When I was about 30yrs old my second husband and I (that’s a whole other blog!) moved to Southwest Florida. It took some “pounding the pavement” but I finally found a job at a business that, now looking back, was probably some kind of scam. I worked in the verification department. It was my job to get on the phone after a telemarketer had sold a product and read a script. It was equivalent to the legal mumbo-jumbo you hear at the end of some commercials.
The verification department was in one huge room filled with rows of “cubbies”, each had a small counter, a phone, and a headset. It was a tedious, boring job but one of the best jobs I ever had because of the people I worked with.
There was Scott, a young gay man with a wicked sense of humor. Anyone Scott did not like was labeled as a “rat-bastard.” I know, I know, I am a conservative-I am not supposed to like gay people. Well that is just more liberal bullshit. As a Christian we are taught to love the sinner-hate the sin. Scott made me laugh all day long and he was a kind person. His sexuality was not who he was-you know what I mean? It was just one aspect of him as it is for all of us.
Valerie. Valerie was a little older than me and another cut-up. She sat next to me and we talked and laughed all day long. When I became pregnant with my first child Valerie teased me mercilessly because she knew I was nervous about delivering a baby. She said to me, “Oooohhh Christine…..Christine when you have that baby it’s gonna feel like a bus comin’ outta your ass sideways! She’d laugh and I’d give her a smack on the arm. She would hold up a piece of paper and slowly rip it while I was on the phone with a client and say, “That’s what it’s gonna feel like!” Did I mention that Valerie was a black woman?
Melanie…..Melanie and I became very good friends. She was beautiful and I was shocked when I found out that she was in her forties! I had thought she was much closer to my age. She always looked like a million bucks-her hair was always done and her nails always long and lacquered. I had the best Thanksgiving dinner in my life at her house. She was an unbelievable cook. Melanie didn’t do anything halfway or half-assed. Like the others, Melanie had a great sense of humor. When I became pregnant she asked me what I was going to name the baby. I said, “Well, if it’s a boy I am going to name him Noah and if it’s a girl, I’m going to name her Jane.” Melanie’s eyes got big and she said, “Jane?” ”Jane?” “Christine how white are you? I know….I know…….if it’s a girl you should name her” ….and moving her head from side to side said, “Shaneequa!!!” We all laughed. But she had some serious talks with me about why I should name the baby Melanie…She was a good friend to me while I lived there and, as you can see, I have never forgotten her….and yes, she was black. During my pregnancy I realized that I had to go back to the Northeast where my family was. I didn’t want to go but it had to be. I cried halfway up the east coast and I have never forgotten the friends I made.
What was so wonderful about the friendships I had with black women in Florida was that for the most part, it was a new experience for me. Except for a good friend in second grade, I had never really had a black women for a friend. It’s funny….I grew up in Connecticut (also known as the People’s Republic of Connecticut), a very liberal, progressive state yet…..relations between blacks and whites was almost non-existent (at least in my experience). But in Florida, a part of the Ol’ South with all those “racists” and “rednecks” …relations were much better……why do you suppose that is? Could it be that the liberal message of “whitey hates you and wants to keep you down” is not pounded into the black community as much here? Sadly, things seem to be changing for the worse now that we have elected a black president. The left is busy at work separating us all by race, gender, income level… If I were to meet Valerie and Melanie today would we still be able to be friends the way we were back then? Would Scott and I be able to be friends? Would politics get in the way of people just relating to each other as human beings and not the labels that the left has hoisted upon us? It breaks my heart to think it wouldn’t be possible.
You know what else breaks my heart? The fact that so many in the black community think we wish them harm or hate them. Sometimes I see black women in the supermarket with their kids….they ignore me, even when I say hello to their children who are smiling at me (they have not been poisoned yet, you see). This doesn’t happen all the time, sometimes things are completely normal but I know that women reading this know exactly what I am talking about. When it does happen I think, “Do they really think I hate them” “Do they hate me? Sometimes I want to go up to them and tell them that I do not hate them…that I am just a woman, a mom…like them. I want to tell them that it doesn’t have to be like this…….does it?