“I hate white people.” He looked at me straight in the eyes and said it without the slightest smile. He said it as if he walks around thinking it all the time. He didn’t flinch nor look angry. His toned never changed, but the room got a bit chiller. I wasn’t sure how to respond to that so I took a sip of my wine. We were sitting at a popular bar in Harlem on a Wednesday night after a live show. I took a quick look around, and the crowd was “typical south Harlem” with a melting pot of people and groups of interracial couples. We were sitting next to a large group of white people when he said it, and even if they heard him, he would not have cared.
I asked him his reasons for saying that, and he didn’t want to get into details. I’m not even sure how the conversation started because I was there with friends. And I was jumping around to the music like a madwoman during the show. He may have commented on my energy or something of that nature, but I’m not sure. We kept talking to each other because for some reason we connected. His grey dreadlocks framed his light brown masculine face, and you can still admire his perfect complexion under the wrinkles. He also still had a very charming smile. He wore a black beret and many rings on his fingers. Those little things made him look about twenty years younger. He was tall and lean, but carried himself even taller. I thought he was a musician or artist at first.
I learned that he was a hairstylist, and he still does hair on occasion for the right person. He has been married a total four times and has seven children. He’s still in love with his first ex-wife. He didn’t have to tell me. I could just tell. She’s the only one she refers to as his ex. They’re still great friends and he has a great deal of respect for her because she’s extremely intelligent.
He was born and raised in Harlem. He left, went to war (one of the darkest times in his life), and came back. He already buried one of his children, sadly. He told me about how he felt when he returned to Harlem, and that was one of the few times he smiled. But as the conversation kept going, I couldn’t stop thinking about his words of hatred towards white people. I thought of telling him that some of the people I love the most are white, including my husband-to-be, but I didn’t. I wasn’t scared of him or how he might react. I just decided not to, and I was intrigued by the person he was. And he was very nice man once you looked through him, past the “womanizer” part. I could’ve been his grand-daughter, but that night we became friends.
I told him I was getting married soon, and I was very excited about the whole thing. He asked me about the person I was going to marry. And I told him all the reasons I love him without describing his looks. I talked about how comfortable and loved I feel every time I’m around him. And how he believes in everything that I do. How adventurous and brilliant he is. And how we plan on traveling the world. I think I just kept going on and on, and as I talked, he looked distantly away, absorbing every word. As soon as I finished, he said, “Let me guess, he’s a white man. Isn’t he?” I nodded, and so did he.
I thought he was going to walk away or call me all kinds of names. I anticipated looks of disgust and hate. I’ve been called some horrible things before by strangers (black men) because of my interracial relationship. So, I was mentally ready for whatever would come out of his mouth next. But instead, he just smiled. I really couldn’t read his smile, but before I could say anything else, he gathered his things to leave. We shook hands, and he told me that I was very special. And before he walked out, he turned around he said, “As long as you’re happy, that’s all that matters.”
I wonder if his general hatred for white people softened a little after meeting me. Or if our whole interaction made it stronger. He was reserved at first, but turned out to be such an interesting and charismatic man. Full of stories and youth. He wasn’t afraid of being old either, and that’s what I think made him young. He told me that he has lived a full life and he’s grateful for that. I’m sure he was very happy at one point, but I couldn’t tell if he was then.
I remember when I truly hated some things. I used to be much younger and ignorant. I learned that a lot of hate comes from sheer ignorance. A lot of the things I hated weren’t from personal experiences either. I hated them because other people around me hated them. And because I didn’t want to find out myself, so I decided I would hate them too. I think the world would be a lot better and more positive if people didn’t base their beliefs or hatred of things from other people’s. People need to find things out for themselves. Part of finding yourself is also finding out things around you. I can’t really say I hate anything now. If anything, I’m more disappointed in things. But I plan on making a difference in the things I’m disappointed in, so we’ll see if I’ll ever get to hate again.