Last year, in the summer of all that is orange, a friend who is a minority woman, but not black, wrote, “I actually don’t enjoy talking about being a racial minority…” for all sorts of good and understandable reasons.”
I related. I wrote, “I LOATHE talking about being a minority. And do so at least once a year – you know the venue – because I think it’s important.”
“And I rail at not being considered ‘black’ by white people or ‘black enough’ by black people because of the way I speak or write.” Interesting that in one of those several exit interviews Barack Obama had last month, Lester Holt of NBC News asked the outgoing President PRECISELY that question. Most of you have NO idea what a PITA that is, not the question, but the experience.
I got that vibe a LOT when I first got the job I now have. For the first six years, our library provided reference service for the whole country, not just New York State. Most of our work was on the phone, and mail.
When people got to meet me at the annual conference, I often got two different responses. From the white people, it was a surprised look, trying NOT to say with their eyes, “I didn’t know you were black.” From the black people, it was more an overt “Hey, brother! I didn’t know you were black!”
In this month’s church newsletter about Black History Month 2017, I wrote:
“Back in 2009, during Black History Month at FPC, I remember quite distinctly a conversation during adult education about how much longer we would be doing the event. After all, the United States had just elected a President who identified as black. Surely, the solutions to the problems of racism were just around the corner.
“Unfortunately, though unsurprisingly to me, that ‘post-racial America’ failed to materialize. The divide between races seems as sharp as ever. Happily, FPC has continued to attempt to address issues of race, class, and other attributes that keep us apart.”
I should specifically note that I am THRILLED a white couple in my church will be leading the discussion of the book Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving, which the Presbyterian Church USA has recommended as part of its “One Church, One Book” project aimed at jumpstarting discussions about race.
My friend also wrote about how people not of her culture tried to teach her, and others, the more “authentic” pronunciation of HER OWN NAME. This reminded me of this old segment of Saturday Night Live featuring Jimmy Smits, where all the Anglos in the newsroom overemphasize their Spanish pronunciation.