Monday, September 8, 2014

Deal Breaker: When Talking About Race With Your Significant Other Leads To Resentment

I recently wrote a song titled “Kolvoord Startburst”. In it, there is a short story I rap over a single verse. A few friends asked me about it, so I’d like to put it in prose. It’s been awhile… for me and prose, but I’m going to give it my best. And furthermore, hopefully bring you stories as frequently as I once did.

There was a time one of us would have said we were in love. And then there was a time where the other would’ve said we were in love. Our timing was often so off that it played like a game of love only while the other hates… now change roles.

It was a Minnesota Saturday, just like any other, we strolled about the Walker Sculpture Garden speaking of the future and places we’d love to visit. I’d always admired her for the stretch of her imagination beyond the small town-demeanor of the Midwest. Chicago is nice, but what about Ibiza- Segovia- Tokyo? Nothing was out of grasp, everything was attainable… it felt like sometimes, when you were with her.

As couples do during talks of the future, they get the talking about themselves. The dialogue can go one of several thousand ways- civil, resentful, futile, simple, basic, etc. How the conversation turned into what it was- well, I’ll never quite remember how it got there, but I can tell you about the surge of blood and serotonin that occurred as a result. I can tell you about the realizations that color your brain as the words pierce deeper into your pride & principles as a man. And sadly, I can tell you about the denial that you’ll blanket over the wound as the quickest means to healing- healing in the sense of duct tape over a severe laceration. It covers the injury now, but gives no means for long term rehabilitation.

I believe one should ask themselves everyday “How did we get here?”… as well as couples. The question is fair, and therefore the answer will be fair as well. “Fair” does not mean kind or nice, it simply means it will balance what there is that needs balancing, and if there is something completely out of whack, the answer will bring about some clarity.

After discussing visitable cities across the globe, we turned to our jobs. She had previously visited my job as a youth worker at the West 7Th Community Center in St. Paul. And after watching a litany of bi-racial youth, from a low income neighborhood, jump about the outdoor festival we had thrown, we- obviously- began talking about ourselves. Her curiosity and intrigue from the West 7Th visit spun her to monologue a streamline of consciousness...

“I mean, it must be so confusing for them [bi-racial children]. Who do they ascribe to? Are they white- are they black? Do black children accept them or do the white kids?”

I interrupted briefly, “Well, my sister wrote a paper about this when she was in high school, because her and I are-"

“I mean, I can’t imagine how tough that must be, and the picture of a family like that”, her consciousness continued vocally.

The tone turned from intrigue to pity for bi-racial youth. Unto this day, I can’t say verbatim how the conversation went from there, but I can tell you standing in the eye of someone you love while they question your existence as a person of color- there is no better way to break a heart.  

I held my breath… because holding your breath isn’t half as painful as biting your tongue.
She continued on as if I wasn’t there. Although she knew I was there, she didn’t know she was speaking to a bi-racial man that came from the exact family picture she held in question.

Yes, it’s now appropriate to ask yourself, “How the fuck did we get here?”

I was, in every sense of the word, defeated. I shamed myself felt most of all because I couldn’t find the words or timing to explain to her that what she said had hurt more than any deliberate attack of racially charged chutzpah. So, there we were. A blonde gal and a brown guy slowly disintegrating amidst the fertilizer in Walker Sculpture Garden.

Later on, I’d try to drive home all the sociological points I knew to be true, but she would have none of them. The simple nature of speaking against her misinformation was insulting for her… And it was then, I realized I could not have children with this woman. As awesome and kind hearted she could be, there was no way in this universe that I’d allow it. Because if it happened to happen, I might one day have to sit a bi-racial kid down and explain to her (or him) why mommy just said some over the top racially charged phrasing. If you can avoid that conversation, do it.

Then came the shame. Questions of “You’ve been with her over a year, how did I not know she felt like this about people of color?”, “How have we not had this conversation yet?”, and “Was the West 7th Community Center relative to Fear Of A Black Planet?!?!?!” My psychi tumbled until I made it stop. I told myself it was a fluke. We went on for 6 more months and then broke up. I resented everything from that point on, and will say not a shred of it was worth it beyond the sculpture garden. Sometimes you have to find out, to understand what’s at stake for you in the future… that’s my hope.

Furthermore, beyond her and I, much of the city- much of hip-hop in Minneapolis withheld the same misinformation as her. And so, I was to continue into a community of artists and people that I’d have to manage to have the same conversation with. Some hold it better than others- some are willing to remove personal insult from it and take the reality for what it is (that we don’t live in a post-racial society), and some have been able to sit down, have a beer, and hold a civil exchange. What I learned that day in the Walker Sculpture Garden, is that she might never have to have the conversation again, and lord willing I hope not. But, that conversation- whether with friends, cops, significant others, or even family- will be inescapable for me for the rest of my life… and I wouldn’t have it any other way.