What Happens When Your White Boyfriend Is A Racist?

48 Comments
January 9, 2013 ‐ By Charing Ball
Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

From Slate:

“Dear Prudence,

My boyfriend and I have been dating for six months but have known each other for more than two years. I am black and he is white. This has never been a problem and our parents, families, and friends are fully supportive of our relationship. Amazingly, we have had precious few arguments or problems. Until now. In a moment of extreme frustration, my boyfriend used the “N-word” in reference to one of my friends. We were alone so no one else heard the comment. I was stunned, shocked, and appalled. I immediately left the room because I was so disturbed. It is a word that neither I nor my family or friends use in any sort of context because I have been raised to view it as incredibly offensive. He came to me and apologized profusely and had tears in his eyes while doing so. I accepted his apology because it was completely out of character for him, but I am now questioning our relationship. What do you think?- Unspeakable

In her advice to Unspeakable, Prudence suggest that despite her acceptance of his apology, she is not quite over his use of the N-word. However, since she cares for the man, which is evident by her not breaking up with him instantly, Prudence says that she must re-raise the issue with the boyfriend, giving him a chance to better explain his reasoning for using such derogatory language and give herself time to not only gauge his sincerity, but determine if she can fully accept his apology and move on.

Full disclaimer: Date whomever you want to date – not that you were looking for my permission, but I mean this sincerely. I am past that point in my life where I give two craps about what anyone does sexually. However, this situation, right here, is probably my biggest personal hang-up on interracial dating: what to do when your significant other says, or God-forbid does, something racist. And it wouldn’t have to be something awful like the N-word. It could be something casually racist like calling things “ghetto” or assuming that I would want a slice of watermelon. I can see this creating a whirlwind of confusion and hostility inside of me. With that said, I can imagine the pain the letter writer in this situation must be feeling right now. Not only would I be filled with self-doubt, particularly trying to work through what made him feel comfortable enough to drop the N-word around me, but also trying to figure out why hadn’t I noticed it sooner. Two years is a long time to devote to someone, only to find out that your man is a bit of a racist.

And in case she had any doubt, let me clear it up: your boyfriend is a racist – or at the very least, has anger management issues. No way should he be THAT “frustrated” at your friend that he is dropping N-bombs, especially behind your friends back (and I do assume this “friend” is male?). And as Chauncey Devegas, of We Are Respectable Negros writes of this Dear Prudence letter:

On these matters, my decision-rule is a simple one. People are what they do. People who say racist things are racists. People who say homophobic things are anti-gay. People who say sexist things are sexist. Of course, there are ranges of behavior here. A person who calls someone a N-Word, and is then apologetic about it, is a different type of racist than someone who holds a K.K.K.K.Klan card. However, both party’s attitudes and beliefs flow from the same fetid waters. In many ways, the latter is simply more honest and direct than the former about what is a basic disrespect towards the humanity and dignity of black and brown people.”

A few days after September 11th, one of my best girlfriends called me and told me about how she had been pulled over in her car by police for no reason. Nothing unusual about that. However, this story takes a weird turn when she shares that one of the cops started asking her about her “head scarf” in her driver’s license picture. All of a sudden, they wanted to know about her Islamic background and her land of “origin.” I was beyond shocked. This was not some hillbilly town in East Jablip of America. This is Philadelphia, a city where a very significant portion of the black and brown population in the city practice within the Islamic faith. We don’t get down like that. And that’s what I told the guy I was dating at the time.

He smirked, rolled his eyes and said, “Good I’m glad they searched her. They need to send all them bean pie eating terrorists back to the middle east.” If I was shocked before, I was totally rendered speechless then. Here is someone, who I had been with for a good year and who had spent significant time around my good girlfriend before. As far as I was concerned, there was nothing about him, which gave me any indication that he had problems with Muslims. Worse, even after I told him how disrespectful, offensive and ignorant his comments were, he had the nerve to double down on his xenophobia.

I officially broke up with him after that conversation. And while his anti-Muslim hatred wasn’t the full reason, that incident definitely helped me to see this guy in a new light. The events of Sept. 11, 2001 were horrible. And the blatant ignorance and hatred, which spawned from such tragic events is also shameful. And I didn’t want any parts of that. Besides, my best girlfriend is like family to me, and her faith is a pretty big part of her. Therefore, if I had to choose between my boyfriend and my best friend, well, bye hater.

There is also something that needs to be said about boundaries and why it is important to not only define them, but follow through with them. I’m not going to say whether or not the letter-writer should leave her boyfriend of two years, but I will say that if she believes his apology to be sincere and decides to continue on with the relationship, she better make it clear that there will be no more N-bombs dropping out of his mouth. I don’t care if we are at a concert together, and Trinidad James hands my white boyfriend the microphone, and personally invites him to sing all the lyrics to “All Gold Everything.” He better stick to the radio edit.

But she should also consider the very real possibility that whatever bigotry he harbors will likely always be simmering beneath the surface. And generally, people don’t always monitor their mouths too closely, especially if there is alcohol involved. The last thing you want is for your racist significant other to go blurt out the “N-Word” at a public event such as a family barbecue. Now, you’re in the uncomfortable position of trying to not only ask for some understanding, but calm the nerves of those family members, who don’t give a hot damn about understanding. And now everybody starts treating you like Sandra Bullock…

So what do you think: Could you be an Edith to some man’s Archie Bunker?

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  • http://lovingkorean.com/ Oegukeen – Boyfriend in Korea

    I really wonder how someone can hide they are racist for so long. But I agree with you, as soon as something like that leaves their mouth, it’s over.

  • the beast

    black feminist dating a white guy? seems legit.

  • Chentel

    ok so i genuinely dont understand how someone can be racist and be with the same race he menna be racist against? someone please explain im genuinely baffled… is it possible?

    • Zia Paul

      That person is considered the exception.

  • The Bishop

    People on this blog need to stop apologizing for white folks behavior with the statements of ….”there are racist in all races, stop trying to scare black women into from dating other races or we say it so why can’t they say statements.” We as a people did not invent this racism or bigotry, we have reasons why we feel the way we do and why we are leery of white men and women when it comes to racially charged subjects.

    • The Bishop

      They have a history obsession physically, mentally, spiritually and socio-economically when it comes to people of African decent globally not just in the United States. So when a white male says the N-word when referring to a black male and you as a sister still decides to date him then you are directly condoning his actions and his feelings without regard to your ancestors and fellow African Americans struggles through-out history.

  • http://www.yourtango.com/users/cheekee-baby cheekee baby

    She’s put on notice that angry enough he will be cursing her out and calling her a n*gger. She better wake the f*ck up. He can sleep with you and even claim you but if calling one of your friends a n*gger is right on the tip of his tongue it won’t belong before he’s calling her one too.

  • IllyPhilly

    What’s wrong wit chu?!

  • Babydoll 70

    I don’t think her boyfriend is racist, he just buckles under stress and makes poor word usage decisions. If he were racist, he wouldn’t associate with blacks at all unless he just absolutely had to like for work. I’ve never known a racist to date someone they were racist against. It’s an oxymoron.

  • maggie

    I don’t feel sorry for any black person who is called the ‘N’ word by their white partners. Sexual relations is not the barometer of race relations.

  • dddooonnnttt

    Just posing some questions..

    Would it have been as jarring if that friend was Asian, and in that moment he called her a ‘ch*nk’?
    Is it possible that, like Chris Rocks infamous bit, he views some black people as regular, and some as ‘n*ggers’?

  • episkyros

    You know you are being out-and-out racist, right? Just want to make sure you know. I mean, wow. Conspiracy theorist much?

    But, you know what? Maybe that is the reality of the situation for all concerned: we all have prejudices that, when manifest, are ready for judgment. And we must judge.

    The world will not turn on kicking nobody to the kerb on the melodrama of ‘discovering’ the less-than-perfect social consciousness of that love interest. The world ‘turns’ (transforms, changes, evolves, etc.) on two people looking each other in the eye and judging…whether they are capable of moving things forward when something bad happens.

    So, this incident is not REALLY only about white racists tapping your thang and you didn’t know it until they spoke up. This is about getting serious about who you are with, no matter what color their skin, what their native language is, what their family tradition is for the winter holidays, or what neighborhood they came from (the inner city, the suburbs, or the countryside– relevant categories in other countries, too).

  • Moxie

    As someone married to a white man for 6 years, I can say is that word should NEVER come out of his mouth. My husband has never said it. Although he’s not a hip hop fan, the few times that he has quoted it, he said, “N” instead of n*gg*. Unfortunately, I have used the term and he looks at me like I have a problem..lol If he treats her well in ALL other areas, she should give him 1 chance to get it together. All you blk women talking stuff, but blk men call us B*ch*s/h*’s and that’s okay as long as the degradation’s from the mouth of a brother. ( rolling eyes). She should talk to him, lay down the rules, give him one more chance, then walk if he can’t get it right because he will use it towards her eventually.

  • psylocke_2001

    Run for the hills lady and don’t look back.

  • kb

    I don’t think really worth throwing your whole relationship over the n word. I know it was wrong, but dude made a mistake and if he is working on bettering himself then let it go. I mean he obviously wasn’t in his right mind bc he said it in front of his girlfriend.

    • The Bishop

      Your response sound like you hate yourself. So your advise to her is to stay with racist who is working on his own racist relation issues towards black men? Also you give him an excuse of not being “in his right mind”?Wow just wow.

  • Dcarter910

    Im black and I cant stand Ninjas either. When Black people piss me off I call them “N@ggas” because that to me is the same as a white person calling another white person white trash. Black people love to talk about racism but how many of yall black folks like “N@ggas”? How many of yall use that term when you get pissed off with black folks?

    • Candacey Doris

      Never. It’s not a term i’m alright with. I can use a whole lot of other words to describe ignorant behavior. That one doesn’t need to come out my mouth.

    • Babydoll 70

      I’ve found that the black folk who cry racism/racist the most are actually racist themselves. They always have something negative to say about anyone not black.

      • guest

        Sooooooo true.

  • Kaori

    Her boyfriend is prejudiced, not racist.

    • Clue

      The two are mutually exclusive?

  • BattleMaster

    LOL this is what you wanted right, since there are not enough good black men around? White men are not the answer to your relationship issues

  • chaunym

    I’m sure I am alone in how I feel but I think the whole
    relationship needs to be evaluated before jumping to conclusions. Only the two
    people present know if the word was used with intent to hurt, or as a slang vernacular.
    While neither is appropriate, we as a people send out mixed signals regarding
    what is acceptable, and unacceptable (such as using the “N” word, the
    “B” word, calling each other ghetto, etc.). Until we make it
    unacceptable PERIOD, I think there will forever be a gray line regarding the
    use of that word. Furthermore as a race I think we are just too touchy sometimes.
    Just my two cents.

    • The Bishop

      You can’t be serious. We as a people did not give white men or women permission to use the N-word in the first place they did it regardless of how we felt about it. You sound like you have Stockholm Syndrome …. “too touchy” … N**ga Please.

      • episkyros

        There is no permission to give, no versions to approve, no excuses to consider. The n-word, in all its forms, is verboten in all circumstances. Heck, the only reason it survives in comedy is because it is still operative and relevant in the culture. Bottom line: it needs to go, and persons of color who use it confuse the issue for themselves and for everybody else. No double standards allowed.

      • guest

        you are naive, when you’ve got black people in popular music and movies constantly using the n-word, and promoting it all over the world ( as in people who aren’t black) like its a cool thing to say, some people will definitely be confused about the the n- word. Chaunym is 1000000000% correct. Wake up fool.

        • The Bishop

          People on this blog need to stop apologizing for white folks behavior with the statements of ….”there are racist in all races, stop trying to scare black women into from dating other races or we say it so why can’t they say statements.” We as a people did not invent this racism or bigotry, we have reasons why we feel the way we do and why we are leery of white men and women when it comes to racially charged subjects. They have a history obsession physically, mentally, spiritually and socio-economically when it comes to people of African decent globally not just in the United States. So when a white male says the N-word when referring to a black male and you as a sister still decides to date him then you are directly condoning his actions and his feelings without regard to your ancestors and fellow African Americans struggles through-out history.

  • Senait Ashenafi

    Wow. That’s the thing with black and white relationships. You never know if the whyte man you’re with has some racist tendencies hiding beneath the surface. I could never be with somebody like that. It’s not worth the drama.

  • TeaMonae

    The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.

    • CocoSugarKiss

      EXACTLY!!! Truth comes from the mouth and is followed by actions. This boy is as racist as they come nowadays. If he says it about YOUR friend, what is to stop him from saying it about you? #TRUTH

    • http://twitter.com/girlwonder614 Cute_n_ Creepy™♡

      WORD!

  • Shonda Johnson

    It will never happen because I don’t date outside of my race. If this happened to you,then you need to leave him asap and never look back.

    • http://twitter.com/girlwonder614 Cute_n_ Creepy™♡

      That’s THE EXACT reason why I dont either, and never have… I have ZERO tolerance for that mess..

  • Sharon

    Will somebody please educate me on why somebody black want to date somebody who is a racist? I am missing it somewhere.

    • Kaori

      Because that person didn’t show that they could be prejudiced until after they started dating.

  • kierah

    It’s not a word that has a prominent place in my vocabulary as a Black woman and I would take offense to anyone using the word around me. It usually means we are one argument away from it being used in reference to me and I don’t play that.

  • Kitsy

    It has actually been shown in studies that people (particularly, whites) who date interracially are NOT less likely to be racist than those who don’t, even in regards to the racial group in which their significant other belongs.

    I’m also glad that you brought-up the use of the word “ghetto” by whites as a indicative of racism. Ghetto has become code-word among whites for “black” (or, worse, for the N-word). It always bothers me when I hear whites refer to anything or anyone as ghetto, because I know it’s a slick racial slur.

    • chantel

      but whyy tho?

  • ncntrol

    My husband is Colombian, we been together for 20 + years and he has never called me in anger or in jest the N word, get rid of him or it wont be the last time

  • Fresh45

    Her boyfriend is definitely racist and if he called someone else the N-word out of anger,he will do the same with her. Whatever people say when they’re drunk or angry,they mean. They may not have meant to say it out loud but they definitely meant it. Its just that they’re conscience kept them from saying it out loud but when you’re angry or drunk,your conscience goes out the window. More than likely,that wasn’t her boyfriend’s first time saying the N-word,it was just his first time saying it around her.

  • Shirl

    And if they get married and decide to have children?? When the kid pisses him off as children tend to do sometimes is the N- word gonna come flying outta his mouth? I say dump him. It’s only a matter of time before he calls her the N-word.

  • http://twitter.com/MsRedboneBrite Tee Elyse

    “What happens when your white boyfriend is a racist?”

    I think the better question is “How did he become your white racist boyfriend in the first place?”

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/V6O2EBOSDDIC3EESW3JS22OYWA Vic

      “How did he become your white racist boyfriend in the first place?”

      Answer: Too many Madame Noire articles.

      • Dcarter910

        LOL ….stop it…wait that makes sense.

    • IllyPhilly

      LOL and “why are you still with your racists white boyfriend?”

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/V6O2EBOSDDIC3EESW3JS22OYWA Vic

    “Could you be an Edith to some man’s Archie Bunker?”

    Could you be a Sally Hemmings to some man’s Thomas Jefferson is a more appropriate question.

  • xxdiscoxxheaven

    I know that this was not supposed to be funny but that “stick to the radio edit line” made me lol. Break up with him. No reason to stay. She should’ve checked that ish right there.