Chaya Bhuvaneswar shoots right to the heart of power imbalance between white men and women of color in her list ‘Twenty Hard Things About Being Married to A White Man.’ With every point, she illuminates a new angle on the white man/woman of color relationship, from the small, hard, un-crushed kernels of superiority to the fully-bloomed, hardly-bothered-to-be-covered racism. Sometimes a man builds the romantic dynamic on race, other times they refuse to acknowledge how race and privilege is part of the romantic dynamic—in nearly every case Bhuvaneswar’s psychological insight is so cutting and keenly observed it took my breath away. One of my favorites was reason 18:
He might not realize that he’s white, or he might feel upset with you for constantly mentioning it. Or, worst of all, he’ll pity you for “still bringing that up,” though it has been so many years, though both of you have made the commitment of marriage. He might even think consciously, “I just wish she didn’t have that chip on her shoulder.”
Because she is drilling so deeply into modern racial dynamics she hits bedrock, revealing the fundamental power structures to variety of situations. With a small tweak, observation 18, about a man’s unwillingness to acknowledge privilege, could be about male/female power. It could also apply to a white boss thinking of an employee of color. She framed her narrative with relationships, but she’s giving us so much more.