A not-too-serious post about race, pt 1
A few weeks ago, Hubby, baby Nacho, and I were spending the weekend with our friends Tripp and Trina (who are black, which becomes relevant). We all went to an event at their daughter’s school one evening, and we were chilling outside on the lawn, listening to a local band and reading books. It was great, then a white mom came over to chat. This is a mom they had spoken to once or twice, but didn’t know well. Hubby and I weren’t really paying attention, then we heard this gem:
WhiteMom: “We did one of those National Geographic ancestry tests, and found out I’m 5% African! From the area of Mali (significant look as though they should know where this is). So anyway, I just thought you’d like to know!”
Hubby and I were internally cringing so hard I feared busting a blood vessel. Trina covered well by making the appropriate remarks, and we all waited silently for WhiteMom to leave. We were all so shocked we couldn’t do anything but laugh.
Later I started thinking; why was this such a bad thing to say? She was trying to be friendly, so what precisely was wrong about this interaction? What made it so painfully awkward?
Basically, even though she had good intentions, she was still reducing my friends to their skin color. She didn’t try to bond with them about their daughters, the school, the band, the city they live in, the cupcakes surrounding us, or any other factors they had in common. She assumed their race would be their main interest, even though she probably considers herself to be open-minded and enlightened.
Either that, or she was hoping they had an NAACP welcome packet just waiting for her.
If you’re searching for common ground to connect with someone, try and pay attention to what their interests are. Maybe they love Game of Thrones, or Batman. (Let’s be honest, if they don’t, they’re probably not worth being friends with). You wouldn’t try to bond about their hair color, or shoe size, so don’t try to use ethnicity.
I was going to make this just one post, but like most of my posts, it’s getting much longer and more involved than I planned. I asked Tripp to write about his perception of the same event, and I also asked several of my other friends for similar experiences. I think you’ll find all of this as entertaining as I did. Stay tuned for parts 2 through 5!