D’Angelo’s “Untitled” is on BET, your forehead pressed against the screen trying to look down, praying there’s a few more inches of TV. you don’t know what drives you to press your skin to the screen filled with his skin but you let yourself be driven, be hungry, be whatever this is when no one is around. you don’t know what a faggot is but you know a faggot would probably be doing this. you don’t know what a faggot is but you know you might be one. You don’t know what you are but you know you shouldn’t be. but you know that when D’Angelo sings how he sings looking how he looks, inside you something breaks open & then that odd flood of yes, a storm you can’t call a storm but the wind sounds like your name.
I never have had to doubt my parents’ love, not even when I had to explain to them what I meant when I said, “I’m queer.” In my days at home, my parents were the type to be at every event; my mother was given the “Team Spirit” award on my tennis team during my senior year of high school. My first girlfriend had called me “Angel Baby” because of the way my mother’s eyes lit up when she saw me for the first time in weeks or months. I knew being gay would be ok. It wouldn’t threaten my mother’s love.
Rachel Dolezal, the former Spokane, Wash. NAACP leader who lied for years about being black, came forward on The Today Show this morning to address her racial identity (“I identify as black,” she said.) What she did not mention was her previous assertion that her parents went to the media about her racial obfuscation because she supports a sibling who was allegedly sexually abused by her brother.
The night after Michael Brelo was acquitted for the 2012 shooting death of unarmed Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, I started writing. There is a certain burden of clarity and urgency that hangs over the writer, which he or she must ultimately answer to. But the weight of things was especially heavy this night. How ought I to reckon with the taking of another’s life in such brutal fashion? Brelo, an Iraq war veteran, pumped 49 shots into the car of Russell and Williams until they were no more. For that, he received the state’s mercy.
I’ve started this letter five times and deleted it five times. Even though we’ve never met I’ve known you all my life. I learned you existed from a letter addressed to someone else. A few months ago, my mom told me you wanted to meet me along with my wife and son. I was surprised. I hear we have some things in common. You love Laphraoig and, like me, tend to overindulge in it. You are slow to recant an opinion. You’re an avid reader of political books, although I imagine our choices here likely differ. But I struggle to understand what meeting you would accomplish. In an earlier draft of this letter, I wrote that I forgave you. But I realized that I was writing what people want to hear in instances like this, not what I actually feel. How do you forgive a forty-year absence?
As requested, I arrived just before dinner. A tall, Hollywood-beautiful blonde woman vacuumed the room that would soon be swimming in hippies. Except they weren't stereotypical hippies; the people who would soon become my house- and community-mates were an eclectic blend of professionals, students, and everyday folks who'd answered a Craigslist ad for a unique job/housing opportunity in New York City.
We’re celebrating the Fourth of July at my cousin’s McMansion in Lake Mary, Florida, a short stroll across a golf course to the Sanford line. I’m surrounded by kinfolk I haven’t seen since the last funeral. We’re sipping sweet wine, Baileys, and beer. We’re telling the stories we always tell, and stories I’ve never heard.
Few young creative writers in our world write so curiously and honestly out of our varied black American literary tradition as Andrew Elias Colarusso. The biracial son of an Afro-Puerto Rican mother and an Italian American father; Andrew writes, "Because I did and do have a loving relationship with my (white) biological father I cannot dismiss the whiteness he has come to represent without dismissing a part of who I am."
Three months ago, I sat in my bed frustrated with myself. I was upset at all the life choices I'd made up until this point. Physically and mentally exhausted, I ran out to get an energy drink; I'd needed a caffeine-enriched charge to help meet a deadline. And then it happened: later, rushing to the bathroom, I tripped and went hip-first into my desk, knocking the energy drink onto my laptop, its red liquid bleeding into my keyboard.
"If two people come together," my mother began, "who've never had any power except by the way of abuse, it's going to be bad. Both of us had power exerted over us as children. I eventually learned that as an adult, I was still doing the dance, seeking out abusive relationships. That doesn't mean it was my fault. But I played a role. And your father was abused by his father and, as an adult, he became a rage-aholic, exerting power over others."
Every November, media types, ourselves included, trot out the trope that spending time with family during Thanksgiving is necessarily a difficult thing. Your sister is hateful, your uncles are racist, your nana's candied yams are a brutal, sunset-hued chore to be endured. Today, we meet the saddest victim of these holiday communication breakdowns: a poor soul whose excellent taste in footwear left him unable to bond with the people he cherished most.
I struggle with accepting the fact that I am a strange girl. I'm not the kind of strange girl that relishes her weirdness and feels that it adds cachet—most of the time I feel misunderstood, disliked, or acutely alone. My conversations tend to alienate those around me; what I perceive as candor and connection reads like unmitigated gall and oversharing. I've been told that I just have to find people who "get me," and that has proven difficult.
It's a Thursday night in August, just past 10 p.m., and my mother is texting me. This might seem like a harmless nuisance except my mother is not supposed to text me. Two years ago I asked her to give me space and not reach out. She responded with an "ok" and proceeded to respect my wishes for 13 days. Nobody's mother listens, but why would I go through the trouble of asking the woman who birthed me to leave me alone: she physically and verbally abused me for 17 years and has been harassing me ever since.
After Ernest Baker's essay about interracial relationships, "The Reality of Dating White Women When You're Black," ran on Gawker earlier this month we received hundreds of comments and emails objecting to, agreeing with, or otherwise responding to Baker. This week, we're publishing some of those responses as part of a conversation about race and relationships.