Brothers (in the other sense of the word)

Aww! The boat’s gonna start rockin’ now! Hold on!

I started this blog by sounding off about my frustration about the boxes that we (all of us) seem to want so desperately cram one another into. Well, today I’m daring to publicize a very real, complex, and personal struggle I’m engaged in regarding inter-racial relationships. I know this path is laden with controversy and as much as I may want to play this safe and tread lightly, I’m not inclined to do that. So, please hear me, respond freely, and consider this but one place along a journey that’s barely begun.

At one point (not very long ago) I’d decided that were I ever to consider entering another relationship it would definitely not be with a brother. I was poised to find a Birkenstock-wearing, hockey-playing, co-op- working, vegan-neo-hippie, because to me this spelled: SAFE! And, of course I know I’m kidding myself. There are no guarantees with anyone and despite my best efforts to do what I do best to those things that cause me pain (amputate them), I know I can not eliminate enough humans from my life to ensure pain-free living from here on out. And I’m left having to make choices about the risks I’m willing to take. I’d decided that black men were entirely too risky and that although there are risks with anyone, my experience has taught me that I was more likely to get burned badly by this group than not.

Have you ever seen Along Came Polly with Ben Stiller and Jen Aniston? Ben’s character was a risk analyst. Besides the OCD thing he had going on, I saw a lot of me in what he was hoping to accomplish. He had to choose between two women: one who had already betrayed him, crushed him and another who just inherently went against everything he considered safe or acceptable. What a choice! The head vs. heart thing was not concrete enough for him, so he input the characteristics of each woman into his risk-calculator. His reasoning was that naturally he should go with the woman with the lowest risk threshold. Insane? But I can so relate. (And, besides, what is talking about guys with your girlfriends if not risk management?)

On one hand I have the ‘known:’ brothers (and I make a reasonable argument on my behalf for knowing brothers well—the majority of my contact with men for 32 years) and on the other hand the’ unknown’: Birkenstock Man or any derivative thereof. For so many reasons, the unknown has come up more favorable time and time again as I’ve processed the perceived risk. Am I jaded? Perhaps. Probably. Ok, granted. But what good is experience if we don’t learn from it and avoid making the same mistakes again? And, I’m not thinking of just my own experiences. I keep hearing the same stories over and over again with the same themes, same abuses, same addictions and deceptions over and over and over again. I can’t help but ask myself, “Are you crazy? Why not consider trying something different should you do it again?” The answer: the box!

I wish I felt like I was free to move on with my life and expand my net. But the truth is that I feel the pressure, tremendous pressure that is primarily unspoken to keep it real, not sell out, or stand by our brothers. The truth for me is that not one or two but a lot of brothers have hurt me, terribly, and I am afraid to trust them. But I’m also angry with a community that ostracizes any of us (male or female) who dare to consider relationships outside of our race. Shared experience does not have to breed perpetual limited experience and repeated experience. I don’t think I should be expected to bare the load of the black man’s plight and accept the unacceptable just because I’m a black woman. That devalues me as a person and I am, above all else, a person.

Does this mean that I think all brothers are awful? No, not at all. A handful of the most precious, good, faithful, respectable guys I know are brothers. Each with his own set of issues, but good, decent men who love God, themselves and the women in their lives (and treat them well). I love them dearly and they know who they are. And honestly, it’s this group of fellas that is the impetus for me even bothering to get a dialogue going about my struggle. I want to be careful not to dishonor them. I know they are in my life, in my face to force me to challenge my instinct to go to the chopping block and try to rid my life of pain, to throw the baby out with the bathwater. They are the thorn in my side on the days I want to run. They are my hope for standing still and learning to trust.

So here I am. Struggling with a doozie.

Bring it on! I’d love to hear from you.



10 thoughts on “Brothers (in the other sense of the word)

  1. Alexis, this is very interesting. Let me first lay the foundation for my response. I have never dated outside my race, primarily because I never really dated. My parents kept me in a box, and when I broke out, I married the first man I ever was allowed to date. (Not the thugs I snuck out to go see with my girlfriends while I was supposed to be somewhere else.) I have been attracted to guys of a variety of backgrounds however, to include white, latino, asian, and black. Had I been free to date, I probably would have attempted a relationship with a couple of them. Personally, when I take a good honest look at myself, I don’t know that I would be as totally comfortable being completely me with anyone other than a brother though. While I agree that many brothers bring a LOT of drama with them, there’s just something about them that no other guy has even been able to outshine for me. Just a matter of preference, I guess.

    I think that inter-racial relationships are a beautiful thing. In no way do I think that being with someone other than a brother would make you a sell-out. I don’t believe it should be a given that everyone should only look for someone who looks like them. What WOULD make you a sell-out would be harboring bitterness against all brothers and that being your motivation for dating someone of another race. Date them because you like them and not because he’s “unblack.” The drama they bring may be different, but I’m sure it’s there.

    Like you said, safety can’t be determined by race, culture, heritage, identity, or even experience. There’s a painful thing called intimacy — being completely honest at the risk of not being accepted — that must be hurdled. And that’s never safe. It’s always a risk.

    At the end of the day, the only safe lover is Jesus. Sounds cliche, but it’s true. Someone will be worth the risk. Love does outweigh fear.

    Finally, the black man’s plight can’t be fixed by the black woman. Trying to is part of why we die of heart disease more than any other group and this is why so many of us grow old, broken and bitter. And you can stand by your brothers without marrying one. Being the Bride of Birkenstock does not negate your support of the brothers you love.

  2. “Being the Bride of Birkenstock does not negate your support of the brothers you love.” Tania is right about that one.

    You shouldn’t have to compromise your life or yourself just to “keep it real.” What does that mean anyway? Well, my definition is this…Keeping it real means that you go against everything you think, believe, and feel, just to keep up appearances or go along with the “norm.” In the case with inter-racial relationships, you are not keeping it real if you choose someone outside of your race. While, this isn’t the true definition of what it means to “keep it real,” this is certainly how it works out in reality.

    Not being interested in a black man doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you. What it does mean, is that you’re very good at observing the people around you. You’ve been able to note both the good and the bad things at once. Right now, the bad outweighs the good. It may even stay that way. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. You need someone that will make you feel safe. If you don’t feel safe with a black man…then stay the heck away from him. To be honest, I’ve always told myself that I would never marry a black man.

    It’s not that I don’t like black people (maybe it is…no really, there are several bad examples, but not too many good examples). I have lived in black neighborhoods most of my life (the exceptions being my parents’ old house in Indian Head and college) and I can truly say that I hated living in those neighborhoods. For the most part, I wasn’t allowed outside to play, and there was always something dangerous going on (lots of drug deals in public, and little kids cursing out full sentences). I did not want to stay in such condition, but this is typical of black neighborhoods.

    A lot of people say that it’s because black men don’t step up, take responsibility, and do something about it. Maybe they’re right…maybe not, but for what it’s worth, I don’t really care. There are several black men who live up to the stereotypes…yet there are some out there who don’t. When you find the right person (regardless of race), you’re in great shape. Since when has it been made manditory to keep it in the same race? I’ve decided that I would not marry a black man…but I still did. My husband by some standards isn’t black and by others he is. That’s only because he’s mixed, but either way, he’s not white, latino, or asian. He’s a good man. He doesn’t live up to the typical black man standards. He does what he can for his family. These are great qualities no matter what race you are and there are many more. You should never compromise yourself. Doing that will make an unequally yoked relationship for you.

    So…if you want to keep it real, just make a list of what you want in a man (putting race aside as well as any other “skin deep” qualities) and don’t settle for less. That’s what I did 🙂

  3. Interesting subject. I preface my response with this statement. Wherever a negative stereotype exists, i WILL break it. Whenever there is a choice between being politically correct or not, i’m GOING to choose the “offensive” route. More times than not that route is the truth. now on to the response.

    I am a guy. I am married. I am of a dieing breed of guys. I have only had sex with one person in my life (my wife) and have no intentions of ruining that. Growing up i was taught differently by my dad. i was taught that we, as men, are to protect all women as if they are sisters (and i’m not talking about just black women when i say sisters). I was taught that sex is a gift designed by God that only is to be given to that one person who deserves it. Imagine a knight who is ready to give his life for his princess. that is me. sorry can’t help it. if you think i’m outdated, or uneeded…tuff titty.

    By the way, it may seem like i’m going off course with this but i’m not, it’ll come around to the subject at hand, trust me.

    Back when marriage meant something and men stayed with their wives till death, this is how they were taught. This is how they believed, this is how they lived. If you dont believe that women need this protection, then you’ve predestined yourself to find a bad apple. Which is kinda ironic nowadays. Its easy to find a bad apple, it’s hard to find the one good ripe one left in the endless field of bad trees, that make bad apples. Now i also believe that my wife completes me where i fail. before marriage i was very callous and not willing to open up. my wife is teaching me to open my sensitive side, not gay sensitive mind you :p. hey i said i’d offend you! We have different roles, we are not equal. I dont say that to belittle women. I dont buy the PC bullsh…crap. It’s obvious what our differences are. Trying to be equal is foolishness. Trying to survive alone, unless granted the gift of singleness (which is a HUGE rarity btw) is FOOLISHNESS. do i have to say it again? So being a man it is absolute stupidity to believe i can do it on my own, beat my own chest, scream I AM A MAN!! HEAR ME ROAR!!. And the same applies to women as well. it is absolute stupidity to believe you can do it your my own, beat your own chest,(you may have to aim slightly higher than me cause your breast might get in the way) and scream I AM A WOMAN!! HEAR ME ROAR!!.

    Neither of us is complete. WE are functioning at 50%. When we are married only then are we equal, because we no longer are ourselves. no more me, myself and i. I = We. We are now one unit, one person, one identity. EQUALS. The day to day roles are different, like parts of a body. I am me as one person but my arm has a different function then my butt. (i coulda said leg but that’d be too predictable now wouldnt it) Each family member represents different parts/functions of the body. This is reality. If you dont like it again you are pre-destining yourself to fail.

    NOW lets tie this into the main subject on many different levels. Get ready to be offended ya’ll.

    Alexis because of her experiences sounds jaded right now against black men. To be honest based on what i see, i dont blame her. I’m a mutt hence my name. I have so many different races in me it’s ridiculous. what does that mean in reality. it means i get shunned by ALL groups not just a couple major ones. For all intents and purposes i’m black and it’s what i am, but you call me african-american and you just made yourself an enemy. NOW why do i say this?

    The black community right now is in shambles. The music, the culture, the mentality, the families or lack thereof. We buy into the bullshit and never question it. If anyone does then he is outcast, he’s a wannabe, a hater, whatever term you want to call it. It’s funny i was debating on whether or not i should respond to this topic, since it’s such a touchy one. But just today something happened that changed my mind.

    I ride the metro to and from work every day. After 2 days of doing this i noticed something. Green Line = black people and hispanics, yellow line = white people and asians. When i first started riding i was worried that i’d miss my train. now i dont have to worry i just look over the edge. if i see black people standing at the front and white people behind then the green line train is coming (which means i better hurry and get on before i miss it) if it’s white people and asians, i can relax and take my time, cause it’s not my train. same tracks! differnt colors. i noticed something else. the black trains…i’m sorry green line trains the people are mostly angry, rude, obnoxious. people packed in like sardines. most conversations fall into one of three catagories. 1. streams of obscenities at the top of your lungs. 2. guys trying to get their dicks wet (and the same women who are sick of this type are falling for their lame lines). 3. people talking about how bad our community is but never doing anythign to change it. Anyway back to today. i was standing at the edge with all the other black people and the woman next to me was upset and talking to her friend. she was furious about how some relative of hers decided to marry outside the race. in her own words. “I dont know what he’s doing! Watering us down like that!” She had nothing real to say about this guy who from what i could tell married a white woman. If i had to choose between people like her (the angry black woman) and the someone who’s going help me treat them right (yes i said it that way on purpose) then sorry i’d pick the second person. REGARDLESS OF THEIR RACE! See race is irrelavent, it’s the attitude and mentality that matter. BUT if black people become synonymous with the stereotype then it becomes ever increasingly hard to find a proper mate among that community.

    I was another person who had predetermined that i would NEVER marry a black woman. I was the opposite of all the guys they ever dated and guess what they saw in me? “Oooo you got pretty hair.” “oooo he so cute” Not once until i found my wife (you probably guessed by now) moni-q had i met a black woman who cared about me for who i really was and not what i looked like. And honestly i wasnt even interested in her. I was just doing what i can’t help. protecting her from an asshole, who reminded me a lot of the queen asshole that i just got out of a relationship with. She’s the only one in 26 years of searching that fit the bill and just happened to be black too.

    Now if lexi chooses to abstain from black men while she looks for a mate that’s fine. She is more protecting herself from what she has learned to be true than abandoning her race. She’s keeping it more real then the ones who coined the phrase. They are keeping it ignorant.

    Now lets talk about black people and crabs. Now everyone knows we like us crabs in the summer, almost as much as we like chicken.
    Speaking of which i think chicken should be the black national bird…and food. but i digress (see lexi i can use cool words too)
    Question. Do you have to put a lid on a pot of crabs being steamed? The obvious answer is no. Not a single crab will EVER leave that pot until it is dead and headed toward my mouth. the black community in it’s current state is just that. a steaming pot of crabs. We are dying! we are boiling to death from the inside out. Some of us can see it. The crabs who notice the top is off and it’s getting hot in here…so take off all your… (another point that our music is crap) The other crabs have no clue they are cooking. The ones who want out of the death trap are trying but they are being grabbed and clawed and pulled back into the heat. And it’s not that we want to get away from black people, it’s that we dont want to die! Now once we are out what happens when we try to reach back in the pot to save some others. They grab us and try pull us back in and refuse to see they are almost dead. If we resist getting pulled in then we get slandered, ridiculed and outcast. We are labeled as haters of our own race, when it’s really the opposite. We want the best for our race, but can’t get anyone to understand what reality is, what truth is. It’s sad.

    One last thing about the other races. looking in other races won’t necessarily solve the problem. They have their problems too, they just mask it in a different way. It’s just an unfamiliar (to us) method of hiding the same problems. So if lexi finds a man from another race, it likely won’t be simply because he is white or whatever. It’s because he fits what she needs at his core. We have no race beneath our skin. God made 2 people Adam and Eve. An genetically speaking adam and eve were probably as dark as fricking possible. Genetically it’s impossible to go from white to black but it’s very possible to go the other way around. God knew we’d eff up this world. He gave adam and eve the entire genetic code needed to survive in our eff’ed up world. That’s the only difference.

  4. Forget rockin’ the boat. MC_mutt’s about to tip the darn thing over!!!

    Thank you all for your thoughts. I appreciate the diversity of perspective and the experience that shapes it.

    There are a few of you who’ve read this whose views are quite contrary to mine. I really welcome your thoughts to round out the discussion. Please post your comments.

  5. Let me add to this discussion that I too was once a Black woman losing her mind when she saw a brother with a woman of another race, particularly a white woman.

    I don’t know what (if anything)this adds to the discussion, except that I knew that re-thinking some of these things would require me to examine where my intolerance has shown up most as well.

  6. I’ve been in and out of the site for the last week and due to time have not been able to comment or better yet did not want to rush my comment.

    Lexi, I agree that we as a community put too much pressure on each other to like what we like, want what we want, and do what we do. If you are outside the “norm” or the trend you are pushed into the corner and scorned. It is that approach I believe that now has DL brothers in a strange way being almost accepted and understood as if it’s ok, why because it’s the trend. That is nasty, hideous, and totally unfair to the women they are with but that’s not the topic (sorry). The reason we were all created uniquely is to maximize the various different points of view in life. I am in no way against interracial dating or marriage. HOWEVER, I believe there is nothing like black on black love. Nothing against any other culture but when you can get a bratha and sistah together in the open, honest, sincerity of love there is no comparison. I believe this is a result of our culture, although I say that loosely as our culture has been on a steady decline over the last 20 years give or take. Been when you look at the root of the black race we were built on faith in God and support of ourselves. That was essential for us to survive the various things we have gone through as a community. I believe it is that innate establishment of togetherness that is the foundation of our successful relationships. As well as, I believe it is the attack of the enemy on that same sense of togetherness that has begun to destroy our fiber and caused us to be facing a time where divorce rates are 50% and on the rise.

    I’ve never been in an interracial relationship but I have been around a number of them. From what I’ve seen when it comes down to it much of the time and attention is spent overcoming the adversity and differences, not only from outside the relationship but from the core of the relationship itself. You take two people, with totally different backgrounds, experiences, spiritual & cultural beliefs and put them together; it seems great in the beginning because there are mounds to learn and converse about. But at the end of many of those they find that “…this person really just doesn’t understand and can’t be touched with who I am.”

    I once had a conversation with a friend who was in an interracial marriage and the subject of children came up. He proceeded to tell me that he tried to teach his children that they were normal and just like everyone else. I told him that he was doing them a disservice and setting them up for failure. As the definition of normal can be tossed to and fro, just like everyone else is wrong and my words were “when she comes home crying that someone called her a Zebra you will then realize why”. Don’t try to make them normal, help them to realize who they are, two very unique children from two different but important backgrounds.

    All that is to say, in my opinion the difficulty in the differences most often will out weigh the ability to have what is desired, Yes there is always the exception to the rule and if you find the exception then so be it. But I believe and know that there are some bratha’s out here that won’t hurt you, won’t dog you, and will stand by you not wait for you to stand by them. You have two great examples one of whom I know and one of whom I’ve learned a little about through his comments and have respect for. O, is the example of so much. I don’t want to put him out there on the site but let’s just say, the bratha is committed to a women he doesn’t know, has yet to see, and has no idea when she will come. Yet he is sticking by her and being a real man to her and he doesn’t even have her yet. And then Mc_mutt, if he is and does what he says he is and does and I imagine he is as his wife has not contradicted him…then what more can a woman ask for than a man who saves himself for her, gives himself to her, and pledges to never defy that. He stands by who he is but even more so commits to who he is to make sure he is what she needs.

    I know you have been hurt from top to bottom as you have said but trust and believe that there are brathas out here waiting for the opportunity to be a king (servant) to a queen like yourself. Follow your heart and fulfill yours desires but don’t hold against the entire population the transgressions of the stupid few.

  7. The Skater has so many very good points. I want to add something to what was said about differences.

    I am a black woman from Louisiana who married a black man from Trinidad. He has a lot of “stuff” in his bloodlines — Venezuelan, portuguese, dutch — but at the end of the day, the man is of negro descent. We have had our fill of cultural differences even though we share the same race.

    I come from a place where things are still very segregated. White people called my grandparents “Harvey” and “Ada” while my grandparents gave them the courtesy of using the titles “Miss” and “Mister” when addressing them. I’m not talking about the 1940’s. I’m telling you what I personally remember, and I’m only 31. My husband doesn’t know what it is to be a minority. Trinidad is about 45% black, 45% east indian, and 10% a mixture of Chinese, white, Lebanese, latino and other ethnicities.

    We’ve had our differences about everything from race relations to laundry, all because of the merging of two totally different cultures. Trust me — this isn’t limited to interracial relationships.

  8. Don’t just rock the boat, tip it over and swim! You will find in the ocean many fish that look the same, many that don’t look the same and yet they are all fish alike.

    Colored Caucasian

    persons human
    loving needing giving
    assuming mistaking advancing withdrawing
    loving needing giving
    persons human

    © 2005 by Kwesi Williams

    The man I am

    I am a man from the inside out.
    See the inside and remove all doubt.
    If I am he that has made mistakes
    That has learned from life’s major earthquakes
    That has worked, toiled, adjusted and changed
    That has renovated, the inside remade
    Colored or Caucasian
    Asian or West Indian
    Here is the cold reality
    If you start at the outside
    You can’t really see
    The man I am
    No doubt

    © 2006 by Kwesi Williams

    Alexis, Ladies, Brothers

    Image is everything yet true image is not easily seen.
    It’s impossible to love a person unrevealed yet most stay hidden.
    Love is a decision.
    Should you choose to ever love again?
    Love with insight not at first sight.
    Love the ugly parts first because if you can love the ugly the rest is covered.
    To reject a man by the color of his skin is racism.
    To accept a man by the color of his skin is stupid.
    You neither want to be racist nor stupid!

    © 2006 by Kwesi Williams

  9. Thank you all so much for your candidness and self-exposure. Your responses have been so much more than I expected. This has been an awesome conversation for me. There’s nothing like thinking through the tough stuff in a community of peeps as awesome as each of you. Now, on to my comments:

    Tania, I’ve given some real thought to what you said about brothers “when it really comes down to it”. As much as I hate to admit it, there is this “it” factor about them that distinguishes them from the rest. I can’t deny it. I’ve walked around for the last two weeks, even this week in sunny California, trying actually imagine myself in one of these “other” situations. There’s an absolute block there somehow although I can’t yet articulate just what it is.

    Skater, maybe it’s what you said about “black on black love”. Tania seems to agree with you that there’s nothing like it and Moni-Q and MC_Mutt are working it despite their best resistance to it. I agree with you that in the end overcoming the differences may not be worth the effort of avoidance of expected problems. And, what a treasure to find someone who really “gets” you! And even more to find someone who honors you. Thanks!

    MC, I share many of your and Skater’s frustrations about what happens all too often within our community. I don’t believe in quick fixes, silver bullets or easy solutions…to anything, so I’m not about to propose any here. I do think that getting all of your great minds and unique perspectives to the table (at least in this forum) is a step in the right direction. I appreciate all of your raw honesty and utter respect for each other’s perspective, and for mine. You have to admit, our community doesn’t usually debate well.

    And KWESI, it’s about time!! I was wondering when I’d hear from you. I knew you had something to say. One quick comment: Racism or Self-hatred? Don’t respond though. I’m saving that one for another post.

    And to all of you: I FEEL THE LOVE!!!! You all are the best. I’ve got the most wonderful friends in the whole world. If you’re drifting in, take note, awesome people sound off here. Join in!

  10. Lex… I agree with you on all levels. I must say that I don’t think I would be able to marry outside of my race but hey, with life comes changes and we have to be willing to change when change is present. If not… we’ll be blogging our should have could have and would haves. Have you seen the movie “Something New”… After that… I definitely think it’s time for something new, LOL.

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