I love this. Here are my answers:
What were the races of your three best friends when you were nine? Three Black, one white
When you were 19? Same
When you were 39? One black, One Hispanic, One white
(I am adding this question: Best friends now, at 67?) Two Black, One gay, one Hispanic man
What about your first boss? White
Your last boss? Me, for years and years
Your wedding party?Didn't have one
Your first crush? (honestly) Harry Belafonte and Sammy Davis Junior. Not making this up. I wrote fan letters out the kazoo. Belafonte (and Poitier) are Black royalty.
Your first mentor? Black: Christine Brown, my second mother, the daughter of a plantation slave
Your favorite high school teacher? Mr. Nasser, who was Iranian
Your dentist? White (The VA decides this, see below)
Your closest neighbor? I grew up on an isolated farm, but the kids who grew up with me were Black
What race is your child’s best friend? No kids
What about your child’s favorite author? No kids, but two of mine include Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou
Your favorite author? see above
The star of your favorite movie? Denzel. Don't need a last name for that man.
Your doctor? Dictated by the VA: white girl
Your dentist? Dictated by the VA: white guy
The president? Hands down: Obama.
I will add: clients? All colors and backgrounds, countries and cultures.
I grew up in the Deep South, to parents who passionately believed in Civil Rights. However, my mother didn't have Black friends. This is a key distinction that her generation had difficulty making. That said I grew up surrounded by, playing with and working next to Black kids. My normal is diverse. In fact that very thing decided me to not move to Boise, whose diversity is almost nonexistent. That to me is not comfortable.
My parents provided me an upbringing which normalized color. Normalized what others consider different. So what is familiar and normal to me, is uncomfortable to others. This is immensely powerful. Made me think about stuff that is just so everyday and normal to me that I assume the rightness of diversity, to the point where if I don't see it I create it. To that, during the three years I lived in the (very lily white, and sometimes white supremacist) Spokane area, I created a high level networking group of women from every race, every culture, every background. It was an extraordinary group of exceptional women: Black, White, Hispanic, American Indian....and I miss them. Talk about an education.
We can claim all kinds of affinity, and all kinds of connections, and all kinds of ways to absolve ourselves of our Whiteness. But how we live, those who are our intimates, those who populate the chambers of our inner worlds speak to our priorities. My closest Black female friend was my roommate for two years. I count those two years as among my happiest. Then, alas, she fell in love and married last year. When her mother died, I was the only white person who not only attended the funeral but was present at the interment. You show up for those you love. Period. It's not about convenient. It's about commitment. She knows that if she were in trouble and I could help, I'd be on the next plane. Why? Because I told her so. If her marriage fell apart, I'd find a bedroom for her in hell's half second. Not because she's Black. Because she's my beloved friend.
Because I travel all over the world, and my preferences have been to spend most of my time in developing countries, I have gathered "family" ranging from Turkish Muslim to Tanzanian to Kenyan Kikuyu, Peruvian Indigenous peoples of the Amazon. I am rich beyond measure.
None of these things mean I am without bias. Of course I have bias. But what I don't have is a lily white life. So my reference points are differently guided, differently informed, and perhaps, a touch more open. I don't know. But what I do know right now is that the most important gift I can give my Black friends is a non-judgmental ear, and a safe place to rage.