This is so deep. I had a really good Italian friend recently until something happened linked to race. I’m from the deep South, and she was from a small primarily Italian community up North. She was about 15 years older too. She was the closest I’d ever been to a person who was no of color.
We would go out and she never even paid attention that I would be the only person of color most places we went. She didn’t notice the stares or glances, she didn’t see how I was treated differently. She would inquire about my experiences, but most times how did I over come to not be like other “Blacks” she deemed angry, hyper-sensitive about race, and all the other stereotypical bull that non-white people say about blacks without walking a year in their shoes. I would try to defend blacks, but she would insist on separating us. I started to avoid topics of race. Because of where we lived and the line of work I chose, I always needed to think of race, when she had the privilege of not.
The thing that changed our relationship for me was when I helped her move across country into her new home. She took a phone call from one of her white friends, who was a realtor. She for whatever reason decided to put the call on speaker phone. She and the friend were engaged in a conversation, and the friend said “Something isn’t right. There is a dead nigger in the wood pile.” My friend rolled right on in the conversation like there was nothing to it.
I was shaken to my core. I had never heard that saying used before, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know what it meant. Why would she use that language in a normal conversation that had nothing to do with race? Why did it not bother my friend, who knew I was in the room? Why is she clearly ok with it?
We eventually had a conversation about it because it bothered me but I had to bring it up. It did not bother her in the least. At this point, my view of her had changed forever, with great sadness for me. I enjoyed our friendship immensely and she had been one of the best friends I ever had. She eventually talked to her friend about our conversation, and the lady apologized but for me it was too late. They are older women. This is who they are. I am not in their world. And race absolutely does not matter to them.
It was a teachable moment for me. I have my guard up again. I am always wondering……..what do these women “really” talk about when we aren’t in their midst. Are they helping or hurting? Do they even know the difference? This is a great piece. Thank you for putting this topic on the table. It’s needed.