Apology to a Non-Black Partner


I’ve been writing this piece for a long time. I’ve been apprehensive about sharing it. I ultimately decided to because it contains things I’ve wanted to say, and that I feel deeply. 

This poem is about anti-Blackness I’ve experienced in relationships of all types, with partners of many backgrounds. It’s about the insidious, seldom-recognized ways it creeps into connections and instructs others on how to treat us, how to dispose of us. It’s about how easily, unquestioningly we are consumed as a culture, by the same communities that see us as valueless. It’s about only being loved for the ways I’m not Black, instead of the ways I am. It’s about how genuinely hard it is to love Black people, and how non-Black people are often unprepared for that challenge. It’s about looking at my own hardness, my own difficultness, teasing out which parts of it are mine to address, and which parts must be accepted by anyone who claims to love me.

It’s not about healing. It’s simply about acknowledging what goes unacknowledged, saying what needs to be said.


I’m sorry I had
no new language to teach you

I’m sorry my cupboards
were stocked with poison

I’m sorry my dance steps
were laden

that devouring me
posed no challenge

I’m sorry my mourning
was incomprehensible

that my praise songs
merely rang
as more mourning

I’m sorry my terror
was an instinct

I’m sorry my recipes
had no units
for bitter

I’m sorry my labor
took yours on

you could sense
the knives
in my laughter

I’m sorry my exhaustion
ballooned out
over yours

that the radio dial
broke off on bloodlust

I’m sorry loving me
meant splitting your bones

that my hands
were filled
by their own wringing

I’m sorry surviving
left me so little softness

but I’m not sorry
to be without you

not sorry
to have survived

43 responses to “Apology to a Non-Black Partner

  1. On some gut level I am right there with you. Blackness, as in “I’m so Black I’m invisible.” I feel you and I hear you. I find it extremely difficult to articulate my own deep feelings about the current situation in which we find ourselves as Black People. Sometimes I couldn’t care less about non-Black people, and anti-Black people scare me. In this political climate where the waters of bigotry, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia are being stirred up for soundbites, I am scared. Thanks for your words. I don’t feel encouraged, but I feel hopeful.

  2. I love everything about this post. The poem. The intro. I’m not Black, but I relate to it still. And that makes what you’ve done here so, so beautiful.. Just like you. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I love this. “the radio dial broke off on bloodlust.” Yes. Years ago, I had a deep friendship with a black woman very aware of her blackness and oppression. This poem reminds me very much of her, especially the closing lines. It was never her job to teach me, but she did and I am grateful.

    I’m not black, but I felt this. Thank you for your bravery.

  4. I am neither black nor white – I am American Indian and I can relate completely to this poem. Our communities are gone, our land is gone, our food is gone, our traditions have disappeared. All that is left of the tribal territory is in ruins unless you consider casinos tribal land. Yet, we survive in a world that does not acknowledge we ever existed.

    • Hi DeMarie, I don’t mean to interrupt your comment to the poet, but the movement is growing for the united tribes protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. They are trying to enforce the environmental laws that exist to protect the Public Trust which is every citizen’s right to clean land, air and food. And musicians from all over have been joining them. You are not forgotten. There is hope.
      peace to you.

      • Hi Katherine – that is true – in fact my family donated last week. I find it sad that it is not on the news like it should be, or that the public at large does not become enraged like they do for other causes – this of course, does not mean that I don’t recognize the struggle of others. However, the American Indian is treated like a visitor instead of the original owners of the land.

      • Hi DeMarie, You’re right… the DAPL stand is actually being edited from people’s facebook and other news sites so that people won’t hear about it. It’s very political and the oil companies are so monied. The wealthy white people didn’t want the pipeline built on their land so the oil company forced it onto tribal lands… and they want to built it in the Missouri river. There is no way to ensure a stable pipeline in water. It’s beyond outrageous. It’s beyond criminal really to risk the water. So we (everyone I know) are trying to get the information back out into the public dialogue everywhere we can. It connects to all other movements in truth. Attack dogs were being used against the non-violent tribe members. The tribes have had to face police brutality and intimidation. I heard Bernie Sanders marched for the movement to the white house recently, so hopefully we all can make it louder. The water in Flint Michigan got brushed aside it seems… no reimbursement to the people? And I think we know the infrastructure needs to be addressed nationally. Anyhow…Thanks for your reply. I am very glad to encounter your voice and hope I didn’t ramble on too long or distract from the authors post. I just think what the tribes are doing is the most important work for the future of all, even if it is personal to your peoples.

      • Hi DeMarie, I hope not to bother you but my update is that the only journalist (Amy Goodman) reporting on the DAPL stand off has been arrested. They don’t want her reporting or anybody else reporting about it. So that means big business is scared of the actual movement. It has grown to 7, 000 people and many tribes from Canada are joining. It’s the largest gathering of young native americans and they are actually becoming connected to their roots and culture again… so I’m sad Amy got arrested and that the government is ignoring the importance due to political/business interests. I’m still hopeful tho.
        Again, peace to you.

  5. Pingback: Apology to a Non-Black Partner — Radical Faggot | Introspections of a Sunflower·

  6. Perhaps it should be said. I don’t love people just because they’re people. I was born in New York City and lived there for about half my life. I have known and loved both black and white people because they were good and decent and admirable people, not because they were either black or white. Lots of both black and white people are not worth loving because, at least for me, love is something very special and quite different from respect. I grant all people a full measure of respect and both love and dislike have to be earned.
    When I lived in Tennessee back in the early 1960’s I marched with CORE and the KKK burned a cross on my lawn. I take that as a mark of honor. I have lived in several countries outside of the USA and found, as individuals, there is not a great difference between people anywhere generally. That black people in the USA have been and are currently treated miserably disgusts me and requires major national changes. Because they are treated so badly it is understandable that black people have learned not to trust whites and a simple statement of love while so many black people are imprisoned and murdered by the police and so little is being done about it even by a black president offends me deeply and makes it extremely difficult for even well intended blacks and whites to deal with each other. I have no easy solutions.

  7. Your gut and heart were both in this piece. The poem and its intro are tremendous. I was especially taken by the line “I’m sorry my exhaustion ballooned out over yours.” Recently, I’ve described the experience of being black in the U.S. as being exhausting. As well-meaning as “non-black” people may be, they have blind spots. Those blind spots come into play when they say they don’t see a black person (they like) as black, which is always, to me, a deeply disturbing comment.

  8. How I wish the entire universe could understand that no one chooses a family he/she wants to belong to. Being condemned on the basis of ones colour is really frustrating because this is something we all have no control over.

  9. Is there a place in this world where a person can live free from everything that restricts him from doing something he wants to do or wants to say.

    I support your cause along with the fact that i support many other causes which has created a prejudice among people living with each other.

    It is my dream to see a place whether there is no country boundaries, no caste, no creed, no sex, no color, or no language restrictions. A place where a person can live freely. I want to see something which is unknown to many, “Real Freedom”.


  10. Your poetry has life in it. It carries so much emotion and conveys so many thoughtful messages. I am in love with this poem in particular. Great work.

  11. I enjoyed your poem. “I’m sorry my mourning was incomprehensible that my praise songs merely rang as more mourning.” That part reminds me of the hymns we sometimes sing in a southern baptist church where the songs illustrate praise, but also the struggles of our ancestors. Great poem I look forward to reading more of your work.

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