It’s late. I should be asleep. As I begin this, it’s 1:23AM in my corner of New England. I had a fabulous and productive day cleaning and waiting for the arrival of some of my favorite people on the planet. My birthday was Thursday and they came down to celebrate the weekend with me. As per usual, fun was had by all. Also as usual, after the drink was poured and the conversation flowed more freely, I was left with the same desperate feeling.
I need more black friends.
I’m used to being the only one. I’m also accustomed to being the token. While I’m fairly certain that’s the role I used to fill, I’m equally sure it’s not anymore. This person is family to me. To large degree, they would do (and have done) anything for me. My family and I are in good hands when they’re around and of this, I have no doubt. So, what’s the problem.
We randomly started talking about Game of Thrones. He read the books whereas I watched the show. As it just ended, we compared notes since he wasn’t aware of all the different storylines that varied from one medium to the next. As we chatted, he asked me if I knew this story.
I also knew the story of other famous men – all black – who had been harassed by police while simply trying to go about their day. The traffic stop of Tyler Perry was one such example I brought up. He suggested that if a different cop (in this case, the third and black cop on the scene) had pulled him over at first, the situation would’ve been totally different.
True, but also beside the point.
He also takes issue with the “social justice warriors” who seemingly ruin the lives of racist who are caught in their acts of bias.
I, on the other hand, couldn’t possibly give less of a fuck.
I don’t want to deal with the emotional labor of teaching someone why they shouldn’t call the police on folks having a BBQ, a couple of men waiting for a friend at Starbucks, someone wearing socks in the pool, someone falling asleep in their dorm’s common room, someone trying to eat lunch in their university’s cafeteria, a little girl selling water, or a little boy with a big backpack.
The story of the black man stopped while babysitting white children especially terrifies me as his daughter is my goddaughter. At the very least, he shouldn’t want his own baby traumatized if someone thinks I’ve kidnapped her and tries to intervene. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be a bad (and quite possibly deadly) situation for me, but at this point, I’ll appeal to what I have to.
So, here again I sit. Alone and awake at 1:53AM. Wondering again whether or not I can “agree to disagree agreeably” with someone who takes their privilege for granted and genuinely doesn’t understand the potential danger I could experience just existing in America. He maintains that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery, has had questionable opinions about what he sees as Affirmative Action vs its reality. Over and over, again and again, I find myself having this inner conversation.
I’m black. It’s easy for some people to ignore that because I don’t “seem” black. At least not like those featured on Law & Order. But, I am. I am black. It’s not something about me that doesn’t always factor in. It’s how I experience and engage with the world – especially since 2016. It’s taken me awhile to articulate this (something I was able to form a language for after listening to Heather Heyer’s mom’s testimony before Congress). But my friend isn’t anti racist, he’s just not racist. Biased as all fucking hell, but not (overtly) racist.
I didn’t speak to him for months after Trayvon Martin was killed because he “understood” how it happened. In fact, I kinda avoid him whenever an unarmed black teenager is murdered. Each and every time I wonder how he can love my kids so fiercely and still not see the humanity in anyone else’s.
2:05 now. And, again I wonder how I can keep this up. I love my friend. I adore my friend. And, I know he loves me, too. But he can’t really know me. Not…ever. At the very least, he doesn’t see me. He doesn’t see how his wife (who is essentially my sister) and my husband had to calm me down when I had a paralyzing anxiety attack in Target because someone (not an employee) had followed me around and tried to figure out why I was there (“are you gonna buy something?”). He didn’t see how the manager had to get my inhaler from my purse because I was too overwhelmed to look for it. He didn’t see how it had to be explained to the employees that calling for an ambulance would’ve made things worse because the site of uniformed officers is a huge trigger of mine.
He doesn’t really get to know that person because, to a large degree, our friendship has required that we pretend that side of me doesn’t exist. That was my choice. It seemed easier and the more time passes, the more old habits long ingrained sit as the elephant in the room rotting and festering while everyone looks away.
And, yes, I know how painfully and utterly stupid that is. Twenty year old habits are pretty hard to break.
2:13AM. I still don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I have this friend. I love this friend. He loves me, too. We’ve been through a lot together and he truly is a good person.
Just not an anti racist one.