Before she got hate mail and death threats last Christmas, Ashlyn Sullivan was just a 20-year-old Wichita waitress working tables at a Buffalo Wild Wings.
But on Dec 22, Sullivan said, six drunken customers taunted her with racial slurs after she told them she dates a black man. Sullivan is white. She thought about saying nothing, walking away. But she decided to make a stand.
She got up mad the next morning.
She found a photo of herself with her arms wrapped around her boyfriend’s neck.
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She stuck it up alongside a fiery, poetic rant, as she calls it, that she composed on her personal blog.
Her blog post, “I am not dating a racial slur,” went viral almost instantly, collecting 300,000 page views that first day. By Wednesday afternoon, more than a month later, it had 192,112 shares and more than 1.8 million page views. Also by Wednesday, Cosmopolitan magazine had been in touch and had posted an update, written by her, describing her viral post and the hate it has prompted.
In her original post, she denounced the drunks for snarling the “N” word at her. She described boyfriend Ra’Montae Green in lines that sound like blazing, chantlike poetry.
I am dating a man with the smoothest brown skin, and curly hair. I am dating a respectable, hardworking man that would do anything to make me smile at the end of the day. I am dating a man who helps me buy groceries, wash laundry, and even clean my apartment even though he has other things to do, works 40 hours a week, and it’s not his job.
The death threats began immediately. She had never received more than 181 page views on any blog post before; she’s just a waitress with a fondness for the written word. She has no journalism or other formal training in writing; she wants to rescue children as a social worker someday. So she knows, she said, that her blog went viral in part because hate groups shared her blog with fellow haters.
She got death threats. Hate notes. “And I got Bible verses,” Sullivan said Wednesday. “Verses from the Bible telling how God doesn’t want humans laying with animals.”
And the hate is still coming in, from anonymous attackers. Many of the comments she called up on her laptop in her apartment on Wednesday used the hardest of hard-core obscenities and racial slurs.
“She’s just bragging about polluting the white gene pool.”
“Pleeease, liberal hordes of the world, pay me attention and tell me how such a good people and incredible person I am because I am dating a -----. Please please pleeease.”
“The first day it was kinda rough,” Green said. “She likes to cry anyway, she gets emotional, sheds tears, gets shaky.”
Green told her to calm down.
“He told me it should not matter what is said by people who are just sitting on a computer screen,” Sullivan said.
Green himself said these loons were clearly from out of town. This is only the second time he has ever encountered racism up close in 20 years of growing up in Goddard and Wichita, he said.
About a month ago, he said, “an old white guy” at a stoplight at Central and Ridge Road pulled up alongside, extended a finger and called Green the “N” word.
Before that, no one in Goddard or Wichita had ever harassed him for being black, he said. No one had harassed him for dating a white woman.
“I know that for some people in some places in Wichita, racism can be bad,” he said. “Other than that thing a month ago, the only time I’ve ever seen racism is in the movies. In Goddard, not to sound offensive here, but once you go to a white school for a while, everybody likes you.”
He and Sullivan grew up in Goddard and got serious about each other while working together at a McDonald’s in Goddard two years ago. They’d known each other for years before that, as kids.
He works full time at Protection One as a monitoring representative, he said. She works nearly full time as a waitress and goes to Butler Community College full time as a sophomore. She hopes to earn a degree in social work at Wichita State University, she said. She wants to rescue children and puppies. Two pit bull puppies, 12 weeks old, Kali and Whiskey, share her apartment in downtown Wichita. Whiskey is a pup she rescued from euthanasia. Green and Sullivan do not live together; they live in separate apartments.
Because Green told her to calm down and not worry about anonymous people, she’s coping now with all the hate notes.
And she’s glad she wrote what she wrote, especially what she wrote about Green.
It reads almost like a chant.
I am dating a man that holds doors open for me and everyone else behind him EVERY TIME.
I am dating a man who has never been arrested, and doesn’t walk around acting like a fool.
I am dating a humble man, someone who puts others before himself.
I am dating a man who loves motorcycles, and music. I am dating a man with a future.
I am dating a man with a great sense of humor. I am dating a man who cuddles his puppy like a newborn baby.
I am dating a man that will eat hot Cheetos with me while binge watching Netflix.
I am dating a man who tells me I look pretty in glasses, and pajamas that I haven’t taken off for two days in a row.
I am dating a man who loves to cook, and is sooooo good at it.
I am dating a man that spoils me.
I am dating a man who loves God.
I am dating a man who loves me unconditionally.