“Wanna vacation for two weeks in one of my rich aunt and uncle’s Winnebago?”
Okay…that was not the invitation my boyfriend gave for potential holiday plans and I don’t think his family even owns a Winnebago, but he did reveal to me that members of his family have more than a little ch-change. And there was an actual invite to an event that included paid travel and expenses. These were travel dollars that I didn’t have to spend to somewhere far and beautiful that I’ve never been.
I’ve always thought of relationships as 100% + 100%. You don’t need someone to make you whole and relationships are meant to complement who you are. They are not intended to be a crutch. However, at the beginning of our relationship, something in my mind (possibly a short lifetime’s worth of perceptions and projections) kept telling me that if my boyfriend and I were running in a race, I’d be a leg behind. Something told me that what I could offer, which darn sure wouldn’t be an all-expense paid vacation, could not outweigh a background of privilege.
My parents ensured that my family was rich in love. It wasn’t going to be money since they were called to ministry. While my family has gone through bouts of financial struggles and lacks the whole generational wealth thing, God has provided so I’ve never been without anything I needed.
As a 20-something millennial trying to wade in the waters of my own independence, I have enough trouble learning to ask for help, let alone being comfortable with handouts. I was concerned about what I could actually give or contribute to this relationship. What tangible thing can I offer this man besides my Black Girl Magic, delicious soul food, and Hulu password?!
Result of convo: We communicate frequently about finances, including co-paying for activities. Because he was/is a real one, he doesn’t need me to offer anything besides my honesty and transparency.
Life Hack: Holding onto what you DON’T have is never good for anyone. This includes but not limited to…
- An ex
- Professional success
- That stamp on your passport
- A degree
- And yes, money.
If you’re a person of color seriously dating a white person, Word of Mouth Daily Research reports that they more than likely have an understanding of black cultures that go beyond the surface. While they read #BlackTwitter and get regular invitations to “The Cookout,” they also have a passion to advocate for the black struggle as a whole. They’re an educated ally. She’ll march with you at a BLM rally or he may even have a degree in African American studies.
I recently visited the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum (you know, the one where our trifling governor invited Agent Orange and it didn’t go as planned) and it’s remarkable beyond words. Go visit #Plug.
Going through the exhibits, I couldn’t help but remember the times when Bae has told me tidbits of his Black History notes. He gained some knowledge from his undergrad studies. He learned more insight from his intentionally diverse, Christian community that’s focused on social justice and racial reconciliation. The rest he has learned because Bae is educated AF and just likes to read up!
Every now and then, he tries to tell me something. My replies are “Cool.” “Wow.” “Nope, I didn’t know that.” “That’s amazing!” It’s usually sincerity with a dash of sarcasm.Why is it that my man without melanin keeps telling me things that I don’t know?! This has bugged me to no end that MY history is not my own and I can’t humbly hear it from the mouth of someone who shares my heart, but not my heritage.
When it comes to finding our identity, black people have a natural disconnect to our lineage because of slavery. As I read HuffPost Black Voices articles and listen to NPR, I realize it’s the closest I’ll get to conversations I never got to have with my late grandfather about his family of sharecroppers and our obscure ancestry. In contrast, Bae can directly trace his roots to Northern European Wypipo Land of Wherever.
Result of convo: While I dare not squash his genuine excitement for learning about pieces of history I identify with, this conversation allowed him to hear how sensitive these topics were for me. I acknowledged my jealousy of him knowing his own history when I inherently don’t. For now, all I know is that I’m black mixed with black and both of us are here for it.
The Welcome Mat
I enjoy other ethnicities and cultures, even hipsterdom and the like. When you’re a black woman, you almost don’t have a choice to embrace other worlds and for people to absorb a bit of yours along the way.
With an easy transition into other subcultures, I forget how it may feel to come into an environment that’s unfamiliar. False. I don’t forget, but I can occasionally forget to put out the welcome mat for my own world.
Bae and I recently went to a concert with friends. The music was dope (#Plug for Jackson music scene) and it was definitely a cookout atmosphere. I automatically went into a dance number with another friend beside me and somehow left Bae stranded in the sea of swag surfin’ homies. He was fine but it didn’t change the fact that I left him without a guide.
How do you or your partner feel in the other’s environment? Our conversation centered around the need for “permission” to jump in or how to give comfort without being awkward, extra, or giving the appearance of appropriating. In the course of writing this blog, I’ve sent Bae at least 2 SOS text messages:
Me: Bruh, if one more Northface jacket walks up in this coffee shop…
2 hours later…
Me: Update — There are actual black people here now! You don’t have to come lol. We multiply at night. Typical. I forgot.
Result of convo: Remember to pull out the Welcome Mat and commence continual onboarding. Examples: I teach dance moves that we’ll break into at the next shindig. He teaches me how to shop at a Columbia store and how to order coffee at Starbucks because homegirl has never learned. I speak ⅔ fluent languages: Proper English, Ebonics, and Dora, but not venti espresso Chemex latte.
Take the leap into un-Columbused territory and have the tough conversations with your partner. Have grace for shortcomings, potential ignorance, and get ready to own up to your true feeling. Even if your boo is of the same race or socioeconomic background, it’s still a journey to learn about how race has shaped your worldview while creating intimacy in your communication.
Bae is still putting up with me so I’m not out of the woods yet! Drop any conversation pointers in the comments or @ me. I have sent for you so you are allowed to come for me 😉