I have loved two black men. Maybe to you that doesn’t seem like a radical statement, but I know people who been beaten, insulted, and ridiculed because of similar words. In the South U.S., particularly in North Louisiana, this statement garners less than approval. Often, at best, it leads to verbal disapproval. At worst, it leads to a lifetime of serious discrimination.
My love for Damien hit me like a bucket of cold water in the face. In fact, that describes it perfectly; I woke up to reality with my love for him. Sitting in a McDonald’s, drinking Cokes and having breakfast, he took my hand and looked me straight in the eyes. “You know, we could just leave. We could move somewhere, start over, just you and me. A place like California where people don’t care what color you are. We could do it.”
Literally, I had no words. It hit me. All of our phone calls throughout high school, all of the meeting up in the hallways, all of all of the times we snuck out and talked until three in the morning, stone cold sober yet deep into the theory life — all of that had led to this moment. We loved each other, and our families didn’t approve, wouldn’t approve, ever. Not his nor mine. That’s why it had never crossed the friendship line. And that’s why the first time he kissed me, I was already gone. I knew a part of my heart would be his forever. It already was.
He faded away from my life easily. Isn’t that terrible to say? We didn’t move, and the end was inevitable. Living in North Louisiana bears down on your soul, and without even realizing it, you can drift away from something you love because of cultural expectations. I got a phone call from my mom one morning while he was laying in the bed beside me. “Lauren, have you been having a black boy stay over in your apartment?” …My roommate had told on me. It didn’t matter that I was over 18, attending a university on scholarship, and making perfect grades. I was crossing a line that shouldn’t be crossed, and we both knew it. From that moment on, Damien and I saw each other less and less, slowly but surely. Looking back, I realize that we didn’t consciously decide this; we subconsciously realized how our story ended and a tearful good-bye wouldn’t have been fun for anyone. That was that.
The second black guy I dated was more white than black, if we are going strictly by the stereotypes that the South sets, which is stupid, but reality. His behavior didn’t matter, though. His top grades at the university, his serious involvement with the church — a white church, his perfect grammar. It all fell to the color of his skin. Our first date, I spent a large part of the evening alternating between crying and apologizing. My parents had made me leave the house when I told them what color my date was. He wasn’t allowed to pick me up at their home.
It should have been a sign, but I was stubborn and he was, too. Our love was the same. It didn’t knock me to my knees and take my breath away. It arrived and resolutely remained. We shared a recognition, a bond of how screwed up the entire world around us was. Inside our relationship, I felt safe, I felt me. I felt like I was doing the right thing, and I would have rolled over dead before I let white society have another go at choosing my boyfriends.
We gave it a hell of a run, honestly. Over eight months. He was probably the most encouraging, supporting and loving boyfriend that I ever had, but, it didn’t work. It couldn’t work. Maybe it was members of my family not speaking to me the entire time we were together. Maybe I was a coward and just not strong enough. Maybe it was my move and the distance. Maybe we just both grew out of it. I don’t know, because like with Damien, it just faded away. As I already told you, that happens when two people know how society wants their story to end.
And that is why when I met a French man who challenged religion, who fought for women’s rights, and who truly didn’t see color, I married him. I married him. I married him. And I would do it all over again, every single day, because it opened my eyes. I’m writing this, and I have his full support — as I should — because he has seen it. He has experienced it. He knows that something has got to change; we as a generation cannot sit idly by while an already ancient culture attempts to decide our lives. The reality is that it doesn’t matter what color your spouse’s skin is. If someone has a problem with who you are dating, then something is wrong in their life — not yours.