I Love My White Boyfriend But There’s One Thing He Can Never Understand

Laura Cathcart Robbins
Demonstrators gathered in Brunswick, Georgia, on May 8 to focus attention on and protest the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery on Feb. 23 elsewhere in the state. After the Georgia Bureau of Investigation interceded in the case, two white men -- a father and son -- were charged with murder in early May in Arbery's shooting. Similar charges were filed against a third white man Thursday.

“Girl, I just need to say this out loud…”

I’m part of a group that meets every week. Four of us in the group are black women in relationships with white men. After the details of the March killing by police in Louisville, Kentucky, of Breonna Taylor in her home in a botched raid were brought to light last week, we held kind of emergency meeting. We needed to talk out our grief, anger and despair. And we need to ask some questions that we wouldn’t feel entirely safe posing in any other space. 

When black people are killed in incidents like this, how can we be angry or afraid of white people when the men that we love are white people? How can we properly mourn the loss of a black person who has lost their life or their freedom while sitting next to someone who can never know that deep-seated grief or that fear? How can we share these feelings with our men without alienating them or without them feeling like they need to fix or change anything for us?

***

Scott and I were bonded from the first hour that we met. Twelve years ago. While checking in to an Arizona rehab.

I was a wreck, unable to stop drinking and taking pills. I was also in the middle of a divorce and trying desperately to get well for the sake of my two young sons. He didn’t try to fix me. Rather, as a newly sober, divorced father of two young girls, his very presence simply validated what I was feeling.

Throughout each of our 28 excruciatingly long days there I leaned on him and he let me. A month or two after we’d each gone back to our respective homes (I live in Los Angeles, and at the time he lived in Park City, Utah), he started drinking again. This time he leaned on me until he was finally able to get sober a few months later.  

So many other things we’ve shared have solidified our bond ― sacred things. Like me standing sorrowfully at his side while watching both of his parents pass away a few years apart. And him, coming over during those first incredibly painful years after my...

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