But I have a black friend.

MK,
Baltimore, MD.

A few moments in my “coming into adulthood” stand out as I am navigating the world of race. I remember probably 10 years back now that in conversation with my mother-in-law in a less-than-intellectual blue collar town her speaking of how racism towards white people was apparent in the area. She noted she wasn’t racist because she had a black friend. On another occasion, years before this, I can still hear my grandpa’s words echo as he learned I was dating someone for the first time.. “as long as he is the right color.” I knew exactly what he meant even though I wanted to ask, “What is the right color?” I was taken aback in these instances, but also realized how different the world was through these generations in terms of how race was viewed and how our own perceptions are shaped by the world around us. With these comments I saw an ingrained sense of separation in my grandfather coming from growing up in the 40’s and 50’s to my mother-in-law’s work to appear not to be racist coming from growing up in the 60’s and 70’s to me- a product of the 80’s and 90’s who is surprised by these comments, yet still aware and always becoming more aware of my own internal biases and observations about how often we flock to those that seem “the same.” Why is this? Does outward appearance make us the same? Or does the culture that we have grown up in make us the same? Or something else? What is the “right” color or “wrong” color? Where do we find commonalities and where does a certain level of comfort come in regardless of differences-outward and inward? What does it mean to have a black friend? A white friend? A Hispanic friend? An Indian friend?

 

Tweets by Michele Norris