Dear Savvy Sister,
I just returned from dinner with some friends. Somehow, the discussion turned from the latest news about our children to matters a bit more serious. My friends indicated that they are sick of the “race card” being played. They really seem to believe there is no racism in this country. “We have a black president,” they pointed out.” I objected to their generalizations and referred to a recent study showing that the resumes of people with ethnic sounding names were routinely passed over for job interviews. I got nowhere. One mom said she was pissed at paying full price for her daughter at Bucknell to subsidize the minority students. The other mom was upset that at her daughter’s fencing tournament, the black team claimed there was cheating when a teammate lost. I said that just sounds like poor sportsmanship.
Anyway, can I still be friends with these two women whose views I abhor? I want to be a tolerant person, but I don’t know if I can.
Let’s start with some cold water to the face. Did you know that 45.8 percent of African American children under age 6 live in poverty? That means living on $22,314 or less for a family of four. Just to reiterate: nearly half of all young black children live in poverty. Abject poverty.
So. I have a friend who is very kind. If I called her right now and asked her to bring me a 10-week-old kitten by noon, she would be here by 11. I have introduced her to black people and she has been lovely and normal and fine. She knows my three brown children and seems to genuinely love them.
This friend also thinks President Obama is a closeted Muslim terrorist determined to impose Sharia law on America. Because ‘MURICA! Is it because she’s a racist? She would deny, under threat of losing a week’s worth of wine, that she’s a racist. And on a daily basis, she’s not a racist – she really is a kind person with lots to contribute to the community.
But she can’t see outside her bubble. As a result, her world views suck, and she’s a perfect example of how institutionalized racism has become, a fact not negated by having a black president. Remember, only slightly more than half of voters elected him. Much of the other half believes he was born in Kenya and therefore shouldn’t even legally be president. By contrast, Ted Cruz actually was born outside the U.S., and although many legal scholars believe he shouldn’t be eligible to run for president, nobody’s even talking about that. Because he’s not black. He’s Cuban, but he is a white Cuban, and people focus on the white part. Having a black president doesn’t disprove racism in the same way one set of sit-ups doesn’t develop your abs. Obama is just the first set of sit-ups. We have a long way to go if we want to build a six-pack.
Listen, I get your friend, or at least one of them. I’m not sure what the fencing tournament story was supposed to imply – all blacks are sore losers? Black people shouldn’t fence? You might have to break up with that woman in particular. But the other one – I’d hate writing that $63,000 check to Bucknell, too, especially if I knew other kids were being subsidized. No Donald Pliner shoes for your friend this season. And she probably ordered the house wine instead of the Mer De Soleil chardonnay, which would put me in a foul mood, too. But assuming you believe she’s, in general, a good person, I see some room here for fraternizing. You might even influence her perspectives, especially if you can maintain the courage of your convictions and refuse to be bullied into submission. You shouldn’t go on trips with her, nor should you attend events designed to support her antiquated point of view. Maybe she’ll be more of an acquaintance than a friend, someone with whom you occasionally share a laugh and a drink.
You are not the only one dealing with this dilemma. Have you heard of this guy Donald Trump? I know people who are voting for him, and it’s a testament to my extreme willpower that I haven’t killed them yet. Donald Trump is a mean, vile, narcissistic, asshole. Anyone who supports him is either also an asshole, or very ignorant. I choose to believe his supporters are mostly ignorant, albeit willfully ignorant and unwilling to face actual facts. Do I unfriend these people? (Not on Facebook; I mean in real life.) Some of them, yes. They will be relegated to receiving vapid pleasantries at Starbucks and school functions. Others will remain on my B list of friends – people with whom I talk about kids and carpools and the need for a speed bump on Oleander Road. And when they say inappropriate crap, I call them on it, educate them if they’re open to it, and if not, give them a courteous BYE, FELICIA, and rush home to watch Hardball with Chris Matthews.
Having said all that, you need to think about something. Since you have friends who have children in college, I assume you’re my age – a half-century old or so. Women like us need to hunker down and get serious about how we spend our time, and with whom we spend it; so you might need to cull your list of friends. Do you have a fair number of like-minded friends, women whose viewpoints are more progressive and tolerant? If so, hang out with them. And if not, spend more time at home! Read! Volunteer! Be a mentor! I get the impression you’re wealthy, which isn’t a crime, unless you’re Kim Jong-un of North Korea. What a dick he is. Also, those Duck Dynasty people. But it would a waste of your intellect, resources, and good fortune if you didn’t use the fruits of your labor to improve your corner of the world, especially if eradicating racism is on your list of things to do. And I don’t mean doling out money – instead, give away your love, tolerance, perspective, and concern. Who knows? Maybe when your acquaintance stops writing checks to Bucknell, she’ll join you. And then you two can be friends again. Insert smiley face!!
the Savvy Sister
P.S. Don’t nobody bring me a kitten. I don’t want a kitten, y’all.