Y’all know I love my husband something fierce.
I look at the above picture of him and our youngest son, taking a picture of themselves at the sushi boat restaurant, and I think to myself, How DID I get so lucky?
A funny thing happens, though, when you choose to divulge a bit of your life on social media: you can become somewhat of a public figure. Suddenly, it’s not just your mom and your best friend who are reading your blog posts and articles, who are interacting with your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, but it’s strangers from halfway around the world. For those of us who’ve landed in this space as writers, we occupy a completely different arena, for through our words we share the stories of our lives. And because we humans feel most connected to one another through the stories and the pictures and the inner thoughts of other humans, those of us whose work teeters between public and private spheres often have to create boundaries in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
When I left the traditional work force almost five years ago to take care of our oldest son and pursue writing and speaking, I did so with intention. And one of the ways I created boundaries, at least in online spaces, was to create monikers for my husband and son(s).
“You’re my hot black husband!” I blurted out one night over dinner, and that’s when it hit me: he could be the HBH (Hot Black Husband) online. We talked about it and he rolled his eyes at its absurdity, but gave me permission to make this his online moniker. That was it. We didn’t think much of it, and it became his identity, at least in my little slice of the world.
Honestly, I hadn’t given it much thought: he was my husband, whose skin happened to be black. I read The Pioneer Woman religiously at the time, and she called her husband, Ladd, Marlboro Man. Most of the writing I was also doing at that time was largely faith-based or religious in nature – and it drove me crazy to see men in ministry refer to their “smoking hot wives” without end. As if the rest of us actually wanted to hear about the subversive details of their sex lives. So, with equal parts affirmation to Ree Drummond and rebellion against the sexist Christian machine, I named him such.
But then a couple of things happened along the way.
First, the more we began to lean into our story, the more we became engaged in issues of race. I began writing about it, both here on the blog and in other online spaces. Following a couple of articles that went viral, I even began to speak about it (which, as you might know, eventually led to a book deal). Learning about the intersection of faith and race, and reading of Jesus the great Reconciler and Liberator, became our hearts’ cry. My family is passionate about issues of racial justice and healing, and everyday I’m learning more and more what it means to be an ally to black and brown lives.
So, I kept writing. I kept putting myself out there, just little bits at a time. And even though I purposefully didn’t call him the HBH in online spaces other than my blog, the name stuck. And it spread.
Meanwhile, racial tensions in our country reached an all-time high. Is racism or are racist acts more prevalent now than they were ten years ago? Not necessarily. But everything I’ve read and experienced points to the fact that today’s technological presence means that we’re seeing and engaging more with the facts of racial disparity than ever before. Most of us have the capacity to snap a picture or a video with our cell phones; no longer are videos reserved for an elite few, which means that the masses have greater access to everyday instances of violence and injustice. With that also comes an air of indifference within our country: the ugliest of permissions has been granted to hate. We see and are affected by Charlottesville, by Ole Miss, by threats toward DACA and even by football players – and this just in the last couple of weeks.
As a mother of brown sons and the wife of a black man, my heart can’t take much more.
I know I’m not alone.
So, it leads me to my final point: a couple of weeks ago, a Shalom in the City podcast aired. Osheta, our fearless leader and my friend, referred to my husband as she always does, as the HBH. She and I didn’t think much of it at the time, but a listener was kind enough to point out the incongruities and the ugliness of the moniker.
It’s one thing for Cara to call him the HBH, but it’s an entirely different thing for others to refer to him as the HBH.
Such a reference objectifies him. It devalues his identity by placing the “black” descriptor before his most important role, as my husband. And in today’s climate, where racial tension is the norm and white supremacy has been given permission to fly, we do not need one more reason to devalue black and brown lives.
Calling him this name, wherever the space, is no longer helping the conversation.
So, as of today, the HBH is retired. We’ve said our goodbyes. A new name will emerge for him, if necessary, in the future.
And if my name for him has offended you, I ask your forgiveness. I’m learning and I’m growing and I’m messing up on this journey, but more than anything, I desire that this be a safe space for all of us, and especially for my brothers and sisters of color. So, please, forgive me.
In this with you,
So, your thoughts? Again, I humbly ask your forgiveness if I’ve offended you; if you’re still wondering how and why this is offensive, keep reading. Keep learning. Keep journeying. And keep choosing the greatest of these, LOVE.0