My Thoughts On Being White In Philly – Part I
A friend emailed Monday morning asking if I had read the Philadelphia Magazine article titled “Being White In Philly” by Robert Huber (see link below).I told him I was unfamiliar with the article but would search it out, read it and let him know what I thought.
Huber’s closing thoughts on how to broach the subject of race are valid, and I agree with him to a point, albeit, with that said I’m not saying that I disagree, I’m only offering more to his concluding analysis.
Huber concludes, “But this is how I see it: We need to bridge the conversational divide so that there are no longer two private dialogues in Philadelphia—white people talking to other whites, and black people to blacks—but a city in which it is okay to speak openly about race. That feels like a lot to ask, a leap of faith for everyone. It also seems like the only place to go, the necessary next step.”
I say that his conclusion is an appropriate jumping-on point, but if there is to be any substantive and lasting effectual change it must include the way we interact.
My friends and I are just that — we are friends. Most of my close friends and I have been friends since before college. Most of us went on to college together. We aren’t friends because of our color or ethnicity; we’re friends because we share values and interests in common.
One of my friends, whom I admire greatly, is a young man I met as a cigar smoker. I forget his exact title, but he is in charge of the physical plant of a school. I recall him saying to me one day that if it weren’t for cigars we would never have become friends. To the extent that is true or not (and it probably is), our sphere of association revolved around cigars and common ground grew from there.
My point should be obvious. We become friends and our opinions and insights evolve based on common interests.
I don’t go fresh water fishing, but he does, and when I still lived in Pennsylvania I could count on fresh trout every trout season because he caught them and brought them to my house. He organized our paint ball outing a few years ago which was an immensely good time.
Many of my readers write me telling me they are good friends with a black person they work with. My question is what does that mean? Does the black person think the same thing?
Friends do things together. They spend time with one another outside of work. They visit one another’s homes; their families become friends. My friend who sent me the referenced article kept a Thursday open so he could pick me up at the airport, and we could hang out together for the day. My other friend took off from work, so we could have more time to spend together.
When I’m at my one friend’s house, I genuinely feel like a member of the family. Whenever I’m in town, we are inseparable. I cried at his daughter’s wedding right along with him. My one friend and I still laugh about the time we took our children tubing on the Lehigh River together. Last summer my one friend and I would visit our mothers together. We would visit his mother who is in one nursing home and then go to visit my mother who is in another. My one alumni brother I love like a brother. He was at my baptism. We have pictures of my son taking over his lap when my son was four years old.
Several of my friends and I frequent a Puerto Rican store front restaurant in the hood. We love it. The owner always has a bottle of his homemade hot sauce tucked away that he breaks out when I show up. We enjoy eating there and chatting it up with him.
It’s not money or position that joins us as friends. That isn’t even a remote factor in our friendships. We are as diverse professionally and financially as is possible.
But all our friendships had to start somewhere, and they started with what we enjoyed in common, and they grew from there. But, most importantly race cannot be the determining factor.
Race had nothing to do with our becoming friends. Quite the opposite. It was what we shared in common. I keep going back to that because until we move beyond segregative language and distinctions we will never be able to bridge the schism race-mongers use to divide us for their financial and political benefit.
Bridging the gap that divides us begins with us. It stands to reason that if we never associate outside of work or school we will forever harbor certain misperceptions and misgivings. Contrary to the abominable bromide so often employed by race-mongers — it is not our differences that we must celebrate to become joined as a “United” people — it is those things which we share in common that will bring us together.
It is when we start seeking those things out that race-mongers will have no place. Speaking of which, you may have noticed that I have not identified my friends by color or ethnicity — that’s because we’re all Americans and our color is “Red, White, and Blue.”
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About the Author
Mychal S. Massie is an ordained minister who spent 13 years in full-time Christian Ministry. Today he serves as founder and Chairman of the Racial Policy Center (RPC), a think tank he officially founded in September 2015. RPC advocates for a colorblind society. He was founder and president of the non-profit “In His Name Ministries.” He is the former National Chairman of a conservative Capitol Hill think tank; and a former member of the think tank National Center for Public Policy Research. Read entire bio here