite and respectful in public won't do anything about that friction, and it won't make people like each other any more, or respect each other's cultures. It just drives it underground, to surface intermittently in the form of rage-inducing email forwards, Youtube clips, or acts of violence.

Mar 07 12 - 5:41pm
Spook Juice

I apologize for the shot at you, BT. That was influenced by a personal situation in which I know someone who has long held bigoted views, even though he claims a black friend we have in common. None of us can figure out why the black friend tolerates him (a change of heart is possible but I'm doubtful that is has occurred), and it make us question HIM. Incidentally, this fellow - the bigoted guy - invited me to his property to hang out and shoot guns. What the fucky-fuck-fuck? NO! Bigots and guns? Shiiiiiit, jack... I'm not anxious to re-enact some Dick Cheney moment.

In spite of the strong opinions here, this is quite a civil discourse - and one would hope to be able to conduct such an exchange with anyone anywhere, whatever the topic may be. A public airing of this type can be brutally raw and still be polite and respectful if people are willing to move beyond the bullshit - the stereotypes, the finger-pointing, the...unwarranted hatred for anything not like us. But, then, moving away from all that bullshit would eliminate the conflict, wouldn't it?

Mar 07 12 - 5:48pm
Spook Juice

And, you know, I just caught myself projecting a faulty assumption: The bigoted man is white, and I assumed everyone would know that. I should have included that description, which would then be only a description of HIS skin color, and not a blanket indictment of all white people. I'm not a fan of political correctness but I think its appropriate for this discussion.

Mar 03 12 - 9:26pm

It's compelling to look at how we handle differences in relationships. As an urban Democrat married to a rural Republican I've had to take a hard look at how I view people different from me. I've had to face my own prejudices. Thankfully, my wife was patient and I remain willing to learn.

Mar 06 12 - 10:04pm

It is very interesting. I am in a similar situation to Eric. Its disturbing to find that some people break up on differences that might change. A relationship is all about seeing things from both points of view.

Mar 04 12 - 12:26am

Wow. Powerful and very well-written. I'm sorry it had to end like that, but good on you for leaving her.

Mar 04 12 - 12:32am

To the author- great essay. I agree that because the essay was so well-written, it has perpetuated an interesting and insightful discussion!

Mar 04 12 - 5:52am

The biggest racists ive ever seen have been blk and jewish dudes.Some of you just look and wait for something to be offended by.I once walked through a hospital main entrance door at the same time a blk chick did and a group of blk guys in the lobby gave me the evil eye and mumbled some racial crap to me.Really hilarious part came when my white gf who was parking the car came in and in view they saw her embrace me and we walked past them.Guess alot of you blk dudes are pretty insecure huh?

Mar 04 12 - 3:26pm

Yeah, you sure taught that historically oppressed race a valuable lesson about racism! Good thing you came along.

Bottom line, you might feel pretty insecure yourself if you weren't part of a historically dominant, majority race that's lucky enough to not have to think about race all the damn time.

Mar 04 12 - 6:41pm

So geoff, since according to you anecdotal experiences can be used to support derogatory stereotypes, all the black guys i know, and therefore ALL black guys ever are kind, hardworking, self respecting dudes. All geoffs, unfortunately, again proven by my own subjective personal experiences, have their heads firmly embedded in their rectums.

Mar 04 12 - 11:49pm
thinking about it

Anytime you wish to generalize the actions of one race of people with personal "one time..." experiences, just don't. You might have had 100 black men do whatever you're saying the men you encountered did, but those 100 are individuals who don't represent black men as a whole. Thus, the reason for Taren's error when not apologizing for the email and commenter geoff's error when trying to join the conversation with a narrow example of racial tension.

Mar 05 12 - 12:45am

Geoff sounds like a guy with a problem.

Mar 05 12 - 2:52am

if you don't have a hall of fame yet Nerve you should make one and this should be in it. im just saying.

Mar 06 12 - 5:46am

The author did the right thing. Fuck racists! If they can't be taught better, or if you don't want to bother (it's your prerogative not to), then don't date/marry them, don't be friends with them, don't talk to them. You have the right to choose who's in your life: why would you choose someone shitty?

Mar 06 12 - 10:44am

But you didn't find the "shoppers at Wal-Mart" email she sent you racist? hhmmmm

Mar 11 12 - 1:25pm

I think the author may have been referring to which highlights people of all races (and probably a variety of socio-economic backgrounds) who show up to a public place (in this case, Walmart) dressed in such a manner as to land them on the internet. I'm not saying that there's never racism or classism on the site (I honestly don't know, since I don't go there a lot) but what I've usually seen there when looking, and what I just (god help me) saw when I just now went there to see it before posting it here, is mockery for those who have no decorum. Warning: a stranger's ass cheeks will greet you upon clicking if you go there within a short time period of my posting this.

Mar 06 12 - 10:02pm

I think maybe a second chance for Taren would've been great. Maybe she would've realized how much her racist email had hurt you. Maybe she would've seen it from your point of view. Just one racist email and she's out? Thats a little harsh man.

Mar 07 12 - 9:12am
Spook Juice

Bah. This was much less about the email and much more about her refusal to accept that it was offensive. To use your reasoning, though (in an admittedly extreme example), the first time a lover busts you upside the head, is it more acceptable because it's only the first time? In this case (to make the analogy), Taren punched him, then stated she didn't hit him very hard.

Besides, she wouldn't have to do that if he wasn't asking for it, if he would just know his place and be like all the others. He made her do it - he knows it and she knows it. What she did might have been bad but it was no worse than what he did.

Mar 07 12 - 10:08am

In the past I've let "I don't see you as Asian, I see you as [nickname]" slide, even though it was a low-level alert for me. Never again.

Mar 07 12 - 2:05pm

Right, that person is not datable or close friend-able. But we all have to interact with low-level X'ists (and confront our own other-group expectations, as we find them). I feel like all the Taren-apologists were making broad "why can't we all just get along" statements instead of focusing on the context of the story: this dehumanization occurred within an intimate relationship. So for you Rahadyan, you wouldn't date someone who said that (rightly), but would you report a co-worker who said that to HR for harassment? Probably not. You have very low intimacy with that person, so if that's all that happens, you're just going to shake your head and make a mental note.

What I can't understand is why the apologists want to apply general public behavior to a romantic relationship.

Mar 11 12 - 1:29pm

Ditto to your thoughts, KH, and to answer your final sentence's head-scratcher, I think it's that when confronted with an issue relating to race, people suddenly forget the context and are looking to justify themselves one way or the other. It's also unlikely that the apologists have ever or will ever find themselves in this situation, so they have to apply what they theoretically understand (or don't) about racism to the situation.

Mar 07 12 - 10:40am
Spook Juice

It'll be a shame when this story is no longer on the front page, and is forgotten. This (the article and comments) has been one of the best discussions I've ever read, fortunately spared a lot of "you people do this" accusations.

Mar 07 12 - 2:06pm

I've really enjoyed your comments, Spook Juice. Thank you!

Mar 07 12 - 5:51pm
Spook Juice

Thanks to you as well, KH. Were all of us in the same city, I'm sure we'd have a lively and productive discussion over drinks. Then we could have one hell of a bar brawl! Just for fun... Couldn't end such a thing on a good note, now could we?

Mar 08 12 - 3:32am

Phenomenal article! The discussion has made it even better. Reading intelligent dialogue about this subject is fantantastic.

That being said, I have a question.
I am a nurse at large county hospital. I've always found cultures fascinating and I'm always finding myself wanting to ask more questions. I already know everything I want to know about middle-class American whites. I called a black man African American and was corrected politely. He told me he is Afrcan. It led me to ask my coworkers if I should stop saying African American and just say black to describe a person? My question led to people (all white) grumbling and walking away. No one was even willing to help me. They thought I was being offensive and walked away. I figure they are too uncomfortable to discuss it out in the open. I don't want to offend anyone. I was trying to educate myself and got nowhere.

Was I being offensive?

In places, especially where I work, is it proper for me to call black people black? Do I say say African American then wait to see if I'm corrected? I can't tell by just looking at someone.

Mar 08 12 - 4:55am
Spook Juice

I wish there were an easy answer for you, KC. Personally, I don't feel African-American applies to me because I don't have any connection to African (save for ancestrally, I guess, although there's other stuff thrown in there) but I can understand some US-born black people wanting to have the same options as others in claiming a cultural or geographic homeland. "African" is so generic, though - and damn-near dismissive - because it applies a blanket terminology to a continent with very distinct cultures. Anyway, I don't think you were being offensive.

I had an encounter with a drunken white woman, who stumbled over a couple of slurs before arriving at her question of "What do you want to be called?"

"Bob," I replied (not my real name but you get the point). Just don't call me late for dinner.

Mar 09 12 - 2:23am

Thank you SJ! You rule!

Mar 11 12 - 1:37pm

As always, hell yes to Spook Juice. KC, I myself should apologize to people like you when I decry the idea that I'm here to teach people. If you (or anyone else) ever wants to ask me a question about my race, my sexuality, my disability, or any other aspect of me and they genuinely just have no way of knowing since that's not part of their experience but they genuinely WANT to know, I'm more than pleased to discuss it with you. You're clearly coming from a perspective of wanting to respect people more, rather than being someone who would openly disrespect someone and then deny it. You're also clearly not someone who insists that those of us with "differences" (which is of course all of us) are responsible for battering down the resistance of the openly disrespectful crowd with "teachable moments." I'm sorry that people resisted your authentic desire to know more about your fellow man, either through misunderstanding, fatigue, confusion, or whatever impulse. There do need to be more of us (again, all of us) who are willing to explain in a calm way what our experience is like.

Mar 08 12 - 3:55am

In all honesty, Taren's denial embarrasses me. I really don't understand how a white person would not notice the racism in the email. It pisses me off.

Mar 08 12 - 5:49pm

I'm not sure if this needed to be the end or not. People have often been conditioned to believe falsehoods since childhood and need to be re-educated. I once met a woman from Eastern Europe who shocked me with the horrendous things she said about black people (too vile to repeat). She had seen only a few black people in her life and was repeating what she had always been told. You know what, a few years later she married a Haitian man and had two beautiful babies. So, there is sometimes hope for the ignorant.

Mar 08 12 - 8:11pm

I had a similar upbringing as Taren, so I understand where her ignorance comes from. It wasn't until I went to college to become a public school teacher that my eyes were opened. The dominant culture in this country does not understand what racism really means because they have never been victims of it. White people are never judged by the color of their skin. Many people are not mindful of the damaging historical depths of institutional racism, and the system really is designed to perpetuate it. It's heartbreaking. Frankly, it's criminal. People of all ages actually need to be taught and re-taught about racism, sexism, classism, and social and cultural inequity. The PC culture of America is inherently racist. People need to learn how to talk about race and racism in an open, respectful, mindful way. Classes in diversity and multiculturalism should be required at all schools. Quality education is the only solution.

Mar 08 12 - 10:20pm
But Trifitio

"White people are never judged by the color of their skin."

I'm disappointed that your otherwise thoughtful post was marred by this falsehood. I have maybe a dozen white friends who grew up in mostly-black areas around the country; of those, two or three had the living shit beaten out of them on a regular basis by bullies who specifically said that skin color was the reason for it. There isn't any "maybe" about it, race WAS the motivation, full stop. I also have at least one white friend (that I know of) who was, as an adult, attacked and beaten by people who basically said "Get the fuck out of here, your kind aren't welcome in this part of town."

Of course, I've also known multiple people who were beaten for being Jewish, or gay, or black, or nerdy. No race has a monopoly on bigotry or hatred, and when we pretend that white people exist in some kind of protected bubble, free from pain unjustly inflicted, we do a disservice to the truth -- and, frankly, we alienate people who might otherwise be on our side. If we countenance the notion that the hateful actions of minorities as somehow more excusable than the hateful actions of majorities, it exacts a heavy price from our credibility and integrity.

Mar 09 12 - 2:11am

i agree that by using the word "never," i was hyperbolically claiming an impossible absolute.
i take that back. all people can be judged by their skin color, but i disagree that all racism is created equal. please listen to this talk on white privilege by tim wise:

Mar 09 12 - 3:57pm
But Trifitio

Eh, I'm well aware of the concept of white privilege, and while I concede that it exists up to a point, when you start saying things like "all racism is [not] created equal"...what's the point of saying that, really? Is it going to build bridges between white people and black people? Is it going to change anyone's behavior, or solve anyone's problems? Or is it just going to increase the amount of resentment between the races, and give ammunition to the right wing?

Like I said above, it just seems like another example of people on the left engaging in holier-than-thou rhetoric that may preach to the choir, but only alienates everyone else.

Mar 09 12 - 11:15pm

I think you're having a bit of a "you got your theory in my politics!" "you got your politics in my theory!" moment here, But Trifitio, because the point of these definitions is not really to ease political efficacy but to develop the ethical and logical framework that we use to develop the tools to build bridges and solve problems. That's the point. No one is arguing that unpacking white privilege or acknowledging that institutional inequality is what really defines 'racism' is the solution in and of itself -- just that it helps to develop the solution, and to check that we're moving in the right direction.

And I will say that I know many people -- of varying races -- who have had their thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs changed by the understanding of privilege and the sociological underpinnings that define racism.

Mar 10 12 - 2:44am
But Trifitio

Going to reply to both of your posts here to make things easy...

I don't have a problem with defining institutional inequality, or even institutional racism, as a phenomenon that mostly happens at the expense of minorities, especially blacks. Outside of a few urban areas where black officials dominate local power structures, that's true. But as soon as you insist that racism = institutional racism, or that "it really does only work one way", I'm afraid I just can't agree, both out of principle and out of pragmatism.

It'd be one thing to say that, from the perspective of triage, we need to focus primarily on equality for blacks, or women, or whomever -- that that's the more pressing problem. Outside of a few wingnuts, most people would find themselves able to agree with that, or at least accept that.

But when you redefine language in a way that inevitably makes one group of people the guilty, culpable party, and another group the victims...and when you do so using a form of rhetorical construction that makes the first group NEVER able to fully extirpate their supposed guilt, and NEVER able to charge the other group with any wrong or unfair use of "privilege"...

...well, what's the endgame, there? What's the likely result? Do you really think that it'll bring white people on board on behalf of black people, or men on behalf of women? And do you think you'll gain as many people as you alienate? Can you think of any dynamic where Person A keeps telling Person B "You're a piece of shit and you'll always be a piece of shit, and justice means that every conflict between us should resolve in my favor", and Person B doesn't ultimately want to kill Person A? It sure as hell inspires violent anger in just about anyone I've ever met, sooner or later, regardless of their race, cultural affiliation, gender, or whatever.

So yes, I still do think it's an essentially suicidal line of inquiry, because it inherently leads to violence, hatred, bitterness, and resentment. It's just another iteration of the original sin doctrine that says that people should feel guilty just for being born, just for existing. And even if you agree with it from an ideological perspective, it doesn't work from a pragmatic point of view since other than a handful of self-hating lefties, not very many people will sign up for a political outlook that basically says "You're to blame." No one wants that, and to be blunt, most people would rather kill the messenger.

Mar 11 12 - 2:06pm

But Trifitio, you have inspired me to clarify, maybe even retract a few things I said in response to above posts:

You're right, white people do get judged on their color, and having said that it happens "rarely" above, I suppose what I mean is that it seems to happen less often than the other way around. My knowledge of it usually involves a white person in a minority neighborhood, school, or other situation, including an ex-boyfriend, still a friend, who's white and grew up in a primarily black neighborhood. He's a sarcastic motherfucker, and claims to "not like black people very much" despite having dated women of all races and having more than the token few black friends many well-meaning but clueless white people have been known to refer to when defending themselves against charges of racism. But I'd argue, knowing him well, that he's sort of the inverse of Taren: claims the racism he knows he's got, but doesn't widely advertise that he's actually pretty thoughtful. He's got the same thing going on with sexism-- there's a reason he's an ex but also one that he's still a friend. I imagine he's a lot like the friend of yours who expresses racist thoughts but would help anyone no matter what their color, even a stranger.

I agree wholeheartedly that a lot of what's holding us back is the very human (just like prejudice, as you said above) tendency toward pain, anger, retribution, and blame. That's where the beatings of white kids in minority neighborhoods comes from, and it's also where the defensiveness and denial about white privilege comes from. I certainly don't know what the answer is, but of course it's to all our best interests to try not to react loudly when we encounter racial conflict. Hell, a lot of racial conflict doesn't involve white people at all-- my Chinese-American sister-in-law used to get severe harassment in her primarily black neighborhood growing up, as a minority there. It made her tough as nails, which also contradicts many people's ideas of who she ought to be by looking at her-- hanging out with her, I've noticed a lot of people think they can push around a 4'11" Asian woman in glasses, but they learn their mistake soon. She once had a white guy twice her size start a road rage incident with her, and then had him running back to his car to get away from her, him having made the mistake that he could bully a little Chinese girl to get her parking space even though she was there first.

That said, a lot of what I have to assert about racism, white privilege, and teachable moments is in direct response to the situation outlined in the article and people's responses to that. I once had a white guy, on a date, tell me that his friends had asked him if he had a problem with "dating an Oriental girl" and he reassured me that he didn't. Obviously this guy was well-meaning, if a bit behind on the terminology and keeping not-great company (other than me). That said, it didn't last long, but I wasn't the one that stopped calling.

Mar 10 12 - 2:13am

Great read both story and comments. I would have done the same thing if my partner didn't want to entertain the idea they were a bigot. I'd like to add that I'm white I've found that people assume my comments are racist....I have to be very careful when speaking. I feel I have to explain why I'm asking questions. For example instead of asking a long time friend (A) of my friend (B) who had mentioned he like to play basketball with long time friends 'do you play basketball with B' I have to say 'B mentioned he has some long time friends he plays basketball with, you mentioned you are along time friend, do play with him?'. It makes me feel odd having to explain why I'm asking most questions.

Mar 10 12 - 7:04am
dd monaro

I get it. You were hurt and angry. Sure, break up with her, but trashing her in public like this is a bit OTT.

Mar 10 12 - 9:55pm
dd monaro

"White people are never judged by the color of their skin."

What ignorant tosh.

"i disagree that all racism is created equal. "

That's quite literally a racist statement. This kind of muddle-headed confusion is what happens when a journalist uses an ex-girlfriend up as the villain in a morality tale. People seem to be confused about what racism actually is.

Mar 10 12 - 11:45pm

15 years ago, I married a Dutch national and moved to The Netherlands. Working with an international company, I was lucky enough to spend my time with many people of different cultures, most of whom were interested in sharing their own experiences and were interested in learning about different cultures.
Returning to the States after my divorce, it was awhile before I was ready to date.
After a few negatives experiences, I found myself on an interrracial dating site. I had expectations that people who had made the choice to date outside of their race were more liberal, more curious and more tolerant.
Three months later, I met an African American man who is now my partner. We come from similar blue-collar backgrounds, though we both suits these days. We share a love of many things. His parents did an exemplary job raising him, and I wish I had known his mother. Yet there are differences between us. We view the differences between us, sometimes, though not always, as cultural differences. Newark and Boston are worlds apart, after all :) He views me sometimes as more European than American. I view him... as a man. As an equal partner. As someone worthy of my love. He is my champion and biggest cheerleader. We bring life experience to the table as an older couple. We also bring our differences, not as stumbling blocks, but as something to be mutually explored, appreciated, and perhaps not always understood, but to be respected.
Mr. Lee, you wrote eloquently of this woman you saw, loved, and ultimately left. I hope for you that one day too you may look at the face across from you, and realize that she sees you as the sum of all your parts.

Mar 12 12 - 10:11am

OP, you're good-looking, articulate, intelligent and have a good job. There are literally thousands of beautiful African American women DESPERATE for a man like you. Desperate. Please consider dating one of those lovely ladies. You'll be respected and cherished, and your in-laws will love you for who you are.

Mar 12 12 - 3:20pm
Spook Juice

It's possible. And it's just as likely that those black women would NOT like him. While people may want to assume that the writer - or any black individual who attains a certain level of education - has a desire to "date/marry up," we don't know his dating history or preferences. He may have dated plenty of black women; it's just that Taren was someone of late in whom he found a compatible personality (for a moment...).

That's all that should matter. The people who take the "marry your own kind" stance fail to consider that not every black man is compatible with every black woman. We're not Lego blocks. Yes, there are probably some lovely black women who share his interests and would cherish him but how long should he be required to search for them? Does he have a responsibility to black women or the "black community" to remain solitary until such a match is found? You see, some of those black women - those in his locale - may be in relationships, may be gay, or may not want to date. Some are too old, some are too young. So the pool is therefore smaller. Of those remaining, he may not find them attractive - nor they him. Are we obligated to settle, to be forced into a relationship in order to satisfy this sense of skin-tone (not cultural, because black people are not all of the same culture) unity?

While it may not flatter us to consider the results, this is the result of being a (presumably) free people. People are free to date whomever they wish, whether the results be good or unfortunate. In this case, the writer suffered at the hands of this freedom more than an unknown black woman who is supposedly desperate to have such a black man. But that's the risk.

Apr 17 12 - 5:45pm

Wow this was a great read. I love the emotions flowing out the story. I like how you didn't start off mentioning that you were an interracial couple; it gave us this picture of your gf as just that your nice, kind gf and then when you revealed her racism, just like you, the readers are left trying to reconcile this nice girl with this racist girl.