White People: Get You Some Black Friends!
I grew up in Memphis, TN in an all-Black neighborhood. “Orange Mound” to be exact. Shout out to all my folks from Tha Mound. It was “the hood” in the 80’s so as you can imagine it’s gotten a bit, let’s say sketchier since. Real talk, I don’t even go over there anymore when I visit Memphis and I’m Black! If there were white people around back then I don’t remember them and I would assume they were REALLY poor to be there with us. I mean let’s be real, Black folks in the ‘hood growing up wasn’t a big deal at all. WHITE PEOPLE in the hood WITH Black people was like having 6 toes on one foot. I look at my younger self (yea that’s me in my profile pic) decked out in Wonder Woman underoos. I realize at that time in my life, I probably didn’t know white people even existed. In elementary school, I didn’t get any “Black folks questions” because we were ALL black. We knew the answers! Therefore, I didn’t know I had the gift of being a “safe” black person A.K.A “BFR” for white people to quiz me about my entire race until around 7th grade.
Middle school is when we moved “out East” which was the equivalent of moving up like George and Weezie. Our neighborhood was mixed but still more Black families. I (and my other mostly black neighborhood classmates) started being bussed to a predominantly white school even further East. This is when I learned that I was one of the “Black reps” of the world. My other reps know what I’m talking about. Can I touch your hair? Why does it straighten when you get a perm and not curl up? Why do Black people do this, why do black people do that? SHUT. UP!
I realized about 9th grade that my white peers felt it was my job to solve the mystery of the Negro for them. I didn’t apply for this job and neither does any other rep. We’re nominated, rather appointed by curious white folks who see us as non-threatening I guess. Someone who will help them with all of their “I always wondered” questions when and if they ever got the courage to ask them. I had white friends in the new neighborhood but it wasn’t the same as when I started mingling and getting close with the white folks who lived in the all-white neighborhood where we went to school. These white folks didn’t live around or have many, if any interactions with us so our experiences were quite different. This is why they were so intrigued by the new kids.
To this day one of my best friends is my white buddy from freshman year of high school. I sent her a text to let her know I was going to be using our ebony and ivory story as an example of the importance of having friends of different races. I asked her what she wanted to be called. First it was “Samantha, Sam for short”. I suggested something “ethnic” like Aquanisha which I thought would be hilarious for a white girl’s name. She replied “I’M WHITE” as if I didn’t know! Then she said Alexandria, Alex for short. Not sure why she gave me a full name AND a nickname like I was writing a novel about her. I’m even more uncertain why both of her suggestions are girl names in long form but turn into boy names “for short”. I’m going to leave that alone though LOL.
Anyway, so I messed around and got me a white BFF in 9th grade, “Sam-Alex-Aquanisha”. She knew all my dirt and I knew (and still know, just so we’re clear) all of hers. We had P.E. class together and she was also a cheerleader while I played basketball. Cool enough to be a buddy at school or hang out at her house after school, but not enough to spend the night. She told me one day her mom actually said to her, “now don’t you go asking that black girl to stay the night over here.” (insert violent record scratch here). I asked her what the hell did her mom think I was going to do, steal the silverware? We laugh about that almost every time we get together to this day, but she didn’t tell me that until we were good and grown though. I probably wouldn’t have told my crazy ass either…jus sayin!
I remember when “Sam” was in a really, bad car wreck and honestly could have died. I can still hear her mom’s voice on our answering machine (old school, early 90’s) telling me she was in the hospital. That was one of the scariest times in my life. I had never known anyone my age seriously hurt like that and this was my best friend. My grandmother took me to that hospital just about every day to be with her. I think I needed to be there more than she probably needed me. In my eyes at the time I was just being there with my homegirl, watching tv and being teen-agers but her mom wrote me a letter and let me know how much it really meant to her. It truly touched her to see our bond and how much I cared for her even when some of her other so-called besties weren’t around. She knew she was in good hands laughing and being silly with me when she needed a break. “Alex” had a long recovery because she broke her pelvis and basically had to learn to walk again. That was a scary time for all of us, but it made us so much tighter and brought our families closer as well. I made and still have a friend for life in my “vanilla love” and she has her “chocolate love” in me. Yea those are our cheesy nicknames we have for each other and I know she is shaking her head at me for telling all of our business!
Now, I’m probably still one of the only (or very few) black friends “Nisha” has, but I learned a lot about white folks. She definitely learned a lot about black folks as well. Like for instance, I’m sure I showed her at least once how to make diabetes inducing Kool-aid and she taught me how to shave my legs…with soap though. Brutal!
Her Mom has gone on to be with The Lord now and eventually she treated me as her second daughter. Having little Samantha bring home a black friend threw them all the way off at first though I think! Once they were able to get to know me and all my antics, they shed the ignorance (the not knowing) they may have had about black folks. Now, when one of Sam-Alex-Aquanisha’s kids brings home a little black friend, she doesn’t have a white lady freak out moment. She even lets them to spend the night. Hell, I feel like a trailblazer. This was some lunch counter sit-in type stuff if you really think about it. Because of ME, black folks can have sleepovers with her kids now, job done! I’m going to get cussed out for that one, love you “Samantha-Alexandria-Aquanisha” 😊😊
When was the first time you realized you were white? I’m not sure how often or if it ever happens with white people but I think every black person has a time when they realized they were black. It’s usually in a fu..messed up situation and the light bulb comes on. Mine happened when I went swimming at some white folks house as a kid. The same house where my grandmother was the “help”. There were about 3 or 4 of the grandkids over and she took me to work with her that day so I could swim and play with them. Now mind you, I innately knew I was black. Like logically, duhhhh. But as we were deciding on who would be “it”, one of the kids offered me, “the black girl”. I probably looked around at first to find “the black girl” and then realized he was talking about MY black ass! I remember having a moment in that experience that I had never had before then. I felt different for the first time in my life and I still remember it to this day.
“IT” is usually what we’re all running from, don’t want to be touched by and avoiding in childhood games. Why did I have to be IT?? I didn’t want to be IT and have all the white kids running/swimming from me! I doubt that any of that crossed my mind as a child though, I undoubtedly just went into beast mode and started getting kids out because that’s how I roll. I’m sure he didn’t take into account that “the blacks” are usually fast and athletic. He was probably sleeping on me and assumed I couldn’t swim, but TAG! Now YOUR ass is IT! I think I just got mad all over again about that LOL
SORRY, THAT WAS A SIDEBAR FOR REAL!
Back to one of several points I was trying to make. I have had black and white friends which I believe has helped me in my life. I have always had the personality to be able to go with the flow, as long as it was something I wanted to do. I’m a Gemini after all. For example, I love music, all kinds of music. I’m a hip hop head, but my other jam in high school was Def Leopard’s “Pour some sugar on me”. Love gospel music but I’m from Memphis so ghetto rap music is a guilty pleasure as well. Had to take a classical music course in college so I can roll with Bach nem too. I say all that to say that I can adapt and be open, which I feel has helped me tremendously in my dealings with people. I guess I would like to help others adapt better as well. Step out of their comfort zone. Learn something new about another race, culture or religion, myself included. I don’t have to become a Muslim to be more understanding of Muslims. I don’t have to try and act white or black or any other race that’s not my own, to try and understand the struggles they may face.
I know I focus mostly on black & white interaction but we could all use some friends outside of our race. We need to hang around and get to know people that don’t look, dress or worship like us. It ain’t just just whites who have issues either. My mom’s ex said to me one time in high school, “why are you wearing that WHITE GIRL shirt? Wait, what the hell is a white girl shirt first of all? Second of all, because I looked cute in it! Just as I remember the crazy stuff from her family, “Sam-Alex-Aquanisha” still remembers that comment because it was her shirt, and of course I told her what he said!
Our melting pot of a world has added a few more flavors and we see what our overall ignorance of other cultures and insensitivity to other’s experiences have gotten us. Back in the day, we really only had to deal with black and white issues, but that isn’t the case now. There were no (or not many) Mexicans or Muslims to even consider for a while. The world isn’t going to just get better. It’s going to take some effort. A lot of effort thanks to Cheetolini in the White House, but we can’t just throw our hands up. Neither can we wait on someone else to go first. DO BETTER!