I present to you two conversations I’ve had recently, for the most part without comment. Conversations have been paraphrased to the best of my ability to protect the innocent and/or guilty.
The first was with a co-worker, while we were contemplating potential “some day” career moves (in location, not position). Note that the co-worker (designated as CW) and I are both white.
Me: “I couldn’t possibly convince my husband to move to [southern state known for racial tension]! There’s no way.”
CW: “Why not?”
Me: “You want me to move with my black husband to [state]? Are you crazy? I don’t mean to be stereotypical, but I can’t even get him to go into central Kentucky without being paranoid.”
CW, giving me disbelieving look: “But stuff like that doesn’t really happen does it?”
Me, with my own disbelieving look. “You’re kidding, right? My husband and I have gotten odd looks driving through central Ohio and Pennsylvania. There’s no telling what we’d get [there], and honestly I don’t think I would feel comfortable either.”
CW: “Really?! I can’t believe you’ve had that happen to you.”
Me: “I’ve even gotten comments from a couple of people here in [city]. One woman gave me a clear attitude of ‘How dare you have married a black man?’ The second was [mutual acquaintance] who lectured me on how interracial couples shouldn’t have children because it makes it too hard on the kids.”
CW, still stunned: “I just can’t believe it.”
I wasn’t upset that my co-worker didn’t realize that these things are a lot closer to home than she might think. How would she know, having never been in the position to experience them? It just made me sad that it probably wasn’t something she would ever advocate for, despite having no ill intentions, because she didn’t even realize it was needful.
The second conversation happened today, in the car with my husband. He had made a reference to one of his favorite old Mad TV skits wherein they praise the “Nice White Lady”.
DH: “Thank you, Nice White Lady.”
Me, jokingly: “But I’m not the ‘nice white lady’. You don’t see me going around saving people.”
DH: “But you are a nice white lady.”
Me: “Yeah, but I don’t have the nice white lady magic. At the end of the day, I’m still poor. Nobody’s giving me a bunch of stuff.”
DH: “Look at it this way. Have you ever been pulled over by the cops?”
Me, laughing: “Yeah, lots of times, you know that.”
(Note: It hasn’t really been “lots of times”, but I’ve had my share of speeding tickets.)
DH: “Have you ever been jerked out of the car?”
Me, thinking: “Oh… *pause* You have a point.”
At that moment, I knew how my co-worker had felt because I had my own little knee-jerk “but that wouldn’t really happen!” moment. Even though I know it happens. Even though I know it happens frequently. And then I felt really, really lucky that it’s never happened to me.
[Note: I have not relayed the first story here as a request for sympathy, as I know that I’m incredibly lucky and privileged just by virtue of having been born who and what I am. This is here as a teachable moment for myself, and hopefully, others. Thanks for reading.]