Some of My (Virtual) Best Friends Are Black

15 Feb

One night during the last run of American Idol (honestly, the first season that I watched), my eleven year old daughter, Leni, plunked herself down on the couch beside me.

“Oh, I hope we didn’t miss Jacob,”  she said, “You’ll want to see him.  He’s black.”

“Why do you think I want to see him because he’s black?” I challenged her.

“Because all of your friends on Facebook are black, every single one of them,” she giggled.

“Well, yeah, a lot of them are, but not all of them,” I said.  I didn’t tell her how when I’m on my Facebook page, I scroll down to see the window that features photos of a random selection of ten of my friends and count how many are black, and how happy I am when at least half are.  (Sometimes I cheat, and count Latino friends, and change it to a “friends of color” count.)

Her comment got me thinking, though.  On Facebook I do have a lot of black friends but in my so called “real life,” I can count my black friends on one hand.    I don’t have a lot of black friends that I have over for dinner, go to the movies or shopping with, or call on the phone often to talk, or should I say text, because who really talks on the phone anymore?   Anyway, two of those friends are sisters, so it seems like they shouldn’t really count as two.

Most of my black Facebook friends are people I went to high school with in Waterbury, Connecticut.  The rest are new friends made through friend requests by people who I didn’t know, or know so well personally, but who saw my posts on one of their friend’s page and friended me.  I remember this when I start thinking that I  underhandedly tried to friend as many black people as I could so that when I started my blog, I’d have a built-in audience.  The fact that black people friend requested me relieves the guilt.  And, makes me feel honored, too, that I appear to be a cool white lady that warrants their request.

But, what of this virtual/real life imbalance?  Granted, geographic distance counts for a lot of it.  I live in Rhode Island, the sisters live in Connecticut and New York.  Many of my black FB friends  still live in Connecticut; some have scattered all over the country to live their adult lives elsewhere.

In real life, I finally figured out that I am moving in a much less black circle than I did in my teens and early twenties.  In my senior year in high school–my school had a 40% black student body–I dated my first black boyfriend.  Well, Cape Verdean, actually, but I counted him as black.  And, once I started having boyfriends who were black, the circle of entering into black life opened itself up to me.  I danced at black clubs, attended family dinners, and got to know my mates’ parents and siblings.  In my early twenties I lived in Boston and worked for a year at a black-owned beauty salon.  I remember becoming good friends with a co-worker, a shy, black girl named Kim, because we were the two youngest, most naive members of the otherwise spicy team of hairdressers.

When I moved from Boston to New York City, I worked side-by-side with many black co-workers, for two homeless services organizations.  I loved our conversations throughout the day, because it felt like an extension from high school.  I was of course flattered when one day a black co-worker declared me an “Honorary Black Person.”

And, then, in my mid-twenties, I started dating more white guys again, and it’s like the black hole of blackness shrunk.  After New York, I lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma for a few years, and felt the pain of a more segregated way of life.  Now,  I work two jobs, one in an Adult Education Center that while extremely diverse, with many Hispanic and Latino, African and Asian students, does not have a large African American staff or student body.  The other job is at a psychiatric hospital where the majority of the staff seems to be white.

The circle is not the same.

The part about why this mattered and still does, and why I loved having black people in my life and still do, I think, might always remain one of those things that can’t be verbalized, even though it’s  the reason I started this blog–to try and put the why into words.  Perhaps, it will come to me in time.

So, what do I do in the meantime?   I can’t watch Jacob on American Idol anymore, he was voted off the night we watched him, and the season is long over. What I can be grateful for are all my virtual Facebook friends, and this space that has given me a new way to connect with the many black people who used to be in my life, and allowed me to make new friends along the way.  And while maybe I have to give more thought to why I don’t have more “real-life” black friends, I know my FBBBF’s, my Facebook Black Best Friends, are only a click away.

16 Responses to “Some of My (Virtual) Best Friends Are Black”

  1. Paula February 15, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    Hey Lady – how did I miss your first post? Congrats on the blog – excited to read it and share with other.

    • Wendy Jane Grossman February 15, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

      Hey Paula,

      Thanks so much for taking a look! And, thanks for sharing–I sure appreciate it.

  2. marci February 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    Love it! I have your blog bookmarked 🙂 Congrats!

    • Wendy Jane February 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

      Thanks, Marci! Thanks for bookmarking the site:)

  3. Ken Harge February 15, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    Well two days in a row…very good!! I still don’t know what to make of this, but it is interesting. So…I’ll be back. Peace!

    • Wendy Jane February 15, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

      Thanks, Ken! Can you elaborate on what you mean by you’re not sure what to make of this, or, perhaps you want to see more posts before you answer.:)

  4. Steve Sirica February 16, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    Wendy,

    I found your initial articles and background for the creation of this site very intriguing – it has piqued my curiosity enough that I am actually committing the time to capture some of my thoughts in writing 🙂 I must declare up front that I have no qualifications whatsoever and that these are purely somewhat random ramblings (had to get the legal stuff out of the way).

    It seems a common occurrence in human behavior for people to be naturally attracted to certain things, be it the color blue, spicy foods, pinstripe uniforms in sports, cats over dogs, vampire and zombie stories, even petite Irish girls.

    What I find so interesting about your “obsession” is it appears to be a case of perfect convergence. By that I mean you have your own set of things you are drawn towards but in your case, they are all perfectly aligned. I don’t pretend to know why that would be (maybe that is what you hope to discover in your writings). I have no idea if it is a common trait, but based on what I have seen in my travels I would tend to think it is not very common (unless you live on Long Island where brainwashing starts pre-birth – haha). I also have no idea why I felt compelled to write this down and share it – but I did.

    Looking forward to reading more of your writings – great stuff.

    Steve

    • Wendy Jane February 16, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to make these thoughtful comments. A friend of mine, who is black, said after reading some of my writings a while back, said that we are often attracted to what is different from us, and so yes, perhaps that’s a big part of it. You, being from Waterbury, also know the diverse make-up of our hometown, which I think also contributed to what you call the perfect convergence. Your list really has me wondering about your interest in peite Irish girls, though:)

      And, yes, the writings here are a way to express these thoughts and feelings, and hopefully get me closer to a place of understanding the why, and I think more importantly, make connections and start dialogues with others we might not have before about things like race, similarities, differences, and making positive connections with one another. Wow, and I thought I was going to do this all in a very humorous way, but realize it’s going to get serious, and deep, at times.

      Thanks again, Steve.

  5. Kelly February 16, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    Wendy– how lucky I am to know you ( virtually!) I believe that Waterbury gave us a gift. A childhood of diversity, peace and love. The Waterbury connection is strong and as my circles expand I realize that we are unique. We all grew together…. and we continue to grow together.
    Love the blog!

    • Wendy Jane February 16, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

      Kelly, thank you so much for this. We just chatted about this on fb, but, yes, there is something definitely unique about growing up in Waterbury with a childhood of diversity, that wasn’t always perfect, but was there for us to navigate and make connections. There are so many that grow up in much more homogenized settings, and don’t get what we got. Anyway, I can’t say any more better than you’ve already said it. I am lucky to know you, too!

  6. Deb Mason February 17, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

    Wendy I love this blog. I believe I told you already. I am you in reverse. I find this very interesting. I have learned a lot about race from having friends of every race imaginable. My best friends, those I was closest to, and I never, or rarely discussed race. Subject didn’t come up, until I lived in a very racist city. My best friend was white, with a racist husband. We will get into that another time. Despite all of this I was unprepared to be yanked straight back to the 50’s or 60’s when I returned to my small hometown, early 80’s to start my life over. Again, I went through that racist experience with a white best friend. Which caused parts of my problems. So Sister girl you know I am going to be following your blog. Love it.

    • Wendy Jane February 18, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

      Deb,
      Thanks so much. I truly appreciate your feedback. I’m glad that we are eachother’s reverse:) I do remember you sharing with me about the incident with your best friend who was white–an incident that took place in a convenience store–might have to get you to post about it one day. And, it’s funny, I don’t think I discussed race relations much with my friends who were/are black. Even though it’s not always an easy thing to talk about, I’m glad to be starting some dialogue here. Thanks again!

      • heather February 18, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

        Hey Wendy,
        I love that you are writing this blog and touching on an almost unverbalizable subject. (Is that a word?) I grew up in NYC and moving to stonington, CT at age 13 was serious culture shock. Lack of diversity makes me feel so uncomfortable. I feel more comfortable being the only white person in my college English class than I do being with a room full of white people.
        Maybe it is the way we grew up? I don’t know it is hard to define. I had a discussion with my kids regarding the use of the word gay as an insult. And made them aware I didn’t like it and it was never funny. I did however let them know that making fun of white people is always funny. To me. anyway.

        • Wendy Jane February 18, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

          Hey Heather,
          Thanks so much for your comments. It is unverbalizable:) And, yet here I am trying to put it ihto words. I feel like you do, too in terms of noticing how a lack of diversity makes me feel. I think a lot of it does come from the way we grew up, don’t you? I love what you told your kids about making fun of white people is always acceptable.

          Thanks again–it makes me feel good to connect with you, and others here, and I look forward to keeping it going into the future.

  7. Sherry Gordon April 24, 2015 at 7:04 pm #

    Dear Wendy Jane,

    Hello, there, Wendy Jane, my white and Jewish friend and sister!!!!!! I love so, so very much this cool and wonderful blog post article of yours!!!!! I love your lovingly caring and sensitive interactions with Leni and also with your Darla, sister!!!!! My friend, I just so, so very much love and cherish having the very, very many white persons in my life, very, very especially you, Wendy Jane, my dearly precious and special sisterfriend who you are as always For Always so, so very much, and the other white persons in my life like my local white sisterfriends!!!!!! This is just so, so very vitally important to me and greatly blesses my life For Always and in such a blessedly eternal way, sisterfriend!!!!!! I am just so very gratefully appreciative For Always of having you, sisterfriend who you are For Always so, so very much, Wendy Jane, and my other white friends and local white sisterfriends!!!!! Each and every one of you mean just so, so very much to me, Wendy Jane!!!!!

    My sweet white and Jewish sisterfriend, please have a fantastically fun-filled Friday and a wondrously wonderful weekend, Wendy Jane!!!!! I am going to read more of your fantabulous archives and respond to them, sweet sister and friend!!!!!!

    Very Warmly and Sincerely For Always with Peace and Love To You For Always my sweet white sister, with Blessings and Even More Blessings To You For Always my sweet white friend,

    Your lesbian black friend and sister For Always in solidarity, Sherry Gordon

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Daughter Leni Continues Role As Black Entertainment Alerter | Wendy Jane's Soul Shake - July 30, 2012

    […] daughter Leni, who you may remember from an early WJSS post, Some Of My (Virtual) Best Friends Are Black, is keeping up her role as my alerter of all black entertainment […]

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