Stew was totally fly for a white guy. I remember the first time I admitted out loud that I liked him. It was the morning before a football game and the cheer squad was huddled on the concrete in the front of the team bus gobbling down ham, egg-and-cheese bagels before we had to squeeze into our uniforms.

“He said he was ‘all about me’ last night,” I casually announced to a captivated audience of virgin freshmen and veteran sophomores.

“Annnnd? Thennnn?”

“I said I was all about him too!” I yelled, thrusting my foil-wrapped bagel into the air triumphantly. A smile splitting my face like a lightning. The squad clapping like thunder. It was a moment. The moment.

I’d fallen for a white southern boy from Florida. The guy who drew penises on the dry erase board hanging on my door and renamed all the files on my desktop “vagina.” Stew was also the guy who walked with me to get bagels past midnight (why did we eat so many bagels in college?) and tore off half of his without hesitation when a homeless man said he was hungry.

We lasted all of three weeks. Mainly because it was college, but also because I watched him play air guitar unironically. The next semester he dyed his blond hair black and stopped hanging out with the jocks. We didn’t talk again for years. Not until he got engaged to a girl he said reminded him of me.

I was reminded of Stew (not his real name, come on, ya’ll) after I read the recently regurgitated story of vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s “black ex-girlfriend.” Like that’s seriously this grown woman’s epithet now. Black ex-girlfriend.

In 2005, Ryan, the republican congressman from Wisconsin, told Milwaukee Magazine that his college sweetheart was black.

“I have a sister-in-law who’s African American. My college sweetheart was black.”

Oh. OK.

Since then this mysterious magical black woman, Ryan’s Bagger Vance of romance if you will, has been “revealed.” Her name’s Deneeta Pope. She’s a married IT consultant in Chicago and a Democrat. Why is this news?

Unlike young Barack Obama’s quirky “love letters” crammed with smarty pants porn, nothing at all significant about Pope and Ryan’s relationship has been uncovered aside from the obvious fact that he is white and she is black. That’s the story. That’s the peg. That’s pathetic.

For her part, thus far Pope hasn’t signed her name on the racist hall pass this new plotline clearly represents.

“Paul is a very nice guy, a kind guy and a family guy. He’s very approachable and a very likeable person,” she told the Daily Mail, adding, “It tells you the kind of guy Paul is when you learn that he has remained friends with all of his friends that he met in college.”

Pretty vanilla stuff when you consider the entire interview is predicated on the swirl factor.

Anyone with a lick of sense knows that having a black girlfriend, sister-in-law, doorman or dentist doesn’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things, especially when you have to tick them off like bullet points on a “I’m Not Racist” resume. Ryan offering up his black friend credentials is one thing, a thing I’d honestly expect from someone whose policies aren’t all that friendly toward poor (read black and brown) people.

What’s surprising to me is the reaction one of my colleagues, Keli Goff, got after writing of Ryan’s interracial past, “If you want to know where a politician’s heart lies when it comes to a particular community, it may be best to look at that person’s policies — such as his or her record on civil rights —  rather than personal relationships. In her piece Goff pointed to research that shows “those who hold stereotypes about a particular group of people are unlikely to have those stereotypes altered merely by encountering someone who defies that stereotype. Instead, they are likely to view the individual defying said stereotype as an exception.”

That makes sense right? Not according to some of the hatemail Keli got. Apparently simply asking the question, “Does it matter that Paul Ryan had a black ex girlfriend” is in itself “playing the race card,” according to the admittedly conservative-driven backlash Goff said she received after writing a piece that neither condemned or criticized Ryan.

I wouldn’t want to be Deneeta Pope right now or probably ever. I wouldn’t want a nosey reporter asking me questions about a man I dated in college only because I was black and he was white. And conversely, when I end up running for supreme ruler of the universe someday, I wouldn’t want someone asking Stew about me either. Mostly because god knows what he’d say and also because he probably wouldn’t say anything different from what any other man might, a romance CV that could range from “She was awesome” to “Helena Andrews? Fuck her!” Race wouldn’t matter, only my own character would.

 

This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more Helena Andrews on XOJane! 

 

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11 Comments

  1. funny how they think having black friends or black exes give them a free pass…

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  2. I don’t like you making black/brown people synonymous with poor. There are far more poor whites than blacks.

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  3. Xojane, you and Keli hit the nail on the head. A person’s character belies in between personal relationships and their personal ethics. Where someone may explore relationships and encounters with other cultures doesn’t mean they have tolerance nor acceptance. One would only have to experience the South or other countries where ethnic citizens’ may outnumber the prevailing minority power (South Africa, for instance), but yet are harbingers of intolerance, racism and cultural ignorance. To mention encounters or relationships with “others” is disengenous just to somehow validate their political reputation on a hot button issue.

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  4. No offense but I don’t care that she dated that man. I don’t care what she has to say. She should have never came forward smh

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    • Patience

      She didn’t come forward. The media fished her out. A few days ago, I saw a story about her and how she had been convicted of wire fraud 10 years ago.

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    • WHAT?!! Smh….

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    • Wow, I just googled. She did TIME! Wow. This is more juicy than her skin color. Paul Ryan, budget guru, dated ex con convicted of wire fraud..lawd jesus naw!

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    • Patience

      It’s a shame really because the media is going down the route of painting her as the typical Black criminal.

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  5. Agreed on the importance of policy vs. personal life. It’s always funny to me when intolerant, mean spirited pols get ringing endorsements from those in their social circle; “in his private life he’s unfailingly generous, kind, funny,” etc. Who cares? A politician is a public figure, and I form my opinion based strictly on what they do in their capacity as a public figure. (“in their capacity” – getting a blow job from an intern doesn’t concern me. Unless the intern is family.)

    I’m not really in a position (disclosure: white guy!) to say if Ryan’s dating history gives him any kind of pass, but the whole “let me drag some POC into my picture to vouch for me” strategy doesn’t seem terribly persuasive. If you really are unjustly taking heat for being racially insensitive or worse, those folks will presumably come forward to speak on your behalf without you putting them on the spot.

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