A while back, I posted on my blog and on an un-named political blog that I had no black friends. In response to my post, I was picked apart, insulted and ridiculed for my honesty. It was right there and then that I realized that solving racism is an individual issue. It was my issue and I had to own it. Each and every single person who tried to discourage me with their mockery, made me more determined to do everything and anything I could to break the cultural and social barriers that exist in my life. Mind you in my case, it’s not entirely black white rich poor issue; any difference from middle class white will qualify. Since the time of that post, I have made changes in my behavior. I have befriended a few African American people, and Native American Indian, and a Saudi Arabian woman.
My recent conversation with the Saudi woman I find interesting because it took place in a United States Post Office. It was a crowded but quiet office in white suburbia, and a Saudi woman wearing a black head scarf was in line in front of me with her daughter. I could see others starring intently at her, without any glimpse of kindness showing in their eyes whatsoever. So I decided to break the ice with a comment about her daughter’s jacket, by saying how cute it was.
We continued talking for the next twenty minutes, all the while, the others remained unusually silent. I could feel their intent stares on my back; they were listening to every single word. I learned about her family and how they share clothes and hand-me-downs, and how her sister lives in California. She was about 27 wearing a full black head scarf and she was very mindful of her child, a darling four year old little girl. We laughed and enjoy many niceties. Before she left she made an extra effort, she walked over and with a big smile she thanked me. She thanked me for being nice.
As part of my daily life, I am consciously aware and always looking for more “break the barrier” opportunities. They are everywhere, I just need to recognize the opportunity and follow through with effort. Sometimes all it takes is a smile.