I started holding back. I stopped listening. Beyoncé embodied blackness and I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to be a part of it. As her performance at Coachella neared, a platform that could be considered the whitest music festival ever, I was nervous. Beyoncé as headliner wasn’t just exciting, it was momentous. Her mother was uneasy at the thought of her daughter performing on such a historically white stage, too. What if all those white folks just didn’t get it?
Suddenly I saw the problem everywhere: There were no women of color at the spiritual events I attended. None of the empowerment accounts I followed showcased their work and the female entrepreneurs they featured were strikingly homogeneous. Most of the mommy blogs I read were written by white, mostly blonde, ladies. What I realized after Charlottesville is that the racism I’d experienced paled in comparison to the experiences of other non-white folks. My hallpass, the one that had let me navigate conversations about race from the vantage point of the oppressed, not the oppressor, had suddenly expired.
The week before I met my husband I saw a psychic who asked me about the auburn-haired man in my life, the one with a “J” name. No one fit the bill, but one week later, I met him at a party.
What the psychic didn’t tell me was that my future husband would be married when I met him. I never thought that I would fall in love with someone who I used to consider a friend, let alone the husband of a friend.
I was twenty-five the night Cameron proposed, and within hours, the sheer velocity with which the world had rushed to weigh in on the event left me depleted. It felt as if the front doors of our carefully crafted inner lives had been flung open. News travels faster than I’d imagined, and friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers inserted themselves in our story to pore over every detail and offer unsolicited opinions. Some reached out to share well-wishes; others wondered why they’d had to learn about it through the grapevine.
I saw things in my past relationships that I’d never seen before. I realized men had claimed a subtle ownership over me. It was an unspoken transaction, a power dynamic that discreetly entitled them to my compliance and affection, an undercurrent that I don’t think any of us perceived at the time. In defying social norms, I’d actually just been reinforcing them.