They’d been dating for nine months the first time Kurt heard Blaine speak Tagalog.
From previous conversations, Kurt was aware that Blaine wasn’t exactly fluent – Blaine had explained that it was a combination of a lack of community where he lived and his father’s apathy towards the Anderson sons learning the language. That hadn’t stopped his mom from passing on the understanding of hundreds of words, so while he and Cooper did know how to respond to and with various phrases, conversations were always a little more difficult.
The couple had been in the middle of a Say Yes to the Dress marathon in Blaine’s apartment when Blaine’s phone had rung, causing an apologetic Blaine to get up as he said hello. Within seconds he’d switched into a language Kurt had never heard, and Kurt muted the television to better hear his boyfriend speak quickly to the other party. Blaine alternated between the two languages and Kurt found himself smiling at the richness of the words he didn’t understand. It was only a few minutes before Blaine hung up with a laugh.
“Sorry about that,” Blaine said, returning to the living room. “My grandmother’s staying with my uncle in California. She’s been calling every now and then to chat.”
“It’s no problem at all.” Kurt leaned back into the couch as Blaine sat next to him, resting his head on Kurt’s shoulder. Kurt unmuted the tv, lightly running his fingers through Blaine’s hair as they resumed watching the families argue over dress style. “It was kind of cool to hear you speak like that.”
“Tell that to my Lola,” Blaine sighed. “I wasn’t joking when I said I’m shit at conversations. She’s always proud that I’ve gotten better at understanding her, and then she spends a good amount of time laughing at how confused I am. It’d probably be much cooler to listen to her correct my pronunciation than my end of the conversation was.”
“Your voice is probably more adorable than hers is though.”
“Of course,” he said sarcastically.
“Plus sometimes I forget that you’re really Asian. Listening to that was an awesome reminder.”
There were a few seconds of silence before Blaine pulled his head away from Kurt’s hand. His eyes were wide as he stared at Kurt. “What?”
Kurt blinked. “What?”
“You forget I’m Asian?”
“Only sometimes? It’s not something I generally think about.”
“What does that even mean?”
“I mean every now and then it’s like, ‘whoa, Blaine’s Asian,’ but usually it’s not something I think about.” Kurt did not expect the shock in Blaine’s expression at all. He tried to backtrack. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“I’m not supposed to be offended that you said you see me as white?”
“Being white isn’t a bad thing, Blaine. I’m white. I just see you as a person.” His defenses rose. Why was Blaine even acting like this?
“Do you zone out when I talk about being a cultural chair for the International Filipino Association? My involvement with the Asian Cultural Union doesn’t mean anything significant to you?” Blaine’s voice increased in volume as he got off the couch. The quiver betrayed his anger. “We didn’t go out last weekend because the ACU did a service project and my ethnicity didn’t cross your mind once when we talked about it?”
Kurt immediately went on the defense. “You and I both know that people join cultural clubs regardless of their ethnicity. Rachel Berry was on the board for the Black Student Union when we were in high school and she’s not black.”
“Her dad is black. Or did you forget that as well?”
“I wasn’t trying to ignore your heritage!” Kurt yelled, growing more and more frustrated at this turn of events. “I’m sorry if I offended you but it’s honestly something that doesn’t generally cross my mind when I’m with you. You’re my boyfriend, not my Asian boyfriend. I never found the reason to make that distinction.”
“Why? Is it because I don’t look enough like any of the other Asian people we know? Or because my name isn’t exotic enough for you?”
“If you were as Asian as Tina is I’d get being pissed off, but you’re not. So why do you expect me to focus on your race when it’s not something I automatically think about in relation to you?”
Blaine took a step back from the couch, as if he’d been shoved. “I need you to leave.”
Kurt was stunned. “What?”
Tears shone at the corners of Blaine’s eyes as he wrapped his arms around himself. “I can’t do this right now. I need you to go home.”
Kurt stood up, heart racing. He had no idea what the hell had just happened, how simply voicing a thought had resulted in Blaine staring at him with such anger and pain. Emotions were battling within him – anger, confusion, sadness. He barely felt like apologizing anymore and he knew Blaine wouldn’t accept it while still so riled up, so he turned and left the apartment without another word.
“—and then he said if I loved myself I’d be more Asian.” Tina concluded. She was lying on her back in Blaine’s bed, limbs stretched out take up as much space as possible. “Can you believe it? It’s such bullshit.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty awful of him.”
Since Blaine had started attending Dalton Academy, he and Tina had an agreement to hang out at least once every other weekend. Though things weren’t nearly as tense in the Anderson household as they had been from the stretch between Blaine’s coming out and the horrid Sadie Hawkins night, he still preferred to stay out of the way as much as possible. He came home on weekends at his mother’s request, boarding the rest of the time.
Blaine had been sitting at his desk when Tina had burst in that Saturday, blue eyes blazing, before flinging herself on his bed and leading into an intensely colorful rant. He’d spent the entirety of her tirade giving brief responses and, in the moments she’d sit back up for emphasis, trying to get used to how different the contacts made her look.
“All of this over a fashion piece?” Blaine asked.
“I know, right?! Mike never cares about what I wear but as soon as I step out of the box he’s known me in it’s like all hell needed to break loose.”
Blaine hummed. “And you don’t get why he’s maybe concerned about this particular addition?”
“Ugh,” she groaned, sitting back up and shooting Blaine a glare, “don’t you get on me too. It’s bad enough that my parents are pissed that I spent forty bucks on these and that Mike won’t shut up about my ‘natural Korean beauty.’ As if my Asianness is the most important thing about me. If you’re not on my side, I’m going home.
Blaine climbed onto his bed with his hands raised. “I swear I’m not going to get on your case about this. I will defend your right to wear whatever you want.”
“Thank god.” Tina let her head hit the pillow again.
“I just wondered if there was any truth at all to what Mike said.”
“Any truth to Mike calling me a ‘self-hating Asian?’”
“No.” Blaine backpedaled quickly. “No way. I know you’re not self-hating. I just… wonder if your motivations for the contacts are as strictly part of a new aesthetic as you’re insisting they are? You’re usually pretty open about your fashion ideas so it’s a little weird that you felt the need to hide this so much.”
“What, I’m not allowed to have surprises? Is that it?”
“No, but you used to tell me that every piece of an outfit could be seen as a personal statement. Do blue contacts mean something?”
“Okay, first off,” Tina began, sitting up once more, “that’s what I said in middle school to make it seem like I was super cool for not dressing like the popular girls.” Her voice rose. “Maybe the contacts say that I like trying new things and being unconventional! Or maybe they say nothing at all! Secondly, if I was going to scrutinize everyone the way I did when we were twelve, I could just say that Mike’s stupid shirts scream that he’s trying too hard to feel casual about his growth spurt and that the hairstyle you adopted says ‘I’m just as white and rich as the other Dalton students!’”
“Oh.” Blaine reflexively turned away from her acidic words. He closed his eyes.
“No it’s not – I didn’t mean it like that, I’m so sorry.” She sounded regretful.
They sat in brief silence. Blaine felt so ashamed because deep down he knew she had a point. In therapy he’d only recently started talking about how his racial identity had impacted the bullying – and how, in turn, the bullying impacted his racial identity. Dalton was safe but it didn’t make him as open as he could have been about all parts of who he was.
He felt Tina moving towards him on the bed, but didn’t open his eyes until she lightly touched his arm.
“The contacts make me feel pretty, okay? I know lots of Asians don’t have boring brown eyes – you’re proof of that – but I do. They’re flat even when they’re in the light. I’ve always wanted blue eyes and now I have them and it shouldn’t have to be such a big deal.”
“You’re right.” Blaine turned back to look at her. “It shouldn’t be. I distinctly remember you once trying to come to my defense when we were younger by telling Cooper you’d take out his eyes and make them your own. I’d always assumed it was just you being my creepy hero, not a jealousy thing.”
“Hey, the threat still technically stands. I’m your creepy hero forever. “
“Awww, thanks,” he said with a grin. “But Mike wasn’t right at all, Tina. If you want to wear them, wear them. Do what makes you happy. It’ll just take some time to get used to.”
“Thank you.” She leaned forward and threw her arms around him. “And I’m sorry.” He squeezed her tightly before she pulled out of the embrace. She continued, “I didn’t mean that you were trying to be ‘white’ with your hair but when you’re home your hair is so curly while in Dalton pictures it looks like you went swimming in a bottle of gel. You look like you’re someone at a business meeting.”
Blaine let one of his hands run through the ungelled curls. “I don’t know a fast way to manage my hair and have it still be curly, that’s all.”
“There are totally products we can get that keep you from appearing like a younger version of your dad. Your brother can wear that mantle.”
He sighed. “I never really thought about how white it’d make me look.”
“Whiteness isn’t automatically a bad thing, Blaine.”
Despite the years they’d spent getting to know each other, at times it felt like they were still the lonely eight year olds who’d started talking in the library out of shared jealousy. The pair had bonded one rainy afternoon over favorite books and a mutual desire for change, each expressing longing for some attributes the other had. Things had gotten better as they’d grown, learning to appreciate their unique characteristics and working on self-love in a world where they didn’t feel like they quite fit perfectly. These moments were becoming fewer and further in between, but they still definitely were there.
“I’m not as okay being me as I thought I was,” Tina admitted.
“Yeah. I feel the same.”
Kurt ignored the annoyed huff Santana made when she walked into the apartment. He was lounging on the couch watching Grease and if she wanted to pull his attention away from ‘Beauty School Drop Out,’ she’d have to try harder.
“Dammit. I was planning on being able to walk around nude for at least an hour before anyone came back,” she groaned, standing in front of the tv. She pulled her bra off from under her dress with ease. “I swore you said you had a date tonight.”
“I did. He cancelled. And move; you can always have your nudist fun in non-communal living areas.”
“Eh. It’s always more fun to not be limited in one’s nudity. You being here means I’d need to put on a robe if I got the munchies. What a pain.” She tossed her bra into a laundry basket before dropping on the love seat.
“Sorry for ruining your night,” he replied with an eye roll.
“You’d better be.”
It was a solid fifteen minutes before either of the pair spoke again.
“What cancelled tonight’s activities?” Santana asked.
“Come on, dish the dirt. You generally don’t mope this much when plans fall through.”
With a sigh, Kurt recounted the previous night’s events to Santana. He’d spent all day trying to figure out what he’d missed last night, what could have clued him in to why Blaine had reacted so explosively. There weren’t any stressors he was aware of that would cause such an uncharacteristic disagreement nor was anything said that he could connect to previous arguments they’d had. He’d alternated between confusion and anger the entire day, and when he got the text an hour before their scheduled date that cancelled the dinner and movie, his anger flared. Two hours later, however, he was mostly feeling sad and trying to ignore the deep worry in his stomach.
He wasn’t sure whether Santana would be sympathetic or what, but at this point any new input would be appreciated.
“Well,” she began after he’d told his side of the story, “there’s no nice way to break this to you—”
“If there was, would you bother trying?”
Santana raised an eyebrow. “I’m not a complete asshole. I honestly want to help.”
“Okay. What is it?”
“You’re kind of racist.”
For the first time since his fight with Blaine the night before, Kurt laughed. Of all the things he’d have thought to hear, that was by far the most absurd and unexpected. Back in high school his best friend was a black woman. Plus along with dating a Filipino man, he was currently living with a Mexican lesbian — who for whatever reason thought he was racist? It just didn’t add up at all.
He noticed Santana was silent as he laughed. There was an eerily serious expression on her face. His laughter quickly stopped.
“This isn’t a joke, Kurt. You’re racist. And all of your other non-white friends are too polite to say it, so you’ve gone through your entire life thinking you’re better than rednecks from the South because you have cute minority friends to prove how forward thinking you are.”
This was unbelievable.
“How am I racist? Racism is seeing yourself and your race as better than other races. I have never once said or implied that I was better than anyone for being white.”
“It’s more complex than that. There are things you say and do that are pretty racist and maybe you just don’t know better, but they’re still shitty.”
“Give me an example,” he demanded.
“Remember how senior year Mercedes talked about applying to historically black universities? And how she eventually joined that black sorority? I heard you telling Rachel that it was the opposite of progress.”
“That’s because the Civil Rights Movement worked to let people of all races be allowed in all places.”
“No. They were working to stop white people to keep everyone else out of places.”
“Which makes it suddenly okay to stop white people from having access to certain groups?”
“White people have access to literally everything else. I’m telling you you’re wrong about this and instead of just taking my word for it you’re arguing with me about it.” Santana rolled her eyes. “This is part of your problem.”
“Not agreeing with you doesn’t make me racist, Santana. That’s like saying Finn’s being homophobic every time we argue.”
“Fine, want a better example of your racism?”
“Try me,” he hissed. He felt super defensive. None of this was making sense and he couldn’t believe that Santana would see him in such a hateful light. The fury over everything was coming back in full force and he could feel himself shaking with rage.
“That blue keffiyeh you bought last spring? It’s racist for you to wear it.”
“It’s a fucking scarf.”
“One with huge cultural and religious significance to certain groups of people from the Middle East.”
“I’m not wearing it in a religious way! It’s a nice scarf. I’m appreciating a different culture.”
Santana scoffed. “You can’t pick and choose things from non-white cultures and ignore the history behind those clothing items. You’re the fashion guru, you should know that things are made for specific reasons and that meaning doesn’t go away.”
“You’re wrong. The meaning has to do with context and the reasoning of the wearer. If I want to wear a keffiyeh as a fashion piece, I should be allowed to do that without being called ‘racist.’”
“Look, you wanted me to give you examples, so I’m giving you examples.”
“Those — those aren’t real examples,” he yelled, mind racing. “A real example would be me using a slur. Or treating my culture as better than your culture. Or choosing who to be friends with based on their race.”
“Fuck that. You don’t get to decide that any more than Puck would be able to decide that assuming you’re the bottom isn’t homophobic.”
“That’s different,” he insisted after the slightest of hesitations.
“Is it really that different though? He has no qualifications to argue with you on whether something is or isn’t homophobic. I’m more qualified to point out what racism is than you’ll ever be.”
Kurt stood from the couch, shaking his head as he threw his hands in the air. “Okay. Let’s pretend that I’m racist.”
“This isn’t prete—”
“If I was racist, why is it only an issue now? Why are you turning that fight from yesterday into something bigger than it is? I have never treated you or Blaine like I was better than you are because I’m white. Why are you even friends with me if you think I’m a bigot, why would Blaine even agree to go out with me in the first place if you’re right?”
“Because racism is more complicated than not treating brown people like shit. I’m friends with a lot of racist people and I deal with it, but obviously he couldn’t deal with what you said.”
“I just said that I didn’t always remember he was Asian. We’re all people, that’s what really matters.”
“The identities of your friends matter because they’re a huge part of who we are and how we see the world.” She pointed angrily at him. “We live in a world where this shit matters, where this shit can make or break us. If it didn’t matter I’m pretty sure you and your boyfriend would be having a disgustingly sappy Saturday night like you usually do. Instead you’re moping around here and glaring at me because you know I’m right.”
“No, Santana. I don’t know you’re right. But I don’t have to listen to this.” Kurt crossed his arms, taking several steps away from the couch. “I don’t need to be taught about offensiveness from the queen bitch herself.” He turned and began walking to his room, furious at the way this weekend was turning out. He didn’t bother responding to her final remark.
“At least my bitchiness isn’t rooted in ignorance.”
The door to his dorm suite flew open. Despite knowing that his roommate was standing in their doorway instead of entering the room, Blaine continued focusing on his lunch. Food was much more important than pushy roommates. The seconds of silence stretched.
“I kicked you out of here for a reason.”
“What was that reason?”
“You wanted me to stop cooking soup in the dorm."
Blaine gestured to his bowl as he looked up. His roommate simply stared from the doorway in disbelief. “I left campus as you insisted, and bought soup at Panera.”
“The point was for you to stop drowning your sorrows in soup,” Matt groaned, finally stepping into the dormitory.
“Hey, you never told me that I wasn’t allowed to have soup anymore. And since you’re not my mother I wouldn’t have listened to you anyways.”
Matt sat at the table, dropping his backpack on the floor. “It’s been an entire month. All I’ve seen you eat is soup. I didn’t even realize there were so many breakfast soup options.”
“That’s because you’re boring and uncultured,” Blaine replied, licking his spoon.
“I know you’ve been hurting, but you’ve got to stop moping over your ex.”
“I’m not moping.” He honestly wasn’t. Blaine had officially stopped moping two days earlier and had instead reached a point where he focused hating himself for not being able to give Sebastian what he’d wanted. He was done being angry at Sebastian because, as Sebastian had pointed out, there was no agreement in the beginning of the relationship that made it okay for Blaine to constantly be a tease with no follow through. Soup had been a comfort food since he was a small child and he knew that if the self-loathing began to build, it wouldn’t take long for nothing to be able to make him feel better. Blaine planned to enjoy soup as long as he could.
“Look, I’m telling you this as a friend. And as someone who won’t hesitate to tell on you to the RA.” Matt pulled Blaine’s empty bowl towards him, forcing Blaine to look into his roommate’s worried face. “What you’re doing right now is unhealthy and unproductive. You have to get over him.”
“I’m trying, okay?” His voice cracked. “He was my first boyfriend and we dated for almost two years and you expect me to just turn off these feelings?”
“Not at all. What I do expect is for you to get out of the dorm for things other than class without me having to threaten you.”
Blaine stood, dropping the spoon into the bowl as he moved his dishes to the sink. “I’ll get out more, alright? Is that what you want to hear from me?”
“It’s a start. But I also had an additional idea to help get you out of this slump.”
“And that is?”
“Hook up with someone.”
Blaine snorted loudly. The irony of this suggestion in the wake of what caused his singleness would have been beautiful if he wasn’t living this nightmare. “That’s so not gonna happen.”
“Why not? We’re in New York. You’re an attractive dude. I’m sure you can find someone to remind you there are people outside of your ex to be with.”
Considering the fact that Blaine was having trouble admitting to himself that he didn’t want to be physical with anyone ever, there was no way he’d reveal something like that to Matt. “I’ve never been into hookups and I don’t think that’s going to start now.”
“Blaine. Hooking up in high school is nothing like hooking up in college. Going out and messing around with someone could be really good for you.”
“It’d be a disaster. Trust me.”
Matt frowned at him. “Is this about how you hate clubs? Because clubs aren’t the only way to meet people. You could just use Grindr or something.”
“I know I could. But I don’t. And I won’t.”
“Fine, don’t hook up with someone. I still think you should at least, you know, meet someone who could help you move on. Grindr could work for that too.”
Once Matt got focused on something, it was nearly impossible to get him to switch topics. All Blaine really wanted to do was get back in his room and lie in bed for the next five years, so he decided to humor him so they could be off this inane topic. “Unless Grindr has the option ‘looking for a guy to watch musicals who won’t get weird if I start to cry,’ it’s not gonna work,” he deadpanned.
“Dude,” Matt started as he pulled the app up on his phone, “all you’d have to do is specify what you’re interested in your profile. That way, people who are sensible and think show tunes are the devil can know you aren’t worth their time.” He handed his phone to Blaine.
A shirtless picture of Matt flexing took up the background of the screen, while a box at the top left of the screen gave basic information about him. “See, you could just say that you were interested in friendship and that’ll reduce the number of people trying to get in your pants,” Matt explained. “And then at the bottom of the screen you could write ‘show tunes and crying are my life.’”
A feeling of unease crept up Blaine’s spine as he read Matt’s profile description at the bottom of the screen.
“’No twinks and no Asians?’”
“Yup. It makes it easier to find someone when I’ve narrowed those groups out. I know what I want in a fuck buddy and neither of those groups can give it to me.” He shrugged at Blaine’s blank stare. “It’s not like I never tried, but neither of the Asian guys I’ve slept with were big enough.”
“You’re seriously judging an entire race of people on two sexual encounters?” Blaine didn’t bother hiding the judgment in his voice. There had never been anything to make him wish he and his roommate could be an item and he really didn’t care what assumptions Matt would make about his junk. However, he wasn’t sure if Matt had simply forgotten that he was talking to a Filipino guy or if he didn’t care.
“Well, I know that not all Asians are like that. But the stereotype wouldn’t be there if the majority didn’t have small dicks. I really don’t see the point in wasting my time trying to find guys who break that pattern when I could be hooking up with other people who I know can give me what I want, you know?”
On a different day he might have cared enough to point out why Matt’s reasoning was so completely irrational and racist. Blaine did not have the energy today. “Sure, whatever,” he finally replied. He began making his retreat into his bedroom. “I’m still not installing that stupid app.”
Kurt tentatively knocked on the door to Blaine’s apartment. Part of him wanted to hide how shaky he felt, but he knew there would be no point in trying to pretend in front of Blaine. The argument he’d had with Santana had exacerbated his nerves, making him think more deeply throughout the day about what had led to this mess in the first place. He understood that he’d accidentally insulted Blaine, but he didn’t understand why it was such a huge insult, and the Google searches he’d attempted didn’t give him any clarity. He mostly just felt more confused about everything.
The door opened almost immediately. “Hi,” Blaine said softly. His eyes were red, as if he’d just finished crying. The pit in Kurt’s stomach deepened. He stepped back to let Kurt inside.
“Are you breaking up with me?” Kurt blurted once the door had closed behind him. He watched Blaine walk into the living room, but he continued standing near the door just in case the conversation was about to go the way he feared it’d go. “I don’t know exactly what I did wrong but I know I messed up and I’m sorry and I want to fix it. Please don’t break up with me.”
Blaine gave him a weak smile. “We’re not breaking up. We just really need to talk.” He sank into the couch, gesturing to the empty spot next to him. “Sit with me?”
Kurt sat. He and Blaine made eye contact. The exhaustion in Blaine’s expression as Blaine began to talk hurt to see.
“I wanted to start by apologizing for completely shutting you out the last two days. I needed time and space to figure things out, but I should have told you that at some point.”
“What exactly did you need to figure out?” Kurt asked cautiously.
“Honestly? How much I loved you. Because I had to know if you’d be worth it if something like this happened again. And you are.” The confession stung deeply and panic rose in Kurt. He could feel the tears beginning to develop in the corners of his eyes. This was so much catastrophic than he’d grasped.
“I know you said we weren’t breaking up but that sounds awfully like you considered it.”
“There hasn’t been a second this weekend that I wanted to break up with you,” Blaine tried to clarify. “I just had to think about a future with you and I had to make sure that I could handle it regardless of how the second half of this conversation goes.”
“I don’t understand.”
Blaine reached out and grabbed his shaking hands. “I love you, Kurt. I love you more than I’ve loved anyone else in my entire life. But that makes you more dangerous than almost anyone else I’m close to. When you said that you sometimes forgot that I was Asian, it was an emotional slap. I was too angry and hurt to explain, and I realized you probably wouldn’t get why what you’d said was a problem unless I explained, but all I could think about was how that was one of worst things you could have ever said to me.
“Back when we lived in Columbus, my mom would always pick me up from school. I remember one day in kindergarten she was super late, which worried me a lot. One of the staff members tried to reassure me that my nanny would be there soon. I didn’t quite get what she was talking about, so I turned and said that my mom’s name was Kristina, not Nanny. She didn’t manage to hide her look of surprise.” He let out a weak chuckle, letting go of Kurt’s hand to wipe at the first tear to fall down his face. “It wasn’t until I was much older that I completely understood what had gone on in that interaction. I’d like to think she was embarrassed by the assumption she made, but who really knows.
“Maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, Kurt, but it is. So many people assumed the lowest of my mother, and she still has to battle those assumptions and it sucks, especially since we’ll be out together and people won’t make the connection. Growing up, when kids would figure it out it’d lead anywhere from them calling me slurs to them trying to relate with me because they really like Chinese food.”
Blaine closed his eyes. “There are advantages that I have because I’m not as dark as other Filipinos. I’ve had to learn to recognize that. It doesn’t mean I wanted them. I hate how easily my heritage is erased by other people due to my skin color. I like being Filipino. I’m proud of my heritage and whether people recognize it or not when they look at me, I can’t be separated from it.”
“I’m sorry, okay?” Kurt’s tears had started falling shortly after Blaine’s had and now they were steadily drifting down his face. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“I know. I knew you weren’t trying to hurt me, but you did, and I’m sorry it took so long for me to be able to explain.”
Kurt could hear an echo of Santana’s statements in the back of his mind. He’d talked to Mercedes earlier in the morning but he was too afraid to ask her if she agreed with Santana’s assessment. Now would be the best time to find out if everyone really thought he was racist, but there were few things he wanted to do less. “I love you, and I’m sorry for hurting you. I talked to Santana last night about everything and she said something that’s been bothering me. I really don’t want her to be right but while we’re being honest, I have to ask.” He took a deep breath. “Do you think I’m racist?”
Blaine’s silence spoke volumes. Kurt’s heart and stomach lurched. He was going to be sick. He shifted back on the couch to increase the space between them and tried to pull his hands out of Blaine’s grip.
“Wait,” Blaine started. “It’s complicated.”
“How is it complicated? You either think I’m racist or you don’t.”
“I – that’s true, but the definition I’m using and the definition I assume you’ve been using are almost definitely two different things.”
“Racism is racism.”
“Yes, but what you’re imagining is not what I mean.”
“What do you mean then? What did I do?” He didn’t know where along the line people in his life there were two different definitions of racism, but he wished someone had told him about the definition change because it would have made everything easier. Blaine still wasn’t saying the words specifically, but the omission was enough. Kurt wanted to wake up from this nightmare, wanted to forget that his world had been just turned upside-down. What type of shitty person must he have been all this time for the person he loved most in the world to think of him as a racist?
“You were born into a society where being white is the best thing and you support that attitude sometimes, that’s what I mean. And even though you’re never trying to be racist and even though I know you don’t think you’re better than me because you’re white, you still say things that are harmful. That’s what you did.”
“Why are you even with me, then? Racism is an awful thing and if all I’m doing is hurting you, why haven’t you broken up with me yet?”
“It’s complicated, okay? Sometimes you’re just ignorant and knowing you’re not being malicious makes it easier to ignore some of the things you do. It’s usually not worth the fight.” Blaine looked about as panicked and upset as Kurt felt. “If I pointed out that something was racism every single time something racist happened around me, I don’t even know how many friends I’d still have and I’m pretty sure all of my teachers would hate me.”
“I’ve never wanted to hurt you. Were you going to even say anything if I didn’t ask you?”
“Maybe in the future? I talked to my mom and Tina about it and I’d decided that it wouldn’t be worth bringing up at this stage of the relationship.”
“I can’t believe this.” His heart was pounding and he couldn’t stop crying and Blaine was now looking at him with such worry. He would have expected more of a look of horror or disgust, but instead his boyfriend was worried and he didn’t know why. Kurt had to turn away. Why worry about someone if you felt some part of them hated you?
“Do you point out that Finn’s being homophobic every single time he says something homophobic?”
“It’s different. I didn’t choose Finn as a brother.”
“But you choose how much of his ideas you can take.”
“I’m your boyfriend. You shouldn’t have to just, take racism from me. That’s not fair.”
“It’s something I knew could be an issue before dating you. It’s something I talk to Tina about a lot because she has to deal with very casual racism from her girlfriend all the time. My mom and I talked about it yesterday because my dad’s always been kind of racist. He’s apparently worlds better than he was when they first met, but he’ll say things without thinking and they hurt. It’s not fair, but that’s our reality.”
Kurt shook his head in disbelief. He felt like one of the worst people in the world and Blaine was just trying to pretend that it was all okay?
“Please look at me,” Blaine pled. Kurt took a few steadying breaths, then turned back to make eye contact. “I know how much I can take, okay? I’m old enough to choose how much I can handle and I’m telling you that what I can’t handle is you ignoring the fact that I’m not white. I was fully aware of the risks of dating a white person from the very beginning.”
“So you were willing to stay with me and never let me know that the things I’d said were hurting you?”
“Some things would have come up naturally, just like the fight that started this did. I know I shouldn’t have to let racist things happen around me. I just don’t have the energy to fight the world. I have to pick my battles.” Kurt let Blaine take his hands again. “I wasn’t going to give you an ultimatum. I wanted you to decide for yourself, not for me.”
“Decide what?” he sniffed. “What exactly is there to decide? What do we even do about this?”
“You can take this as a sign that maybe this is too hard to deal with –”
“I’m not breaking up with you.”
“Or you can work on being less racist. It’s a process and it takes time and I know you’ll never be perfect about race things because we’re products of the society we live in. But you can be better.”
“How can I be ‘better’ when I didn’t realize I was doing anything wrong in the first place?” Kurt let go of Blaine’s hand to wipe his face. The fact he’d gone over two decades of his life without realizing that anything was wrong was almost the most difficult part of all of this. His chest felt tight.
“I can give you some things to read. There are so many blogs I’ve found that give general information and we can go from there. I’m not going to rush you and I’m willing to answer any questions you might have about all of this. Does that sound good?”
“Yeah.” Kurt took Blaine's hand again. “But, I need you to be honest with me from here on out. If I’m saying something that’s hurting you, I need you to tell me. I didn’t mean to hurt you and if I’d known I would have stopped.”
“It’s not that easy as me telling you that you were hurting me and you seeing the light and never saying anything racist ever again. We would have fought about it. Maybe after we fought we’d be in the place we are now, and at that point you would have decided you wanted to learn to stop, but it something you have to work on forever. Just like your dad has to work on not saying casually homophobic things.”
“I feel like the worst boyfriend,” Kurt whispered. He’d barely managed to stop crying, but as Blaine pulled him forward into a hug he began again.
“You’re not the worst boyfriend at all, okay? I love you.”
“I love you too. And I’m so sorry, Blaine. I am.”
“I know. I forgive you.” Blaine’s voice was heavy with sadness. “We’re going to be okay.”
Kurt clenched his eyes shut and hoped Blaine was telling the truth.