It’s simple really. I was born the youngest child in a family terrorized by three angry black men. Since circa age 5, I have lived with a daily reality: myself, my mother, or my sister — the weak links — could be taken out. Killed. Life and game over. Or maybe just paralyzed, if you were lucky, which was almost the case for one of my brothers one time.
Did I mention there was no back-up for the innocent? Not my relatives, not the neighbors, not the police. Just three men, who happened to be black (and were supposed to nurture and protect the baby, me!) who used violence to work things out. Conversely, the white males on television were strong, handsome men who rescued people, hugged people, smiled at people and didn’t abuse their loved-ones. On top of that, the handsome white men on TV did some pretty terrific and adventurous things. Cops. Firemen. Loving dads.
I was raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, in the 1960s and 1970s. The city’s passion was race cars and race car drivers, who were … white. As a young boy, I loved the Indy 500. I dreamed of the Unsers and Foyts fighting over me in a custody battle, rescuing me from my angry, abusive family.
By the time I hit puberty, I was thoroughly convinced my fate lay in the hands of a white man whom I had yet to meet. He was going to be another boy at school. We were going to be best friends, as seen on TV and in the movies. Playing sports together. Horsing around together. Chasing girls together. Sharing secrets together. The Hutch to my Starsky. The buddy of my dreams, with whom I could survive anything, even my family, even puberty, even high school.
Ditto for college, where life was about finding “the white man who could love me.”
Of course, I’d had exposure to non-angry black men in high school and college, but not enough to crack the core of a young man’s brain. It didn’t help that said brain was already conditioned to profile black brothers in the same vein as my actual black brothers.
Then there’s the Assimilation Factor. My parents moved us to the suburbs of Indianapolis where I, the youngest, became the most assimilated member of my family.
Our neighborhood and school district were naturally integrated, but I had all the motivation in the world to be like all the white people suddenly thrust into my life. My older siblings didn’t do school. Never once did I see them do homework. They also caused a lot of hell for my parents.
With so much darkness within my black family, my young soul was signed, sealed and delivered for a better alternative: white people.
White people, the ones who can go anywhere and do anything in America. The ones who didn’t get hosed or attacked by police dogs just because of their color. The ones who weren’t getting killed for trying to vote.
White people. The ones who can qualify as “the boy or girl next door.” The ones who lay claim to the title “all-American.” (What does that make me, half-American?)
White people. I can’t be one of them. I can only hope to be loved by one of them, so that I too may bask in their golden blond sunshine, as seen and celebrated in the movies and on TV.
White people. A black boy’s only hope for a life without violence.
White people. They’ve called me nigger, articulate, and many other things, but never lover.
I’ve hooked up with all races. I’ve known beauty and lust in all shades. I could fall in love with any color man, but my heart palpitates most for white men.
Is it a good thing? A bad thing? No, it’s just a thing, one piece of the puzzle that is me. It’s also one puzzle piece that has, so far, brought more pain than joy.
Imagine a little black boy’s heart breaking when, one month before college at USC, he receives a booklet featuring all the school’s fraternities. Many of the frats have group shots. The freshman-to-be notices the absence of black males.
“Why are there no blacks,” I ask Kelvin, a co-worker at my summer job. Kelvin’s an upperclassman in a frat at Ball State. He knows things. He explains to me how the college Greek system is segregated and that I won’t be joining any white fraternities at my new dream school in California.
A month later, I arrive at the University of Southern Cal in 1980. The week before school starts, some of the USC Sigma Chi’s call me nigger. Imagine how hurtful that felt, surviving my abusive childhood so I could find my special white boy in California, only to be called nigger a week before school starts by the very white boys who rule the school’s social life and refuse to let me into their fraternity, all on the account of the color of my skin.
That’s just one of a long list of times white men have broken the heart of the little boy inside me. Every time I read online personal ads and read the words WHITES AND LATINS ONLY, NO BLACKS, SORRY NOTHING PERSONAL, it hurts. It hurts.
Every time I’m among gay men and they look past me, thru me, behind me, as if I’m not there, it hurts. Same for every time I cruise sites like bigmuscle.com and see profiles that include no blacks as their favorites.
It hurts, but it doesn’t change how I fell in love with white men. Nor does it change the fact that many black people get upset when they hear a black man waxing poetic about the color white.
Those black people will need to be angry at a lot of their own. Many black children grow up favoring white people, wanting to be white and dreaming of having “yellow hair,” which is how a young female cousin once put it (age six).
When I was a child, I fell in love with white people. When I became sexual, I fell love with white men. I am not alone. My story is one lived by many a black child.