My Black Pride Is None of Your Business
I don’t need color-coded validation from white guys on Grindr.
I recently wrote an essay for Queerty titled “Hold the ‘Chocolate’! Racially coded hookup talk is so unsexy,” knowing it probably would be a more love-it-or-despise-it read than usual.
I was expecting pushback two weeks after collecting virtual high fives for an op-ed in which I extolled the joys of being gay and 49 years old. As it turned out, though, the blacklash — erm, backlash — was far more aggressive than I had anticipated.
I’ve been writing about race and sexuality long enough to know that browsing through the comments on anything I write about either (and especially, both) can be hazardous to my mental health. But after the positive response to my feelgood forty-nine-and-loving-it piece, I decided to take a peek at what people were saying about me just two weeks later.
It wasn’t pretty.
Among the things I learned from the comments I read, many of which appear to have been deleted by a merciful moderator:
1. Many black men incorporate words like “black,” “chocolate,” and “dark” into their Grindr profile names, so who am I to get annoyed when gay white men use those terms to describe and define me?
2. Some black guys like it when white men call them “Chocolate,” “Black stallion,” etc., so I should, too.
3. “Black don’t crack” is a phrase and a concept presumably invented by blacks and often recited by them, so I’m not allowed to hate it when gay white men (and it’s always gay white men) use it when I tell them my age.
4. As I’ve never had a black long-term boyfriend, I have forfeited my right to write about race. White privilege is a figment of my imagination anyway — or maybe it only applies to heterosexuals.
5. Although I spent four and a half years living in Buenos Aires, exclusively dating and sleeping with Latino men, and although I have been with a number of black men, as well as Asian men (from Thailand, Philippines, India, Israel, Turkey, and elsewhere) and indigenous men, I am interested only in “white.”
6. I have spent all of 2018 so far in the Balkans because I want to be the only black person around. It doesn’t matter that each and every country here is uniquely beautiful and fascinating, with rich history and culture, and colorful people, and unlike the capitals of western Europe, they’re not overpriced and overrun by tourists. A gay black man’s travel itinerary can’t be about anything but race and sex.
7. My essays merging race and sex almost always revolve around white men who approach and pursue me, but I’m the one who chases after them.
8. If you’re black, and you don’t date or marry black, you‘re self-loathing, which would make the likes of Alfre Woodard, Diana Ross, Kanye West, Kobe Bryant, Leslie Uggams, and James Reynolds (the Days of Our Lives star who became the fourth person of color to win a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in April, with his white wife by his side) ashamed of being themselves.
9. Since I am spending so much time in European countries where English isn’t the native language, I should just ignore all of the “black” talk from gay white men because they don’t know what they’re saying.
I decided to shrug off numbers 1 through 8, because those “lessons” only show how little the people teaching them know. But number 9 kind of got to me. Maybe I have been too hard on Balkan guys and non-native English speakers in general. Perhaps I should excuse them when they say things like “I guess you have a big black cock” because their English isn’t so good.
Maybe I should let the occasional dropping of the N-word slide, too, because they don’t know any better.
Maybe my profile isn’t clear enough, or it’s too English for them to fully grasp:
Then several days into my week in Tirana, the capital of Albania, where my second Grindr greeting was the “big black cock” comment above, I received the following message:
No“black” coments [sic]
I read this , [sic] sorry, but I really want to say I wanna suck a black cock soo badly :p
My takeaway from this: He gets it (like so many before him). He understands English enough to know I will be turned off if he makes a racial reference, but he still can’t simply say, “Hello.” Who cares how I feel? He wants what he wants.
When I told him that I’m not interested and that he might have a better shot at sucking a black cock if he’d shut up about it, he responded: Well, i would be proud if a black man would say to me i would like to suck a white dick.Cuz im [sic] proud of myself the way i am, so you should be too.
Here we go again. Why does my level of self-esteem always have to come into question when I object to constantly having to hear the same “black” chat over and over and over? When did gay white men become the arbiters of my pride? Even when I walked through New York City’s gay scenes and none of them gave me a second look, I was still proud to be me.
Is a woman not proud to be a woman because she doesn’t want to constantly hear about breasts? Does she need to love having a man tell her that he wants to bury his face in her boobs in order to love being a woman? Does getting cranky after hearing about them for the millionth time mean she’s not proud?
Of course, it’s easy for a white guy in Albania to put himself in my shoes theoretically and say he’d walk a certain way when he’ll never actually wear my shoes. He’ll never know what it’s like to go through life constantly being judged by the color of his skin, being ostracized solely because of it, or being lusted after solely because of it. The same superiority complex that leads him to disregard my clearly stated feelings will prevent him from understanding that black pride is not contingent upon gay white men telling us that they want to suck our cocks.
Living in Color
As much as I write about race, I don’t wake up in the morning thinking, I’m black. Now let’s see what “black” comment I can get offended by today. In general, I don’t think of myself in terms of my skin color at all in everyday life, and most of the people I encounter don’t make it an issue.
When I’m with white friends or with black friends, I don’t generally think of the race we share or don’t share. These past few days, whether surrounded by strangers in Tirana’s Skanderbeg Square or running around the city’s artificial lake, I haven’t felt like “the black guy” in my own mind, and strangers on the street and in restaurants have refrained from mentioning it when they approach me. (I LOVE Albania and Albanians, by the way!)
Sure, I stand out, and some of them double-take (though they rarely stare), but not one person has come up to me and said, “I’ve never talked to a black person. Can we chat?”
Come to think of it, that’s never happened to me in everyday life anywhere. Straight people tend to just say, “Hello.”
Since I left the United States in 2006, the only time other people have made me acutely aware of the color of my skin has been when I’m dealing with gay men, whether in person or on Grindr. I never feel more black — and different — than I do in the presence of gay men.
During the two and a half years that I lived and worked in Sydney, where race is as much an issue as it is anywhere else, my straight friends and colleagues occasionally joked about my American-ness, but none of them ever mentioned my blackness.
I’m pretty sure that the cop who once stopped me as I was walking home drunk on a Friday night would have looked the other way had I been white (and I’m certain that playing the race card got me out of paying the $500 fine for “offensive behaviour”), but my skin color could have been incidental to the entire episode. I’ll never know for sure.
I wish I could say my blackness was incidental on Grindr and on Oxford Street, though. I wish I could say my blackness was incidental with gay men on any of the five continents I’ve called home in the 12 years since I relocated from New York City to Buenos Aires.
It may never be, and I’ve learned to accept that (though I’ll continue to write about it), but I won’t do a happy dance just because a gay white man tells me he’s dying to suck a black cock. And I won’t ever need color-coded validation from a guy on Grindr to make me feel good about myself.
I already have way too much pride for that.