Cross cultural communication–I think I am failing

Disclaimer: This post is a reflection of my thoughts, what may be true for me may not be for you so I am going to try not to generalize but this is my perception.

In my early blogging days, I wrote about relationships between Black and White women and today I am revisiting the topic. The truth is that since I was a teenager, I have had very few connections withwhite women. Funny thing is I did not grow up in a predominantly Black setting, I actually spent all of my school days in most instances being the only Black kid or one of only a handful…this would have been in the late 70’s through the 1980’s. So with a background like that you would think I would be pretty comfortable having white women as friends, but the truth is its very hard for me.

I have no bias against white women but at the end of the day, I often feel like we speak different languages. Take child rearing, its a universal thing we as women all do (ok, all women that have kids that is) yet when I speak with most white women even with things like education and class being factored in, I still feel as if I am holding back. Hell, I am actually convinced that with raising kids there is a whole cultural component that plays a large role. Take breastfeeding, I nursed well past what most women do yet in talking with my white friends its still hard to discuss, maybe its me though.  Funny thing is this internal holding back I do only seems to happen with white women. It does not happen with white men, since if it did, I guess the Spousal Unit would be gone by now…though lately we do wonder if race sometimes plays a role in some of our issues these days, but that is another story.

I am not bashing white women because again I have met some who I really do connect with but the funny thing is the ones I connect with the best tend to come from humble roots. There are a few local women I know who come from working class origins though they are not there anymore and they are the ones I definitely feel most comfortable with. Its hard enough for me being Black without having to explain, no that is not a Black thing, its a poor folk or working class thing. Turns out government cheese was eaten by all poor folks though Black comedians would have you to believe its a Black thing, same with kool-aid. As Dave Chappelle joked, Black folks have grape drink…well Dave, there are plenty of white folks who had grape drink too! They just don’t share that as often as poor Black folks do.

A while back one of my truly good friends who lives here in Maine and happens to be white commented on the fact that for the longest time she felt I was really reserved and yet she is glad that we were able to get past our initial tensions where race and class threatened to end our relationship before it ever really began. In this instance my friend is someone who comes from great privilege even with some old money thrown in to really highlight the differences between us yet even now we still have moments where there is the uncomfortable pause.

Sometimes I think maybe its me, but sometimes I know its not me. Take my CSA(community supported agriculture) experience. For what, 5-6 years we have been members of what is essentially a farm co-op, in the early days I used to go with the Spousal Unit to do the pickups, thinking maybe I would get to know some folks. After all if you belong to the same CSA, its safe to say you have some shared interests (healthy eating) well after weeks and months of trying to be friendly with folks and make small talk, I realized it just was not working. I know…maybe folks are just not friendly. I would buy that argument if my white buddies (the two)I know who also belonged to the same CSAhad not made connections with other shareholders at the CSA.

Does my breath stink? Do I look crazy? What’s wrong with me? Its the same with playgroups, when girl child was born before I went back to work, I tried connecting with other Mamas and kids at playgroups. Um…that was a bust. Now the Spousal Unit is in charge of outside park play, I hate being at the park and since small talk with other parents sucks, he can do it.  Of course with the change to our schedules, I will have to try again and I am dreading it.

Now I do well at talking to people of color, folks in a professional setting and older folks but stuff me in a room with white women who are technically my peers and I feel like that awkward 10th grader who never had any dates back in the 1980’s because I was sorta cute for a Black girl (a classmate actually said this to me) but interracial dating wasn’t the thing back then. The only cats who were willing to date me were shifty types or white boys of privilege who hoped I was a easy girl if ya know what I mean? Yet I watched my girls primp and talk about their dates, boyfriends and lives yet basically was sitting on the sidelines.

However as a 36 year old woman who happens to be Black and lives in Maine and isn’t leaving anytime soon, I wonder how can I better connect across racial lines? So if you got any tips help a sista out.