July 15, 2016
By Jon Carter
To whom it may concern,
It’s been a long time since we’ve talked. I hope you’re doing well. Here’s the thing, I owe you several apologies. It’s been weighing on me for some time now that we’ve never truly had closure, I mean, I just left. I remember on our first date how we drove around downtown in the middle of the night, and I want to say how how sorry I am that it took me three hours to work up the courage to kiss you that night. I didn’t mean to offend you when I took the couch on our third date, it just seemed practical, it was right next to the bucket that I was expected to utilize because your roommates were afraid that I’d steal something if I were allowed in the bathroom. I wish I hadn’t written off the entire sanctity of family after hearing your father on speakerphone say “as long as he’s not a black guy,” followed by you whispering “he’s old, all the old people in my family are like that.” I remember when I was stationed a few hundred miles from you and because you had my heart, it was all too easy to make the drive to meet it, and you told me to wear my veteran hat otherwise he would think I was a lowlife. I recall you quoting your father’s words “you can’t trust a man with no family,” and that same weekend, with a single slur used in the bedroom our relationship had turned towards decay. I’m sorry if I made you feel unwanted. I remember every time you said that I’m the first black guy you’ve dated, I remember when you compared me to someone else saying “well he just has that All-American dreaminess”, I’m sorry that I could never be that. I even remember that drunken night when you said “you’re so smart, you must resent being black.” And I’m sorry that my example wasn’t even enough to dispel a stereotype, even amongst those closest to me. Though most of all, I’m sorry that throughout our relationship I couldn’t show you anything valuable, anything worth loving, anything deeper than what your eyes afforded you. What I am NOT sorry for is that I “just left”. It has taken a long time for me to convince myself of this, and even if it isn’t true I have to believe it: I’m NOT an experiment, nor am I an exotic phase. I am a thinking, feeling human being with a heart, and right now that heart it is broken. I hope you can forgive me for any grievances I may have caused.
P.S. The most destructive effects of discrimination (contrary to popular belief) aren’t tied to the potency of a particular instance, but rather its general frequency and trivialisation. This, however creates another challenge to anyone writing about it; all attempts to itemise the almost daily occurrences of prejudice and discrimination have historically left the audience wanting. I could tell stories of profiling, racial slurs, or even a particularly memorable story where the antagonist couldn’t have been older than six or seven – spoiler alert – it ends with him relieving himself on my front door. Ultimately I settled on an issue that, in being told, may be able to do some good. The contents of this letter are accurately intended to serve dozens of specific recipients, and sentiments encountered by the marginalized communities between every sunrise. Presently I’m of the mind that I’m perceived as a sub-human, blunt-instrument. That is what I’ve truly come to believe, but even a club aimed in the appropriate direction can protect people, maybe even help people. If I had to use one word to describe my feelings towards discrimination, I’d use the word club.