I wish it were just a matter passing a law, implementing the right training program, or opening a Justice Department investigation. But the sad fact is that our country’s racial problem is not something we can slap a band aid on and call it fixed. Segregation ended decades ago but the self-segregation all races engage in is still very much alive and well. Races in this country don’t often “do life” together. And because we don’t do life together we are mistrustful of each other. Sure we are friendly. But being friendly and being friends is not the same thing and we need to stop mistaking the two.
I’ve lived in cities and I’ve lived in suburbs and I’ve found that while it feels more culturally diverse in cities we still tend to make deep social connections with people of our own race no matter where we live. And just when you thought this was going to be a deep piece about race I am going to lighten it up by using “The Real Housewives” as evidence to support my claim. Is it just me or does anyone else think it’s weird that only white women seem to be friends with white women and only black women seem to be friends with black women on these shows (Kim Zolciak Biermann being the one exception as the token white girl on the Atlanta series)? These shows, watched by millions every week both reinforces and mirrors one of the most powerful forces in our society: the bonds between women. And there is no outrage or cry to correct the blatant depiction that whites hang with whites and blacks hang with blacks.
When was the last time you had someone of a different race into your home for a meal with your family, or planned a joint vacation with you and your family, or called them on the phone to discuss your most private fears and concerns? In other words, have you been “doing life” together with someone who doesn’t look like you at more than a superficial level? I bet the vast majority of us would have to admit we aren’t all that different from the Housewives after all.
I was hosting a dinner party a few years ago and at the last minute as a favor to one of my guests I invited his out of town friends, whom I had never met, to join us. Five African-American women showed up at my house. After a couple of glasses of wine one of the women said to me that this would never happen where she lived. I asked her what she meant. And she said that where she was from a white woman would never have a bunch of African-American women over to her house for a dinner party. At the time I shrugged it off as an over exaggeration. But her words stuck with me. Because I don’t think she was that far off base after all.
As a mother I know that my children do what I do not what I say. If I tell my children that they should treat everyone fairly and everyone is equal but I only have friends who are of my own race what am I really teaching them? I’m teaching them that we stick with our own kind. And while I happen to be white I’m calling all of us out—black, white, Asian, Hispanic—we are all part of the problem. We all are guilty of self-segregating.
Which means we can all be part of the solution. Let the recent violence drive us to connect with each other instead of letting the hate and mistrust drive us apart. We can and we will do better than this.