Thursday, November 6, 2008

once more united?

I have a friend at church, a white man. He is married, a black woman married him, and they have two children, a boy and a girl. I suppose a part of me wonders how they discussed last night's election, in what terms -- how their relationship spans the history of cultural divide. Do they see things similarly and in comfortably mutual ways? Do they agree to withhold their inherited assumptions about one another, even now? Do they disagree on the significance of Obama's place in history? How do they discuss it with their children?

I have a friend at work, a white woman. She is in a relationship, with a black man, and has two nearly-grown daughters whose father is black. The elder daughter, almost 18, is in a relationship with a black man and expecting her first child. The younger daughter, age 16, has recently broken up with her boyfriend, a young Hispanic man. I did not ask them about the election this morning, though my friend and her girls were in the office. I genuinely felt uncertain as to how an inquiry would be received. I know that sometimes my friend and her boyfriend argue, about family relations and race. He feels his blackness is an issue for her relatives, she feels it is not (and would not care if it was.) How did they talk about the election at home last night? What do her daughters think about it? Is there emotion? Or are they merely pleased, and much more attuned to the impending arrival of the new baby?

Being white, I simply do not see clearly the shifting ground beneath my feet at times. I read an article on about things white people shouldn't do, now that Obama is elected. It's funny, but uncomfortably so. I recognize the truth in it. "Don't congratulate your black friends" it says. OK. I think I get that, but then I know I do not and must simply take the injunction on faith. OK. I won't. But can I talk to them about it?

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