My First White Friend

Charcoal four - day 59
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My First White Friend by Patricia Raybon is quite possibly one of the most honest, candid stories of a black woman admitting her hate for white folks, navigating the sources of this hate and moving from that personal toxicity to an internal forgiveness and freedom. Mrs. Raybon was a professor at the University of Colorado and though I never took a class from her when I was a student there, I’m wishing I did.

Contrary to our current popular opinion, having a black president hasn’t solved the race issue in America. It might have only converted vocal javelins into subtle barbs whispered under bitter breaths. Yet, my guess, as a white guy, is that most white folks don’t really know how to navigate the Race waters without being defensive or apologetic or a mixture of both. Raybon’s book is a good start. Here are some snippets:

“The hate doesn’t fix anything. It might feel good to hate – and sometimes it does. Sometimes hate is sweet juice, stuff to get drunk on. But in the morning there’s that headache, and that churning mess in the stomach. So a remedy has to go deep. Deep like redemption. Or like Hope. Or Like Forgiveness.” – p. 9

“I must work, indeed, on my race hate…it isn’t easy, because forgiving the racial past means, first, acknowledge that it happened, and that means reviving old horrors. Nobody wants to do that… but you can’t forgive something you haven’t struggled with, toiled over, walked on, slept with – and race is a bad bed partner…
But I must try, knowing that like a bad penny the bad feelings and mean easy will rise and rise again. But now I can pray. I can hope and I will believe that I can overcome. There’s just nothing else.” P. 227

“Quietly I hated, with a silence that too many us hide behind nice smiles – that expression of oppression. That grin of powerlessness.”p. 5

“It starts on the inside.
I didn’t see that for years – believing instead that power, in the form of the approval of others, came from a place outside of me. I handed over my power, in fact, to others – white folks especially. Tell me I’m OK. Befriend me, hire me, admire me, give me a good table at your restaurant, sell me a house in you neighborhood, talk to me, listen to me, look at me, love me.

But white people can’t satisfy all these needs - because nobody externally can possibly fill up somebody else’s internal longings. That inability, of white folks to satisfy my emotional needs, has been part of my disappointment with white people. I have them, indeed, for not filling me up… hate soon consumes itself, because hate eats up oxygen and other life-giving properties.” p.113

“I realize, finally, that God never expected me to be perfect. Man did. And woman. And white folks. And black folks. The world did. But all the while, the Lord was saying, ‘Child, you’re OK with me. Being perfect is My business. Being is yours.’” p.134

“…as Mandela so wisely put it: ‘What has happened has happened.’ That was then. And now is now. And Emmett Till and Megdar Evers and Martin and Malcolm and the four little girls in the Birmingham church want us to move on. The honor the sacrifice of their lives and make it a gain…White folks and black folks alike are indebted, and we must bury our paralyzing anxieties about race – worries that somebody else is getting ahead faster, or that somebody’s racial sin demands somebody else’s heated revenge. It’s time, instead, to start living up to our collective and individual potential as a blessed human community. We must start making connections, not just by race or age or gender or in other affiliate ways, but by linking our talents and energy, our resources, our ideas, our hopes – so we can finally, blessedly, banish our fears. Indeed, we must start loving so we can start living. And the past? It is over.” p.137
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