Sunday, December 21, 2014

What If I Only Dated Other Black Guys: The Nasty, Naked Truth About Reverse Racism

Sadly, Benedict wasn't as elegant as his name. He was a pretty sloppy drunk but attractive enough that I didn't object when he kept stroking my back, his hand going down down down, until it was cupping my ass. It was what he was saying, not anything he was doing, that turned me off.

I was out with another guy, a friend and colleague, nothing more. He was white, and Benedict, though white himself, didn't seem to approve. He assumed my co-worker and I had to be dating because, you know, gay guys, like men and women, can't be just friends. And even if we weren't, he insisted that my being out with him must mean I date white men only. And how could I leave my fellow black men out in the cold like that?

Never mind that we were in Sydney, a melting pot where black men are a negligible component of the stew.

I scratched my head and considered the connection. I didn't see any black people in his party, yet he was hitting on me. Was I missing something? Was it OK for him to be out with white friends but not for me to do the same? Were blacks supposed to all stick together, platonically and romantically? Was this a segregationist agenda masquerading as up with black guys?

I'd heard similar lines of reasoning from others just like Benedict: the liberal white guy who sleeps with black men exclusively (or as my trainer, a mutual acquaintance, put it, "enjoys his men of color"), therefore making him extra-enlightened and an honorary keeper of the black cause. They generally police the behavior of other whites, though, so this was a first for me. If all black men thought the way Benedict suggested we should, what would become of him? Whom would he take to bed?

As if to support his twisted theory that black guys are hotter anyway, Benedict pulled out his cell phone and showed me his screen saver. It was a musclebound black hunk wearing nothing but underwear and a prominent bulge. Why, of course! I thought to myself. What good is a black guy without one of those?!

Meanwhile, Benedict kept on poking and prodding me and squeezing my ass. If he were to get me undressed, did he think I'd look like that? Was I not only expected to be interested in black men only but also to live up to the wild black man sexual stereotype?

His hackneyed view of black men came as no surprise. What I found more shocking was his outright dismissal of white men, not just sexually but socially, too -- at least in relation to me. Maybe he didn't enjoy the competition. What he didn't seem to realize was that in his embracing of the great black hype, he was coming across as a double racist, against the black men he craved sexually and the white ones he rejected.

I didn't dare call him on it because I knew it was a lost cause. I'd encountered enough white guys like him to know better. They think that as long as they sleep with black men, they couldn't possibly be racist.

It reminded me of the security guard at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem who pulled me aside to tell me how much he adored black Americans. "Can I tell you something?" he asked, before lowering his voice to a whisper. "I love people with skin like yours, but I hate white people. F**k white people!" Imagine if he had said "F**k black people" instead. Had I complained, he probably would have lost his job. But he was looking at me as if his strident decree about the white devil automatically made him cooler…and yes, enlightened.

I wondered with Benedict as I had that day last year in Bethlehem, why we couldn't just talk about movies or music or baby Jesus? Did it ever occur to these supposedly racially enlightened folks that black people are capable of discussing more than race and oppression? It's the same way straights sometimes patronize gay people by making every conversation as gay as possible.

Do they even recognize the undercurrent of racism, or homophobia, there? Do they not understand that it's that over-awareness of race, whether in favor of the minority or not, that's at the root of it?

In all my years of being black, I've never given serious consideration to what it would feel like to be white. But after being bombarded by Benedict, I found myself wondering what it would be like to be on the other side and not have random conversations suddenly turn into racial debates or log on to Grindr and not read messages like "Big black cock?". Oh, to go out with a guy and not have to wonder if he's wondering if it's true what they say about black men!

I suppose I could always do as Benedict seemed to be suggesting and cut white guys out of my life completely. It's a course of action, I was told by a black African friend in Cape Town, that many gay black Africans have taken. I've seen it in the general black U.S. population all my life: Segregation begetting more segregation. Racism spawning reverse racism. How is that healthy? How is that progress?

I'd rather keep trying to tune out people like Benedict, as losing as that battle seems to be. Just like I don't represent all black guys, he doesn't speak for all white men. Poor Benedict didn't get it, though, and while I refuse to start accepting or rejecting anyone socially or sexually based on race, he was one white guy who didn't stand a chance with me.
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