- A Bind
If you travel with a fear of flying, mental health experts recommend that you hold fast to the facts. Remind yourself of statistics that show that the most dangerous part of your travel day is the car ride to or from the airport. Remember that the chances of you being involved in a plane crash are one in three million. Don't let the media's recent focus on airline disasters condition you to believe that you're next. Take a deep breath. Fasten your seatbelt. Clear skies ahead.
If you're a mixed couple living with a fear of racial violence, Joe and I recommend holding fast to the facts as well, but don't get your hopes up. While you might interpret someone's microaggression accurately, or your injustice radar might turn your insides up to a boil, it's crucial that you stick to The Plan, the one you and your partner devised the second you realized it was too risky to keep loving each other without one. Here's Our Plan for reference:
Should a situation arise in which Joe is in danger, I will record everything on my phone, following suit of so many, too many Black mothers, sisters, wives, aunties, and friends. I will swipe up from the bottom of my locked screen the way Joe taught me so I don't lose time entering my six-digit security code. With my phone in hand, I will place my white body in front of Joe's Black body like a shield. I will let my white tears hit the ground like bombs. Joe will shapeshift. He will get small. He will make his six feet and three inches as close to invisible, impenetrable as possible. Joe won't say a word. Joe will keep breathing. He will keep breathing. Keep breathing. We won't let an endless video stream of authority figures murdering Black men condition either of us to believe that Joe is next because he's not he's not he is not next. [End Page 203]
Take a deep breath. Fasten your seatbelts. Clear skies ahead.
Joe and I hold hands during every takeoff, every landing. This ritual was born on our first flight together. We lived in Chicago, had been dating for a little over a year, and I'd been accepted to graduate school for creative writing in New Orleans. He told me he wasn't going to do long distance, and I said I wasn't staying, so we were left with two choices: lay down roots in the South or call it quits.
Joe took what I've come to understand are the 48–72 hours he requires in order to negotiate change. (We recently moved the dirty clothes hamper from the bathroom to our bedroom, and he insisted it was "weird" seven times before deciding it "sort of made sense." We moved it back a week later.) Then he took to Google and found a job fair for experienced high school teachers like him scheduled to take place the following weekend. We loaded our online cart with two last-minute tickets from ORD→MSY. He winced, I squealed, and we clicked "Purchase."
When we boarded the plane, Joe still hadn't said yes to New Orleans, but he also hadn't turned it down. Joe had lived in or around Chicago his entire life, with the exception of four years in Iowa City for undergrad. I was grateful for the risk he was thinking about taking for me, for us, even if I didn't fully understand what that choice to love me involved. Now I'm grateful for Joe's patience as I unwrap, unwrap, unwrap what it means for a Black man to choose a white woman until death does them part. Most of the time it means love. Sometimes it means danger. I'm still learning the rest.
We both agree that our love requires more communication than other relationships we've had with same-race partners. We don't always intuit what the other is thinking as smoothly as our ease with one another...