click here for pt 1
One night, while we lying in her futon, in the afterglow, Maggie turned to me and asked:
“So, is there a reason why you haven’t introduced me to your friends, yet?”
“My friends…” I laughed.
“You do have friends, don’t you?”
“Everybody has friends…”
“And a mother and father…You do have parents, right?”
“So, what is it?” she asked, eyes welling up. She rolled over to hide her face. “Are you ashamed of me?”
“Of course, not…” I placed my hand on her shoulder. She shrugged it off. “Hey! Come on, now…”
“What is it, then? Are your parents like my parents?”
“You mean, racists?” I said, aghast, like black people were incapable of such depravity. “My father is nowhere to be found, and my mother, well, hell, she loves everybody.”
I didn’t mention that my mother didn’t know any white people so her love for everybody hadn’t actually been confirmed. Nor had she, to my knowledge, ever considered white in-laws or bi-racial grand children before. As far as she was concerned that was as far from a possibility as a black president of the United States. Pulling up to her door with Maggie on my arm would be a hell of a litmus test to throw at her.
“And, your friends?” She rolled back over to face me, a little optimism in her eyes.
“They vary…” I said, which was true. To most of the guys I knew, white girls were kinda at a premium, especially in New York at the time, so the only negative feeling I might generate is a little jealousy. Black women, however…that was a different story. And three of my closest friends were actually black women. My life was filled with strong, intelligent, progressive black women. Teachers and Administrators, Nurses and Lawyers, Community Activist and Entrepreneurs. Many were heavily into the Pan-African Movement, especially the women who were involved with or parents of children at the elementary school I’d attended. While the guys were subject to fall victim to all kinds of calamities: drugs and jail being the most popular, the women were always the most consistent and stable part of the community I grew up in and remained a part of.
In fact, it was black women that filled me with the most apprehension and misgivings about being with Maggie. While I knew that most black men would applaud me, attaboys and kudos were almost assured, black women’s reactions would be decidedly different. Opposite, in many cases.
The syndromes I described earlier- the Mandingo and the Iceberg Slim– are exclusive to black men. Black women have a whole host of other complexes and syndromes, some legitimate, others irrational, all painful, sometimes to the point of bitterness. I hadn’t even breathed a word about Maggie to the black women I cared about, which essentially meant that Maggie was a great big secret I’d been keeping from most of my loved ones.
You see, historically, while Mandingo was being beaten, burned, hung and castrated, it was the black bride of Mandingo who had to watch in horror as her husband, lover, provider and father of her children was humiliated and mutilated like an animal.
And, while the Iceberg Slims were hellbent on exacting revenge upon their former masters, it was the black women who were, at best, ignored in favor of these white female conquest, or, at worst, forced to endure the savagery of black men whose minds had been warped by this syndrome. The abuse, both physical and emotional, the neglect, the abandonment, and betrayal after betrayal as their men pursued the Great White Poo-tang that promised, in their warped minds, redemption and reparation, had taken an agonizing toll on black women.
And, just as remnants of the Mandingo and Iceberg Slim syndromes persists among men, so do remnants of the trauma of having endured these things persist for black women to this day.
So, even in Manhattan, essentially the only borough of the five in New York City (at the time), where a black-white coupling wouldn’t automatically draw undesirable attention, I was nervous as hell walking around with Maggie. I wasn’t worried about white people. I couldn’t care less what they thought…not in Manhattan, anyway. Most of them were originally from out of town so their fear of me inclined them to stay in their lane, or they were too rich or self-consumed to give a fuck about what a couple, of any color, do in the privacy of their bedroom.
No, I was nervous about running into black women. Maggie was right: I did feel a little ashamed.
Maybe if I had been in love with Maggie it would’ve been easier. I would have been able to, upon running into a black woman, keep my head held righteously high and say with a pious yet sympathetic expression, “My sister, don’t let your hate and misery consume you and make you so bitter that you can’t even accept and appreciate true love when you see it. You have my prayers that you too may find the love you desperately need and have it save your soul, as it has saved mine, before it’s too late.”
Yeah, that would’ve been nice…
But, I wasn’t in love. Nowhere near it. I was just having fun and enjoying my bonanza. If anyone had told me I was doing serious damage to my soul at that point I would’ve said, “Man, kill that noise!” I was aware, however, that emotionally I had remained distant from Maggie. Some kind of self-defense / self-preservation mechanism had kicked in.
And, I’m pretty sure Maggie had picked up on it, for after our little pillow talk, she’d started pushing for us to spend more time out in public. And, while out, I could feel her observing me. And, I could feel myself trying to behave naturally, trying to act normal. And, it worked because in Manhattan it used to be pretty easy to avoid black scrutiny if you knew where to go. Which I did.
Then, one night, she pulled a fast one on me…perhaps unwittingly but, to this day, I’m still not sure.
She’d invited me to go to a party with her and, assuming the party would be in Manhattan, I’d agreed to go. She didn’t know anyone in any of the other boroughs, especially Brooklyn, I thought. But, little did I know, she’d befriended one of the make-up girls at the Flori Roberts counter (a black cosmetic company) at Lord & Taylor. And, Kim (that was her name,) naturally a black woman, had invited her to the party.
I knew Kim, of course. There were very few black people working at Lord & Taylor’s in those days. And, as Kim would put it, “We Negroes gotta stick together, knowhutumsayin’, my brother? Cuz these crackers ain’t gonna get yo’ back for shit!” Yeah…she was one of those black people who just rubbed me the wrong fucking way. They have a habit of speaking to me like we were co-conspirators in some elaborate plot to pull the wool over white eyes…and the key to success was to hide your true identity in order to kill the beast from within, or some delusional shit like that. It was actually kind of creepy…especially since, when we’d met, she didn’t know me from a can of paint (meaning: not at all). To assume that I would automatically agree because I was a “brother” from her neck of the woods…it was kinda offensive, actually.
Kim was a full time Flori Roberts make-up girl and she spent most of her life in the white world. So, she had developed what I call a “floor” personality, which was totally separate from her real personality.
She’d come down to the stock area where I worked, walking like she had a stick stuck up her ass and a $500 bottle of Cristal Brut Rose balanced on her head; that is, until she saw me. Then she’d conspicuously look around to see if the coast was clear…of white people. Once she confirmed that it was safe, she’d turn into her real self, super ghetto-fied chick, as if to prove to me, or to herself, that despite the Pollyanna Sunburned Barbie role she played on the sales floor, she was nobody’s Oreo cookie. And for exhibit A, she’d start working her hips and bodacious ass like a $20 dollar a-dance Lap Dancer. Exhibit B, she’d open her mouth and start spewing some inane shit like: “What’s up, Loco, my favorite studious nigger? Damn, is it just me, or do white folks make your skin crawl, too?”
So, you’re probably asking yourself: now, why would Kim invite blue dewy-eyed Maggie to a party, in Brooklyn?
…to be continued