I Broke Up with Her Because She’s White

Christopher Rivas, New York Times, March 29, 2019

O.K., let me just get to it. I think I broke up with my last girlfriend because she’s white. Actually, no, I definitely broke up with her because she’s white.

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It’s been a year since I broke up with my girlfriend, and I haven’t told her the real reason. I talked around it, mumbling about how I was trying to figure out who I was or whatever. She didn’t understand. I’m not sure I do either. There was nothing wrong with her at all.

I don’t really know what my tipping point was. It just kind of happened. At 30, I woke up one day, took a deep breath, looked at her and thought, “I don’t think I can date white women anymore.”

Maybe I wouldn’t have broken up with her if it hadn’t been for all the judgment coming my way. Over the years I have dated brown women and black women, but mostly white women. I hadn’t thought about why that was, but when some brown and black people in my community started giving me a hard time about dating white women, I sensed they’d be happier if I stopped.

I also got weird vibes from some white people, namely the parents of the women I was dating. Like the ones who — even after I’d been dating their daughter for six months — kept thinking I was from Puerto Rico. I’ve never even been to Puerto Rico.

Or the ones who said upon meeting me, “Oh, I love ‘Buena Vista Social Club.’”

Yeah, for sure, that’s a great movie, but so is “Gladiator.”

And the ones who asked me if I speak Mexican. Yes, that is absolutely a thing. So is the father who opened the door and said, “Sorry, it’s not taco night,” and then closed it in my face, only to open it again because he was “just joking.”

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But the real reason I think I can no longer date white women isn’t any of that. It’s because in today’s hashtag-woke society, there is mad pressure to be hashtag-woke. To be aware of the implications of whom you’re attracted to and why. Which means that in the eyes of others, the color of the women I date is a big deal. Like I’m the problem. Like I’m betraying my people if I date white women.

But I was taught that we were all one people!

I see people watching me with a stink eye, noses turned up, as if they think black and brown people would somehow be better off if I dumped my white girlfriend. It’s a lot of pressure. Along with each watchful eye, the whispers of, “Pick a side, Chris, pick a side,” fill my already noisy mind.

I started reading James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates and other black and brown authors looking for guidance, a road map, help on what it means to be a brown man in the world. Like: Yes, our bodies have been colonized. Yes, I am a child of blackness. Yes, the black body has done more for society than it has gotten in return. Yes, society seems to want to embrace a lot of things associated with blackness without actually being black.

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Am I the problem or is everyone else? Do white women find me attractive or do they see me as some exotic idea they should find attractive? Do I find white women attractive or do I see them as they some exotic idea I should find attractive? Do I even know whom I’m attracted to or why?

I have to think my preferences were at least somewhat shaped by the ubiquitous image of Latin men as “The Lover,” an image that’s been shoved down my throat. Not because of what or whom we love, but as a way out, a way of being seen and of being saved. {snip}

It’s a message amplified by movies and TV, from “Save the Last Dance” to “Master of None” and dozens of other narratives that all feature, in one way or another, a black or brown man being made better from being with a white woman.

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What does that mean — trying to be white? We’ve all heard it (maybe not all of us). I’ve said it. If we think about it, it’s really just a comment on power: “Chico, you trying to have power now?”

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In truth, colorism has always been a thing. An aspiration to “better the race” has always been a thing. My grandmother and other grandmothers and mothers would warn us: “Don’t date someone darker than you. Don’t date coarse hair, big lips and big noses.

I brought home a black girl in high school and my aunt angrily mumbled, “Oh, do you see him and that Negrita?”

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But I didn’t say anything. (“Pick a side, Chris, pick a side.”)

{snip}

Obviously white women are cool. All women are cool. Cool is such a simple word, not the word I want to be using right now. I don’t just mean cool. (I probably shouldn’t even be talking about dating or not dating white women. Ah, man, this isn’t going where I wanted it to — )

Anyway, this is me yearning, praying, journaling, writing, dialoguing, putting up a one-man show, wishing, trying to pick a side, wondering how to choose myself and trying to wrap my head around this, hoping that I’m doing woke right, because something just doesn’t feel right.

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