I struggle this morning. I struggle to reconcile the wealth of diversity among my beautiful friends and family members with my black identity in the context of a country with a complex history with race.
Those who know me relatively well realize that I love people and their differences with perhaps a naive severity. Many of my dearest friends are nothing like me on paper. We differ in race, religion, class, education, sexual orientation, profession, physical ability, political affiliation, and many other ways. We may disagree, but we agree that love overrides our disagreements.
It is these rich relationships that make weeks like this all the more difficult. At the end of the day, I am a straight, cis-gendered, black woman in America. My experience here is different from that of my white friends. Or my Indian friends. Or my Latinx friends. Or my male friends. Or my LBGTQ friends…
We all experience this country differently. Sometimes tragic events occur that affect one community or group of communities in a more personal way than others. Immediate members of the affected communities may express their grief in anger or sorrow and in that moment, stand in solidarity with those who share in that unifying identity. Those outside of that community may experience feelings of alienation and persecution, confusion and frustration.
Perhaps I am overly sensitive and diplomatic. A pacifist and love-monger to a fault. I suppose I figured that as I expressed my fear, anger, and frustration with the current climate of race relations in America, those of my friends and acquaintances who do not share my social and racial identity would view my outcry with empathy, if not understanding.
Unfortunately, there is pushback. Resistance from those who are offended by my personal account of my own experiences and reactions to attacks on my community. And although I’ve been called an “activist” and like to think of myself as a voice for society’s marginalized people, I question whether or not my skin is thick enough to withstand the barrage of social media verbal attacks. I wonder if my exercise of free speech is worth the harsh and fruitless criticism that contributed to my sleepless night.
How does someone whose contact list truly represents a cross-section of the diversity of the United States, stand in her truth and still maintain friendships with those who think so differently from her? How can she continue to use her voice to affect change, unafraid of alienating her unintended audience of friends’ parents and former colleagues, without diluting the severity of her truth?
Is it possible for me to have best friends who are black, brown, white, straight, queer, disabled, republican, socialist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, agnostic, atheist, and overall nonconforming, while still acknowledging my own plight as a young black woman in America who simply wants to love and be loved?