One of my work friends is black. Most of the time, we get along great and have a fun time working together. We are quite the pair. She has skin the shade of my favorite brownies, and my skin looks like all my ancestors are Scandinavian.
We’ve worked together for some time now, and I have come to realize some things. We are very different people.
I said we get along great... most of the time. Sometimes she doesn’t get me, and sometimes I don’t get her. There are some cultural differences that won’t be ignored. Occasionally, I wonder why I talk to her about some things, knowing she probably won’t understand my point of view. She likely feels the same way about me… this strange white woman. Still, we are eager to understand each other. There are times when she will ask me some questions about life, and I get the feeling that I am being interviewed. She is on a white people fact finding mission. I do the best I can to represent, but I know that sometimes I just come across as, well, white.
Recently, she and I spent our lunch hour running errands. We both had things we needed from Walmart, and neither of us was too interested in going into that scene after work. So we skipped the food and went shopping.
My friend will do anything to save a dollar. I don’t think that’s a black thing, I like to save a dollar, too. But she is relentless. The item she wanted to buy was listed at another retailer for a good bit less. She wanted Walmart to match the price. Okay.
So we stood in line at the service desk, and waited.
We waited for a long time, all the while watching the young black woman behind the counter being, shall I just say, unproductive? I couldn’t help it. I got tickled at the ridiculousness of her manner. The line was long, and I guess she figured if she wasn’t going anywhere that day, neither were we.
Finally, my friend said to me, “We’re not all like that.”
Obviously working the customer service counter at Walmart is not that woman’s calling. Meeting the needs of grumpy, complaining customers is not what cranks her tractor.
But I knew what my friend meant. She meant that all black people aren’t unmotivated, unproductive, and full of attitude. Her defense of her race was not really necessary. I told her that those traits are found plenty in white people, too. Actually, that people who are not serving their God given purpose all kind of look like that young woman, regardless of color, creed, socioeconomic standing, or gender.
That woman’s demeanor was not a race issue, it was a heart issue. And while I am on the subject, I’m fairly well convinced that most race issues aren’t about race. Most race issues are matters of the heart. Whether we realize it or not, many of us make idols of our race… as if we had anything to do with what color we are. We can no more choose the color of our skin than we can any other situation into which we are born.
I appreciate this friendship I have. There will always be differences, but there are far more things upon which we find common ground. We both love Jesus. We are both committed wives and mothers. Family and friends matter to us both. We strive hard to work together in spite of our differences, and we find a lot to laugh at- she at me, me at her, and both of us together at other people. 🙂
It’s a dance, and it takes effort. But most things that are worth it usually do.