My Particular Django
When I went back to India in the summers during my time in US grad school, I would brag to close friends that I was not one of those goody-two-shoes Indian girls; I had gone to Town. Dated a Black Man from the Hood. Well two Black men actually, but one was from the same Elite University that I was from, so he doesn’t count. No one among my friends who were mostly Indian, Chinese or White American had done that. It gave me a huge kick to tell them I had gone where they would never go. And it wasn’t nice - the one month or three weeks that we dated. Because I wasn’t a Black Girl from the hood.
Even the not-niceness of it made me exhilarated. I was with an actual Bad Boy. All the Indian bad boys I had been with seemed like mama’s babies in comparison. An Actual Tall Lean Charcoal Black Body Afro Hair. And Strong So Strong. Like the wild beast that is Jamie Foxx as he rises out of a cold lake and flaunts his torso in Tarantino’s Django Unchained. I had put on Django Glasses. We crept into his Hood attic apartment after our first date. So untidy, so male, so Black, I thought. The yellow and dark blue walls, the bareness of aesthetic, the Walmart stuff.
Wait a minute, it ends there. He had DVDs of French movies. And was well-versed in William Blake. And had the same genre of intellectual anxiety that I encountered in grad school everyday. He had come back from the west coast and bought a house in the hood and was starting an app. And was eventually going to enter politics. His father was running for a political position already. So Brahmin Black! Alright, that would do. Brahmin Black who was striving to fit every detail of the stereotyped Black Man that was there in the marketplace. Black Man who was trying really hard to wash off his French-film-whiteness, talk dirty very awkwardly, enact misogyny with a certain element of doubt. And always remember to tell me, of course, you don’t go there, you are some kind of Indian Princess, aren’t you? Of course, you won’t do what I tell you to, coz you’re not a Black Girl. Black Girls are this and Black Girls are that. I told myself I was in it for the experience. An experience that would make for nice afterparty conversation. He gauged that, I guess, or he found my relative desi goody-two-shoesness boring. Predictably, he dumped me in a month. I was like okay whatever, at least I have a story to tell.
Today I find myself wondering (while extending myself self-loathing list to the act of fetishizing the Black Body) why the Black Man – my particular Django – was so keen on Blackening himself, hide his French movies and his taste for William Blake. He also – very astute of him – wasn’t fooled into camaderie through my brown skin at all. He saw me as a substitute white woman, he read my Bangalore privilege. And he never shied from mocking me on it. White women, he said, were the most privileged entities in America – they had all the privilege, and they had privilege of posing as victims. He blamed the welfare state for making Black people so dependent on dole. He wasn’t fond of Chinese and Indians – model minorities, a kind of white people themselves. I didn’t understand Race. I still don’t. But I got to see an angry, hurting, conflicted Django very closely. His disdain for me was more telling of Race in America than any New York Times op-ed or Facebook angst-poem I am reading these days.