Christopher Rivas would never date me.
Before I read “I Broke Up With Her Because She’s White“, I did a quick Google image search to brace myself for what I was about to read. Being a visibly Black Latina who does not read as “exotic”, I know what to look for. One glance at his latte complexion, topped with a mop of loose curls and “but you’re not BLACK, Black” features and I knew I could recite the post before I read it. After all, there’s a special sort of angst reserved for those who fall just a hair short of passing, a fist-length from accessing that privilege.
Rivas, in a series of half-finished thoughts and incomplete tangents, stumbles through the all-too familiar Caribbean Latinx struggle of finding a place in a country that only has one bucket in the “Hispanic” category and refuses to understand Latinx isn’t a race. Which would be fine, if he wasn’t trying to work all that out while figuring where his apparent love for white women fit in.
And this is where you lose me Chico.
Somewhere between the single Black Woman he brought home in high school and the white girlfriend he pines over a year later (perhaps because he hasn’t found a woman he regards as highly in the sea of colored faces he has dated since?), Rivas reflects on the “better the race” conditioning he has received from his family. From the father who primped to attract a whiter woman to the aunt furious at the thought of him slumming it with The Blacks, Christopher recites a history chock-full of anti-Blackness, colorism and eugenics-lite…only to conclude his “woke” friends are the problem.
In his quest to find identity he did what Caribbean Latinxs often do, and turned to the map drawn for us by the history of Blackness in America. James Baldwin. Ta-Nehisi Coates. Activism and the “Black Body”. And like many, he found himself lost between two cultures as he never learned how to apply his latinidad to his Blackness.
This isn’t uncommon. Figuring out where you fit in American activism when you are of Latinx decent is a speed bump we have all overcome. It is even referenced heavily in the much-mourned Netflix series, “One Day at A Time” (RIP). As a woman finding my place has a bit more urgency as the government simultaneously creates legislation to restrict my movements as a woman both Black and Latinx, aware of my privilege as able-bodied, cisgender and heterosexual. But as a man, who is Not Quite Black™ and not the right kind of Latinx, his urgency lands at…whom he can date without losing his “woke” badge.
He is a man who still needs outside validation to confirm his values because he isn’t sure he believes them yet. What is even a “hashtag woke thing”? What is he trying to prove, and to whom? Why do the stares of “Black and Brown people” affect him exactly as much as the blatant racism and microaggressions he suffered at the hands of the families of the white women he dated? Is it perhaps because he knows he will never have the privilege among white people that he has as a self-identified Brown man amongst Blacks like me?
The answers he seeks may well be buried in a tangent he never fully explored in his post.
“’You trying to be white now?’
“What does that mean — trying to be white? We’ve all heard it (maybe not all of us). I’ve said it. If we think about it, it’s really just a comment on power: ‘Chico, you trying to have power now?’
“Yes, yes I am.’”