The white man I am currently allowing to see me was terrified that he’d say something wrong. He didn’t know what jokes he could and couldn’t make, or what observations he was allowed to express. Which is why I want to talk about Dean.
Dean is the youngest of Rachel’s harem of men. He is 26 years old and Rachel is 31 years old. But for a younger man, he’s shown instances of wisdom that made me give him a second look as Rachel’s potential husband.
In his talking-head interview about the dynamic between Lee and Kenny, Dean knew instantly that the source of the problem was Lee’s racism and nothing Kenny had done: “Lee likes to get under people’s skin and the people’s skin that he’s getting under, they’re my friends, people I respect … The only people I’ve seen Lee pick fights with are … not the people he’s used to seeing on a daily basis … from a cultural perspective.”
Still, he wouldn’t name it. When a producer asked him what he meant, he demurred saying, “You know exactly what I mean when I say that. The longer Lee sticks around the more everyone will be aware of his intolerance.” Dean is going to have to get over that unwillingness to deal with racism when it happens. Not just for Rachel, who I’m sure would appreciate having a partner who is also an ally. But also because men like him need to be the ones to call each other out on racist behaviour. In short: the white community needs to have these conversations with each other.
Because it’s a conversation that the Black men are having. On this episode, Will is speaking to Eric about the fact that he’s never before dated a Black woman. Eric tell him that maybe that’s something Will should speak to Rachel about.
It’s a brilliant form of sabotage and an interaction that also hurt my feelings. Like, dating Black women isn’t some magical experience (except when it is); we’re entirely normal, and not some other species.
Because the producers want to Talk About Race, Will gets a 1-on-1 date and is super boring on it. At dinner when Rachel tries to bring out his more interesting side, it goes disastrously. She asks him what he finds attractive. His answer: “I’ve dated predominantly white women.” NO. My guy, answer the questions you’re asked and not any other one. From then on Will is doomed so let’s move on.
Back at the house, Eric tells Dean that he advised Will to share his dating history. Dean —sweet, innocent, hot Dean—is all “I’ve never dated a Black woman! Should we all tell her?” No, Dean. Let this go. But do keep on doing everything else that happened in this conversation: Dean listened to Eric explain the dynamics of dating while Black, heard him out and didn’t argue back or refute the truth of what Eric was saying.
I’ve known, befriended, talked to and dated enough white boys to say this is rare. Dean isn’t leading the new civil rights movement with this; it isn’t radical or revolutionary. But it is a humanizing act that treats Black people truths as valid and worthy. It is an extension of empathy that Black folks don’t often receive.
Having been granted a temporary license to speak to me (renewable on payment of wine), my guy still approaches it with caution. When he sees my eye narrow after a joke he’s made, he doesn’t get defensive and doesn’t tell me I’m just seeing race in everything. He asks a question. Then he listens.
It’s the least he could do.