Sunday, December 6, 2009

BLACK AND WHITE PEOPLE

Whoever said that there's a thin line between love and hate was on to something. There is, apparently, also a thin line between fetishism and outright racism, being eroticized for being exotic and being stigmatized for the same reason.

I have a hard time saying no, and for the past two weeks, I've been turning down Alvaro Zicarelli without actually turning him down. It didn't impress me much when he went on and on about how much he loves black men, how his last boyfriend was black, and yada yada yada.

Interestingly, before he went off on his black tangent, he asked if he could say something without offending me, so I gathered that he, like so many other porteños who preface similar tangents similarly, suspected that no black guy wants to hear about a white guy's thing for black men. But that didn't stop him. Even less appealing was the general aura of desperation about him. In short, I wasn't feeling him.

Whenever he sent me an instant message on MSN, if I bothered to respond, it was usually monosyllabically, cordial but with minimal enthusiasm. I ignored his Facebook friend request, which is usually pretty tell-tale. But not for him. Undaunted, he continued to pursue me on a daily basis. Finally, today, bored and annoyed with him and his attention, I decided to level with him. I told him as bluntly and succinctly as possible that I just wasn't interested in going out with him.

Now I am accustomed to the poor manner in which porteños generally react to rejection. (In a quest for revenge, one reject actually told the police that I had assaulted him, resulting in my being detained for five hours. Weeks later, he was hitting on me again, having completely forgotten the previous incident!) They're hot and they're cold, and they can go from charming to vicious in mid-sentence. But this previously mild-mannered guy's response stunned me nonetheless. It was way over-the-top, even in a country where drama rules.

"sos un negro de mierda que se cree que eres muy importante para hacerte el dificil, tendrias que estar recolectando algodon en Alabama, imbécil! Go home, fucking yankee nigger!"

You can see him getting angrier with each passing word, even dropping in some slave imagery for poetic effect. Perhaps he included that final sentence because, let's face it, racial bigotry is so much more powerful in English. For those of you who don't understand Spanish, it pretty much sums up the spirit of the rest of it. Intriguingly and disturbingly, his message, as vile as it might have been, was the only time I found him even remotely interesting. But I'd take boring over racist every day of the week.

His words make me wonder what's lurking just under the surface of some of these guys who are so obsessed with black men. Argentines like to think they are not racist. I know better. After all, this country, the whitest in all of South America and proud of it, shipped its black population off to the front lines in the wars of the late 19th century, essentially using them as human cannons as part of a crusade to Europeanize the country.

Yes, many Argentines fantasize about being with a black man. We are exotic and erotic, a must-do before you die. But make no mistake, the N-word is in full circulation here, and no matter how many times I hear it, it never fails to shock and infuriate me. I thanked Alvaro for dragging me out of my Saturday afternoon torpor, spicing up my day, and confirming my suspicions about him.

Bullet dodged!
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