Friendships & Race…Black Women & White Women 2011 edition

Today’s post is a repost from July 9, 2008…funny because this topic was on my mind today and before I sat down to write a post, I decided to look it up. That said, while some things I mention in this post are clearly not as relevant today, many still are as I find myself lamenting that back in 2008 I spent a lot of time alone and three years later I still do. Since the time of this original post, I have gone out of my way to meet more people and make connections but in the end there is only one person in Maine I truly feel is a friend. Oddly enough ours was the friendship that almost didn’t happen due to the awkwardness over race. Yet we both took a chance and over the years have addressed the issue of race and in doing so, she is no longer my white friend but my friend who is white and I am her friend who is Black.

But in trying to connect with others particularly women who happen to be white, I still feel that my Blackness at times is a barrier to moving beyond the acquaintance stage, funny that I don’t feel this when it comes to men. Too many times I feel people just don’t know what to say and that puzzles me, what do you say to anyone? I wonder if in our haste to never offend we simply are afraid to go deeper to make those connections.

Yes as woman of different races, we have our differences especially if you have never spent time around a woman of color but ultimately we can have many similarities as well. I am at the stage that while I am not going to beg anyone to be my friend, I admit, I admit I miss the camaraderie of getting together with the girls.

That said I am thankful for my one dear friend who I get and gets me even when she says I don’t get that hair thing…its okay there are a lot of things I don’t get either.

Since moving to Maine, I have spent a lot of time by myself, since when I made the decision to relocate 1100 miles away from family and friends it pretty much meant re-starting over as far as friends. Don’t get me wrong I still have some close friends back in Chicago but the one thing that is missing for me here is just some girls to kick it with. Either Sex and the City Style or Girlfriends style since I couldn’t convince any of my friends back in Chicago to move out with me and the family. (don’t know why they didn’t want to come, LOL)

That said, making friends as an adult, plain ole sucks. It sucks even more when you are a Black woman living in the whitest state in America. That said after a few years the realization that if I were ever going to even have any casual grab a drink buddies, that I might need to expand my horizons to include white women has always left me feeling unsettled.

Now some might find the fact that I am not comfortable with white girlfriends a bit laughable especially when you consider that I have a white husband. I will admit maybe I have some deep down prejudice but the truth is that since the age of 17, its been real hard for me to ever get past the casual acquaintance stage with 99% of the white women I meet. The only exception has been my girl “C” back in Chicago, we used to work together in fact she was my boss, she can work my nerves but on some levels she is the only white woman I have met as an adult who is not walking around with that attitude and air of privilege that seems to infect so many white women at an early age.

No, truthfully my experience is that most white women are looking for a “Mammy” to their Scarlett or maybe even a nice warm Oprah to call a friend and this sista is not the one. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t try to be a bitch, I try to give folks the benefit of the doubt but inevitably on some level it just is never a match. That said I know I am not the only sista who suffers from this dilemma, I recently saw Sex & The City, the movie and was down right offended that one of the girls finally gets a Black “friend”. Carrie needs an assistant and hires Louise (played by Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, damn a Oscar winner can’t do better than being a modern day Mammy), interestingly enough I saw this movie with some white woman and while they generally enjoyed the movie, me, I was fuming over how come the helper, the savior had to be a sista? Super Negro woman to the rescue to help restore the fallen white women, um.. no, at this stage in my life that shit is just not happening. I wanna know where is my Mammy to make it all right?

Then again, I thought about it on a large scale, sistas are often portrayed as being strong women, yet white women can just be human and on some level I have seen that at work in my real life relationships. If and when a Black woman shows emotion, its like folks cannot handle it so we stifle that shit which we all know is a bad bad thing, hello health problems.

Even well meaning white women who try to connect with a sista still get it wrong since even when a white woman is not looking for her long lost Mammy, the opposite end is trying so hard that a sista starts feeling like a special Negro pet project. Yep, I have been there, done that and that too does not work for the kid.

I was thinking about the recent primary season here in America and while there were sistas who supported Hillary, there were those of us who just could not buy into her brand of feminism that her white female supporters were selling..

After all many of the loudest and most ardent Hillary supporters where women who cracked the glass ceilings back in the 80′s while keeping some 3rd world woman of color at home tending to her family. As a young Black woman, what would I have in common with that? Not a thing. Its the reason that for sistas like myself feminism will never appeal to me, at least not in the form most commonly espoused by old skool feminists.

Perhaps white women and black women can one day find a common ground when white women can acknowledge the inherent privilege they have by virtue of being white. Until then I suspect most white women will just be casual acquaintances.

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.