2015 was a great year for black folks: Erykah Badu reminded us that we still can’t use her phone, “Empire” graced our screens with family drama that kept us shook for days, and most importantly, emojis became customizable to fit our unique shades of brown. Hey, you may not have even noticed the all-white Oscars or cared about the blue dress because you were too busy sending brown nail-painting emojis to your latest Hotline Bling.
Armed with our trusty emojis and the opportunity to connect with people outside our usual circles, many of us participated in the explosion of interracial coupling. Unfortunately, it’s not always fun and games — especially when you find yourself using your black thumbs to clap back at your new white crush after they’ve sent you a black emoji. When our digital convos finally got diversified, race was inserted into a space where it didn’t previously exist.
As black people, we think about race constantly. We learn to not sweat the small stuff just to keep peace of mind, our jobs, and in some cases, our lives. We don’t always have the emotional bandwidth to school a well-meaning white coworker. But it’s a whole other story when it comes to the person you’re dating: None of us wants to be reminded of the systemic power imbalance while sexting.
We cannot be “others” in an interracial couple. Our black skin is not for entertainment, and your white crush isn’t showing solidarity with their black emoji. They’re ignorantly reminding you that their white privilege allows them to pick and choose when they want to identify as black based on safety and convenience. Anyone who’s going to ride with me must understand that to be an ally requires much more than a black power fist. In fact those so-called small offenses indirectly contribute to the the more damaging issues that control our black experience, like police brutality, lack of equal pay, and massive incarceration.
None of us wants to be reminded of the systemic power imbalance while sexting.
Depending on where you are in the crush phase, the best way to respond is by having a direct convo at some point IRL, sans emojis. Now, I’m not in the business of providing teachable moments to white folks. I firmly believe that true inclusivity means we’re all doing our homework and not forcing minority groups to put in work for the majority to feel more comfortable — we do our homework by living in that discomfort every day. I am, however, in the business of letting my new boo know that this is cultural appropriation, and it will not be tolerated. Their response will tell me everything I need to know, and the fuckin’ internet can tell them everything they need to know about white privilege.
Of course, until that convo can happen IRL, you’ll want a first line of defense. Here’s how to respond in a way that is as equally confusing as that black emoji:
1. Do it for the culture… and your own personal entertainment.
2. I mean, what else could this possibly mean!?
3. Game. Set. Match.
4. Sometimes you need to call ’em up to call ’em out!
5. We’re done here.