By: TaLynn Kel
[SPOILER ALERT: This article assumes you’ve seen the movie]
I wasn’t going to see this movie. The trailers creeped me out and I knew I wouldn’t be able to manage the experience, but then I started reading essays about it. I read Son of Baldwin’s “Get the Fuck Outta Here: A Dialogue on Jordan Peele’s GET OUT,” which completely piqued my interest. Another favorite essay is “What Becky Gotta Do to Get Murked? White Womanhood in Jordan Peele’s Get Out” which gets into the role white womanhood played in the movie. Both were great and are the standouts of the 20+ items I read about this movie. I decided to go to see how I would respond to it. I honestly didn’t expect a lot. I was wrong.
Get Out fucked me up.
My very first reaction to the movie was “meh.” Seriously. I came out unimpressed and cold. What I didn’t realize was that the movie bothered me so much, I had detached from my emotions to get through it. I often talk about how difficult it is to deal with the micro and macro-aggressions of interacting with white people. It’s emotionally taxing. It’s painful. And it’s a part of my marriage. It has improved exponentially, but it’s something I control in my personal life as much as possible. Watching a movie full of them, and full of the casual lies white people tell black people to keep them comfortable as they mine them for the parts they want was overwhelming. They all feed into each other so seamlessly, that yes, the entire movie was a fucking terrible experience showing me the many ways I’ve made myself vulnerable to white people by telling myself “it’s fine.”
And afterward, I went home to my white husband and told myself — again — it’s fine. But it wasn’t.
I was and continue to be shaken by this experience, which took me back to the time I realized this man, who cries at the pain of animals, has trouble empathizing with black people. This man, who cannot watch violent anime without getting sad, struggled to see that Trayvon Martin was stalked and murdered. He still struggles to humanize black people. And while he continues to confront this and work to change it, it’s shocking to realize it continues to be an issue. And as I sleep next to him every night, I am betting my life on him being an exception.
And I tell myself “it’s fine.”
Get Out reminded me of last time I spent Christmas with him and his family, with whom I no longer interact. We drove to Flori-Bama and I was the only black person I saw for three days. His friends were sharing a vacation house with another family, who never spoke to me. I fielded questions from white children who’d never seen a black person prior to that week. His mother told me how hard it was to find “black X-mas décor,” a child asked me why I was called “black” if I’m “brown,” and I sat trying to engage but disengage because it was uncomfortable as hell. I still don’t know exactly where we visited and if I’d lost my phone, I’d have been fucked. My only safety net was that it was my car and I had the keys.
And I told myself it was “fine.”
Early in our relationship, I constantly put myself in these environments. His friends live outside Atlanta, where I see less and less black people. Where we currently live is so diverse — black people, Asian-Americans, Middle Easterners, latinx, etc. — with so many different shades and experiences everywhere. Yet, when we’d visit his friends, suddenly I’d find myself surrounded by only white people. Every time I went to their homes, I was afraid. They lived in Forsyth County, a place I’d been told was a sundown town that had been featured on an episode of Oprah in 1987. I remember expressing apprehension to my S.O. and he scoffed. At the time, the only way he would have believed me would have been if something happened.
And I told myself that it was “fine.”
Yesterday, I sat with my S.O. and told him this relationship isn’t healthy for him. Because I’m not fine. I don’t feel safe. Despite the seven years we’ve been together, I still sit and wait and watch for the moment where he’ll say the indefensible thing. I am waiting for him to say or do something so racist I can’t ignore it nor explain it away. The thing that we can’t talk about enough to clear the air. And what Get Out showed me was that I let the racism minefield get too close to my home. When a mine goes off (oh, and it’s going to go off), I’m going to take heavy damage.
And I’m scared. I’m scared that my S.O. is Rose — the liar, trickster. The psychopath who happily leads black people to their demise. I am afraid I am still not human enough to him and we just haven’t found the right catalyst for his racism to bloom. I stay in this relationship wondering if and when there will be a big reveal.
And, because I have empathy, I know this is not fair to him.
How can I ask someone to continue to prove he’s different? To continue to show me over and over again that he is confronting and dealing with his racism? How can that dynamic be an integral part of a healthy relationship? How can I keep asking and expecting this?
But this is the price of being with me. This is what I need to stay in this relationship because I still don’t feel safe. He is not black and because of that, I do not trust him with all my blackness. I’m starting to think that the most I can do is trust him not to physically attack me for it. And still, I’m not sure.
We talk about it. He tells me that all he can do is continue being who he is, keep learning, and keep supporting me. I asked him if it hurts and he said it does. But, he says, that it’s his problem and he’s figuring it out too. And I’m worth the work. He loves me.
I love him, too. It’s hard. Sometimes it feels too hard. I didn’t think a movie could make me feel this way. I didn’t think that we still had all this work to do. But it did and we do. We always do.
I don’t know how people look at all these interracial relationships and think theirs is safe. I don’t know how I live, breathe, and shout my wholeness into the face of someone conditioned to think I’m not as whole as him. But I do. And I fight the urge to apologize for being me because I have the right to be me. And he has the choice to stay and live with it or to leave. But my choice to stay is dangerous. I’d be a liar if I said it wasn’t.
But I tell myself that “it’s fine.”
I write about my marriage a lot. Feel free to check it out.
My Husband’s Unconscious Racism Nearly Destroyed Our Marriage
Why I Cut My Racist In-Laws Out Of My Life
I Promised My White Husband The Space To Fuck Up On Racism — And It Hurts Like Hell
The Danger Of Unchallenged Racism In Interracial Relationships
TaLynn Kel is a writer and an avid participant in the Atlanta cosplay scene. You will find her at various Atlanta conventions in costume and participating on panels about cosplay. She is also a guest writer for Black Girl Nerds, The Establishment, and Huffington Post.