Tom Tillsby seemed like a nice guy 11 years ago, according to his wife, Sara. He cooked for the couple, helped around the house, and even coached his son’s soccer team. In fact, he still does all those things, so what’s the catch? He’s white.
“This year has really shifted my thinking on a lot of issues,” says Sara. “And now I’m just not sure he deserves to be married to me.”
Sara’s not alone. Millions of white women are reevaluating their choice of life partner in light of the Black Lives Matter protests that swept not only this country, but the world.
Melinda Hayward, 67, of Beauford, Louisiana filed for divorce on July 4, even though there was “nothing wrong” with her 47-year marriage to high school sweetheart John Hayward. “I just never considered dating anyone who wasn’t white, and that’s wrong,” says Melinda. But it’s more than a moral choice for her, “I’m also kind of curious,” she says with a glimmer of mischief in her eye.
Not all crumbling marriages were otherwise harmonious. In some cases, the husband’s whiteness was just the final straw. Take Kay Applewood of Washington, Connecticut, who says her soon-to-be-ex suffers from what she calls “The Four B’s: He’s a bully, a blow-hard, and a big baby.”
For 16 years, she just lived with it for the sake of her three kids. But now that Kay’s “woke”— not only to her own white privilege but to her ex’s (who she refers to as [expletive]-Face)—she’s decided to cut him loose. “It just clicked one day,” she said of her epiphany, “The things I didn’t like about him are all white traits. I deserve better.” (Her book proposal for The Four B’s: How to Leave Your White Husband just sold for six figures to Houghton-Mifflin after a bidding war. Reese Witherspoon’s production company has optioned the film rights.)
Where does this leave the men? In most cases, it’s another B-word: Bewildered. But some are looking inward, trying to overcome their condition with books and meditation aps. According to Brian Eldridge of Menushka, Kentucky. “We white dudes have gotten a free ride for a thousand years,” he said, taking another dip of chewing tobacco. “I need to learn how to listen more, and think about how my behavior affects the people around me.” Then he added wistfully, “It’s about vulnerability.”
Even though he and his wife Jamie are on a trial separation, there is reason to be hopeful. As this story was going to press, Brian’s 23andMe results came back showing that he’s 14% North African. “He’s seeming more empathic already,” says Jamie. ❏
Photo by JD Mason