Years ago I had a conversation with a dear friend about the shattered boundaries between daughters and mothers. My friend was confessing on how her mother shared very inappropriate information with her since she was a child. With sympathy I said something that moved her. She wiped her eyes and smiled at me before she put her car in gear. We were planning on spending the day wine tasting in beautiful wine country. Her smile with a chuckle lightened the mood.
As she pulled out of the shopping center’s parking lot, she said, “You are different from the others.”
The needle on my internal record scratched to a discordant stop. With a hot face and centuries of ancestoral rage rising to the edge of my voice, I asked her to explain herself. What did she mean that I was “different” from what “others”?
The grave she dug grew deeper as the stereotypes of “you blacks” dropped from her pink stained lips like rancid wine. I wasn’t supposed to take offense . It was a compliment. My honey blond friend who chose to leave her quiet neighborhood where everyone looked like her to teach in the inner city where the children looked like me was boldly honest and it offended me. Did she mean malice? No.
Some people would say this should have been the beginning of a dialog on race. Some may say this was my chance to educate my friend on why her statement was offensive. But I wanted to hang out with my friend, sample wine, have some fun, catch a buzz, and go home. So after her explanation, I was the one with wet eyes and a broken smile. I gave her a pass. I don’t remember much about that day after that conversation. I did catch that buzz and bought a cooler full of wine. We never hung out again.