On this morning’s episode of #OffTheHighway, the uncontainable Micky ScottBey Jones hardly flinches when I ask her to deliver a message to White Culture.
She is charming and direct and yet, behind her unflappable demeanor, when I look carefully into her eyes, I see someone who is tired. And rightly so. Her, as she puts it, “white big brother” invites her into an online interview and, for probably the one millionth time, she once again sits criss-cross-applesause on the ‘sharing carpet’ and helps cultural-kindergardeners like me, grow up about race.
Thanks, sis. Thanks for doing it one more time.
One of her encouragements is to build relationships with people of color. A nice sentiment. Unfortunately though, it is a sentiment that is all but impossible… at least for some of us.
Notice, I said “all but” impossible.
Let me tell you a quick story.
Ten years ago, my wife and I bought our first house. It was a piece of crap. But it was our piece of crap and we felt rich. It also had a couple more bedrooms than we needed, so we decided to open our home to “communal living” with other folks. For us it was a big risk. Neither of us were raised that way. In fact, in my case, as a kid, we sought every opportunity to play at the other kids’ houses, because our home was… particular and well, pristine.
But, Aimee and I opened our home anyway.
After about 4 years, we had shared a roof with more than a dozen folks. One day we sat down and relived all the lovely souls that had come through our door and you know what we realized? Every one of them, EVERY ONE was just like us: looked like us, voted like us, educated like us, read like us, recreated like us… you get the idea.
Now, my wife and I are socially open people. We are cultural progressives. We have both lived all over the world, including stints in the Muslim world… And yet, we could not get out of our own way. Our gravitational field only attracted people JUST LIKE US.
So, we did the only thing that totally lost, narrow-souled people in America’s “whitest city” can do… (and this is the “all but” impossible part), We begged God for help.
Within no time, in the midst of a season when I was in really bad shape on multiple levels, I had coffee with a white middle-aged man who was a lot like me… didn’t like me very much… but at the end of our introductory coffee felt compelled to invite me into his multi-racial community.
It has been nine years. We have been submitted to that community ever since. Submitted! (as best as we know how.) Those men and women have become our aunties and uncles, our brothers and sisters. And within months, sometimes through completely unpredictable circumstances, our household became multi-racial and multi-class as well.
Please hear me. I suck at this stuff (just ask Micky.) But let me tell you something else: It is 2015… and an unbelievable group of people that look nothing like us, came to our ALOOF book celebration last Thursday.
It is 2015.. and at least one incredible African-American woman calls me her “white big brother” and that may be the best thing of all.