I met this beautiful man at a popular lounge in the District a few weeks ago. He was “the man,” literally. As the manager of the establishment, he addressed my concerns about the abhorrent customer service my friends and I had just received. Voice like milk and honey, and calm and full of power. Transfixing eyes. Dred-locked hair for days. Deep mahogany skin that made you just want to carve him out some children in his exact image. Kind and generous and downright good at his job, he set me and my friends up in VIP for our trouble and bought us a round of drinks. I had to thank him for his professionalism. His attitude and customer service completely transformed my mood, and my girls and I had such a wonderful time after that initially embarrassing situation. I got his business card to send him a thank-you (no lie, I really did just want to send him a card. I was not being fast!) and I couldn’t have gotten 3 feet away from him before a petite and scantily clad *ahem* young woman came and plopped down in his lap, making herself right at home.
She did not look like me.
Instantly, my dreams of the the natural-haired children we would produce (a little boy with dreds, a little girl with two puffs) was quietly shattered. (Yes, I realize that I have sworn off dating, I don’t know this man from Adam, and that its a problem that I envisioned marrying and reproducing with this random bite of chocolate within 5 minutes of knowing him. I’m a work in progress!)
This is what Jill Scott calls, the “wince.” In her latest column in Essence Magazine, she explains “why it hurts” in a way that is so honest, yet responsible that I had to share it with you. She finds the words that I couldn’t find when I felt this wince some weeks ago:
You know the moment when you realize that fine, accomplished brother is with a White woman? Let’s call it “the wince.”
My new friend is handsome, African-American, intelligent and seemingly wealthy. He is an athlete, loves his momma, and is happily married to a White woman. I admit when I saw his wedding ring, I privately hoped. But something in me just knew he didn’t marry a sister. Although my guess hit the mark, when my friend told me his wife was indeed Caucasian, I felt my spirit…wince. I didn’t immediately understand it. My face read happy for you. My body showed no reaction to my inner pinch, but the sting was there, quiet like a mosquito under a summer dress.
Was I jealous? Did the reality of his relationship somehow diminish his soul’s credibility? The answer is not simple. One could easily dispel the wince as racist or separatist, but that’s not how I was brought up. I was reared in a Jehovah’s Witness household. I was taught that every man should be judged by his deeds and not his color, and I firmly stand where my grandmother left me. African people worldwide are known to be welcoming and open-minded. We share our culture sometimes to our own peril and most of us love the very notion of love. My position is that for women of color, this very common “wince” has solely to do with the African story in America.
When our people were enslaved, “Massa” placed his Caucasian woman on a pedestal. She was spoiled, revered and angelic, while the Black slave woman was overworked, beaten, raped and farmed out like cattle to be mated. She was nothing and neither was our Black man. As slavery died for the greater good of America, and the movement for equality sputtered to life, the White woman was on the cover of every American magazine. She was the dazzling jewel on every movie screen, the glory of every commercial and television show. She was unequivocally the standard of beauty for this country, firmly unattainable to anyone not of her race. We daughters of the dust were seen as ugly, nappy mammies, good for day work and unwanted children, while our men were thought to be thieving, sex-hungry animals with limited brain capacity.
We reflect on this awful past and recall that if a Black man even looked at a White woman, he would have been lynched, beaten, jailed or shot to death. In the midst of this, Black women and Black men struggled together, mourned together, starved together, braved the hoses and vicious police dogs and died untimely on southern back roads together. These harsh truths lead to what we really feel when we see a seemingly together brother with a Caucasian woman and their children. That feeling is betrayed. While we exert efforts to raise our sons and daughters to appreciate themselves and respect others, most of us end up doing this important work alone, with no fathers or like representatives, limited financial support (often court-enforced) and, on top of everything else, an empty bed. It’s frustrating and it hurts!
Our minds do understand that people of all races find genuine love in many places. We dig that the world is full of amazing options. But underneath, there is a bite, no matter the ointment, that has yet to stop burning. Some may find these thoughts to be hurtful. That is not my intent. I’m just sayin’.
I would be hard-pressed to find someone to express it better, and so I’ll leave it at that.
But, in the larger scheme of things, I know that it is silly to wince at that moment of “enlightenment.” And I know that who God has for me is mine and mine alone, and that who God has predestined as mine may not fit into the plan and picture of the perfect family that I’ve dreamed up in my head while I was busy about my own business — and not God’s. But even being assured and aware of these things, it is still a struggle not to see this as a “black man down” situation, like there is one less for us. I am still naively surprised to find that my dream isn’t everyone else’s dream, too. With a history –and a present– that is so richly defined by the joint-struggle of the Black man and the Black woman, I am still baffled to find that there are men who do not want to recognize and share this struggle in a way that mirrors this: