A reader who prefers to remain anonymous sent the following email; for the sake of convenience, let's call her L. I added my response below, and we both welcome yours in the Comments. (I gave the post a different title from the one that L suggests below, because I think her situation exemplifies a broader phenomenon.)
I enjoying reading your blog over here in the UK. I think your approach to the discourses on race and white privilege is necessary, interesting and relevant. Anyway, the reason I'm contacting you is because of a recent experience I've had. I was wondering if you could do a post on your blog entitled "Date a black girl and expect her to be grateful." Or perhaps just post my email, I'd be curious to hear what your thoughts are on this.
I'm a black woman in my mid twenties in London, and recently I was involved with a white guy also in his twenties. I'm pretty open minded about who I date, having dated black, asian and white men.
To cut a long story short, this guy and I were friends first, but he pursued me pretty doggedly for about two years. . . . I think this guy suffered from a white superiority complex and a white saviour complex. He seems to exclusively prefer women of colour. Now there is nothing wrong with this in and of itself, but when he started making comments like "I hate white women," alarm bells went off. Also, he was forever rushing to the aid of black damsels in distress (usually only good looking ones), always through the guise of the magazine, but then lamenting over how much he helps black people.
Our relationship was tempestuous. He claims that I hate white people and was constantly finding racism in everything. Not true, I hate racism and oppression and I was very vocal about it. I thought it was positive that I felt comfortable enough with him to talk about this, but his interpretation was that I made him feel bad, guilty about his race and privilege, and that it was all so "draining."
He was like a jekyl and hyde character, very nice when he wanted to be but verbally and emotionally abusive if things were't going his way. He was capable of saying anything in an argument, racially loaded and offensive comments, but whenever I'd pull him up on it, after the red mist had cleared he would pretend as though he never said those things.
It was absolutely shocking, the response would be "How can you accuse me of that? Didn't I tell you that I hired that PR girl from the Carribbean, and one of our picture editors is from Cambodia for God's sake! Look how I champion the plights of people of colour! I could have an easy life and just care about the cash, but I put myself on the line!" I lost count of the number of times this was said, as though he got some sort of validation out of it.
Also, he often acted as if he knew more about the black experience than I did. I found this completely patronizing. He would say things like "you really should get hold of Franz Fanon's Black Skin White Masks" (even though he already knew I owned a copy). He would nauseatingly try to behave as if he was some sort of expert, as if he had experienced what it was like to be black in a Eurocentric society, when in fact he was clueless.
Also, if we were out and happened to see other interracial couples made up of a white male and black woman, I noticed something interesting. He didn't like it and would say things like, "That guy's only doing it to be rebellious, everyone's mixing it up these days." He would always discredit the motives of the men, as if he was the only white guy in the world that had genuinely honourable interests in black women. It was almost as though he thought he was unique somehow, and when confronted with the reality that he wasn't, he didn't like it. Those other white guys were somehow stealing his shine.
Things came to a head when he asked me out one weekend and I turned him down. He later bumped into me with a male friend of mine who happens to be asian. Now I repeat, this guy was just a friend, but he went completely nuts. He bombarded me with some of the most vitriolic, shocking emails, voice messages and texts I've seen, including telling me that my friend was "fucking ugly," and how dare I be seen out with an asian guy, that most black women would laugh at me for it, and at least with him being white, people would take me more seriously. I'm not kidding, he actually said that.
Now bear in mind that I've been selective about what I've told you, but there were other hideous, shocking things that were said. Suffice to say this guy and I are no longer involved.
I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this Macon, thanks for taking the time to read this.
[UPDATE: Please see the comments for this post regarding problems with my response below; I may soon edit the response below accordingly, and/or do a follow-up post about what seems to be a common white tendency that I wasn't aware of, something like "administer amateur psychiatric diagnoses" ~macon]
[UPDATE II: My response to L's email has been deemed so ineffective and full of fail by a series of commenters that I've come to admire and trust that I've followed suggestions and deleted it. I'll decide soon whether to repost it in a revised version, or to discuss what was wrong with it in a followup post, or to just leave it deleted. If you'd like a sense of what went wrong, you could probably gather that from the comments. ~macon]
[UPDATE III: If you'd like an even better sense of what went wrong, I re-posted for the record my original response to L in the comment section for this post, beginning here. I also address more fully the common white tendency that I unwittingly displayed in that response -- the tendency to offer amateur diagnoses of mental illness -- in this blog's next post. ~macon]