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The only girl in my group of black girlfriends who had a boyfriend was dating a white boy who was white enough to have a family that hated black people. We would sit squished in a row behind them with all of our smirks perfectly even as they drove us home.The year before I graduated college, black boys started dying on TV: Trayvon Martin, then Eric Garner, then Michael Brown, then Tamir Rice.It was only when he started saying things like, “They’re all wondering why you’re with me,” while gesturing to a group of black men, that I realized he was doubting himself, too. We got stared down in every bar that we entered, and approached with unsolicited offers for company, as though our relationship could only be sexual, as though we needed more than each other to be satisfied.These were the days that he learned how to hold me when I cried.We always felt halfway to a crime that we could never commit.We were two people of color, the passive transgression, but the responsibility of leaving our races still clung onto our chests.It felt too ironic; the first black man who I dated had left me in exactly the way that I feared.He had grown tired of letting me pretend, I realized.
We were open with each other; he had been warned to stay away from black girls, and I was advised to not date men of color.There was something about watching a black boy murdered from the comfort of my home that made me want to go out and love a black man as hard as I could, as though somehow it could resurrect the child in him.I started dating my first official black boyfriend, a neuroscientist, shortly after.He rode skateboards and carried around napkins in his front pocket, a habit he’d learned from his grandpa.He joked like friends from my hometown, but there was a newness to his voice that I didn’t know.