I was taught the story of Emmett Till by my mother at a young age. I don't think she did it as a warning as much as to be like, "This is something you should be aware of." He was 14. It was 1955. He got dragged out of his uncle's house and tortured and killed because he maybe flirted with a white woman. A racist jury acquitted his murderers, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, despite overwhelming evidence, and, to rub salt in the wound, both admitted to killing Till in Look magazine the next year. O.J. getting off brought a twisted, but understandable feeling of justice. The shoe was on the other foot for once and so be it if two white people wound up dead. We'd lost many more. That's harsh, but that's the historical context of black men dating white women that I unfortunately have to consider when doing the same.
Later, as she enters adolescence, Louie begins to keep a diary and fills it not with scientific observations (as Sam has suggested) but with veiled accusations of her father, elaborately enciphered. When she falls in love with one of her high school teachers, Miss Aiden, she embarks on composing what she calls the Aiden Cycle, consisting of poems to Miss Aiden in “every conceivable form and also every conceivable meter in the English language.” As a present for her father on his 40th birthday, she writes a one-act tragedy, “Herpes Rom,” in which a young woman is strangled by her father, who seems to be part snake; since Louie doesn’t know much French grammar yet, she uses a language of her own invention.
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A man loves the human body, the revelation of nakedness. He loves the sight of the pale breast, the physics of the human skeleton, the alternating current of the flesh. He is thrilled by the snatch, by the wrist, the sight of a bare shoulder. He likes the crease of a bent knee. When his woman bends to pick up her underwear, he feels that thrum that only a man can feel.
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That said, I understand where the ideal comes from. Whites are privileged in this society and having what they have serves as validation for a lot of people. Successful minorities love to say, "You're privileged but I'm so smart and awesome and financially secure that I have the same, if not better, house, car, and woman as you." That says some unfortunate truths about our society, but when black men date white women, we're put in a position where we have to think about that, whether we choose it or not. Even if you're smart enough to look at the woman you're dating as a human and not a prized object, that mentality is still going to be cast upon you.
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And once he alerted Amber to my job and my mental health status, her gratitude turned to concern about the veracity of my claims. The change in tone made it clear in real time how easy it is to dress down a real woman to the vulgar trope of a delusional whore. Amber noted casually how he put her health at risk by sleeping with me. It is not uncommon to be treated like a vector of disease when your work so easily reduces you to salacious but interesting book chapters in people’s lives, but it still hurts a fully formed human being to be reduced to a public health hazard. She demanded more proof of his infidelity, asking that I put even more of my sex life on trial. I sent her James’ death threats instead.
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Back at the inn, I checked my answering machine in New York to find an anguished message from Jonathan Schwartz about a just-published attack on S.—well, on "Hapworth," but one that extended to S.'s entire Glass-family oeuvre—by a major critic. Jonathan was sure that S. would see that attack; he thinks of S. as very tuned in to the literary world despite the impression of spiritual detachment. (He reminded me that when he friend and her five-year-old watched Monkey Business with S., the woman noticed stacks of New Yorkers and New York Timeses in S.'s house. Jonathan believes that many are misled by S.'s unworldly spiritual preoccupations and miss out on the mordant comic observations of wordliness his best work displays.) He was afraid the attack would embitter S. and convince him to alter his plans for letting "Hapworth" (and perhaps himself) out into the world again.