Romance and Liberation: Loving a Black Woman in 2016 America
It’s a brisk Saturday morning in Waltham, Massachusetts. The glare of the 7:30 a.m. sunlight is sneaking through the window blinds like an innocent Black child creeping through and past cars and trees to reach home base in a neighborhood game of “manhunt.” The brightness of the sun’s beam is so vivacious that I’m almost certain that the night welcomed a stream of January snowfall. I peek out of the window only to be foolishly blinded and overwhelmingly notified that my hypothesis is indeed true. I have to get ready for work, which means that I have to trek through skin-biting air and, now of course, mounds of snow in order to get to campus.
But that’s not the difficult part of my morning. No, what’s difficult is the reality that I also did not wake up alone, and my love is still resting in bed while I rush to get washed up and dressed. I try my best to be swift and light with my movements in an attempt to not wake her, but the absence of my temple next to hers implores her to scarcely reveal her dark brown eyes and speak to me gently in a voice that suggests she won’t actually be waking up just yet. She hates that I work as much as I do. Yet, she always reminds me of how much she admires my work ethic.
“Hey you,” she whispers.
“Morning, I’m getting ready to leave soon. I love you. Text me when you wake up,” I respond.
She smiles. I kiss her forehead. I tuck her back into the blanket. I leave. I leave knowing that on any day I could wake up and leave, as routine as it is, and not return. I leave hoping that I’ll always make it back. I leave, hoping that none of the societal dangers of 2016 America steal me away from her. And I leave praying that this world is gracious enough to never steal her from me either.
In 2016, Black men and women were snatched of their bodies and identities at a disheartening rate.. And though this isn’t new, social and technological evolutions have allowed this truth to be witnessed by billions of people across the world. Police brutality and tumultuous acts of racial violence contribute to Black trauma on a daily basis. The probability of Black death seems rather imminent.
I know that she worries. She’s in love with a Black man in America. How could she not be? And how could I not worry about my Black woman?
I love a self-assured, intelligent, beautiful Black woman in 2016 America, and it’s not always the easiest thing to do. We are separate individuals with our own separate schedules. I resent the fact that I can’t always be where she is. I won’t always be there to keep random entitled men from catcalling at her on the train or street. I won’t always be present to stand with her when she experiences racism, sexism, or even classism when you consider that both her and I are products of working class families. Violence lurks around every nook and cranny and it bothers me to know that I won’t be able to shield her from all of the troubles of America.
While exterior threats to us as a couple, and also individually, do sometimes make me uneasy. I ask myself often: “But am I loving her correctly?” I’m in love with a Black woman who is self-loved, a practice completed through an exploration of the self. It takes confronting the truths of her womanhood, while also being unapologetic about those truths as they don’t define who she is as woman. She is very in tuned with herself and the way she feels, not afraid to be expressive. So in turn, she is also very sensitive. “I feel, very deeply,” is the way she puts it. She understands and embraces her strengths and weaknesses as a human, and is constantly growing, reflecting, learning, and teaching. She has been relatively open with me about her experiences and how they have affected her.
Her position as a black woman in America is not an easy one to fulfill, as she is also very in tuned with the world around her. Awoken and committed to the fight for liberation of all people and all identities, the Black woman that I love is strong-willed and doesn’t take shit from people - and that includes me and my ingrained homophobia and sexism. I had to deconstruct myself and the things that I had been taught over the years as a Black boy. I needed to do this in order to both gain a better understanding of myself, and to better love my Black woman and all people struggling for liberation.
Her knowledge and passion for both herself and black feminism was astounding to me when we first met. I have to admit, however, that it was also somewhat intimidating. Not in the vague sense of me believing that she was too strong for me, that has never been an element of our relationship. I knew early on that I wanted to love and be committed to this woman and therefore I’d have to learn as well. This was a decision that I made for myself. I decided that the only way that I’d be able to truly love her the way in which she required, I’d have to know and love myself as well. This means drawing back on my childhood experiences and unpacking what those moments meant for me as a black boy. Answering questions about sexuality and the male and female anatomies that I was afraid to ask my parents and teachers. Questions about my social position and both my racial and gender identities. Questions about why my mother was so restrictive with my sister, and why I was taught to be the same. I questioned the timidness of my childhood nature. And until my mom was actually married, I lived in a family where the men were either in and out, or not present at all. Therefore, I questioned what my role would be as a black man amongst black woman. And to this day, I question how to love ‘correctly,’ if there is a correct way.
For the past two months my love has been studying abroad in South Africa while I’ve been here in the states adjusting to post-grad life as a teacher. Her timezone is six hours ahead of mine, so we don’t get to check in as much as I’d like to sometimes. There are days when work is tough and I need to vent, or I may discover something new and want to share with her, or I may just even want to be in her presence; but for the time being, I just don’t have that luxury. It’s not always easy. But it is worth it. I’ve been learning new ways to love someone that I can’t see on a daily basis, let alone speak to. I can’t exactly put the feeling into words. Sometimes I want to feel her around me so I visit old pictures of us in my phone or I play music that makes me think of her. She bought me an electric guitar last year so typically when I play, she comes to mind. I write about her and play melodies on my piano that remind me of her gentle touch and unique voice.
And I’ve been doing the one thing that she urges me to do everyday: Love myself.
I’ve been taking time to give myself what I need and want. Allowing myself to make use of the chances to be in creative spaces, places of peace and comfort, and also just the sanctuary of my room. I feel that in the past, I tried so much to be present and giving of myself to people and their needs, without paying attention to the needs of my own mind and body. It was unhealthy and I felt drained. In undoing a practice of being too ‘over-giving,’ I’ve found that I now have so much more love and energy for my passions in both writing and music. I’ve also been able to gain more of an appreciation for the way that the love of my life, loves herself. I’ve taken time to forgive myself for things in my past that haunt me. I’ve taken time to let go of grudges, and in turn I feel almost ten pounds lighter.
She doesn’t even understand how much I feel indebted to her. Words just aren’t capable of relaying that message. I truly believe that loving her is transformative and particularly special- and from 2016 on, I plan to continuously express my gratitude in the warmest way:
By loving a Black woman.