Recently I was sitting with a friend in her lovely home before a fire, drinking some bourbon, and shooting the shit. She is, among other things, a white girl. We were talking about the schools nearby and I had questions about them not because I was particularly interested but because I felt obligated to appear so, because she had kids and part of being a friend is meeting people halfway, right? So I was asking things: Is it diverse? What are the kids like? Do you like the parents?
When I was much younger, a scene like this would have been the norm because I was brought up with all sorts of people. and many of them, if the not the majority of them, were white girls. But somehow, as I got older, despite the mooring of our similar backgrounds I, like many of the women I know, found myself increasingly in the company of girls who were mixed race, or brown and black like me unless I made a pointed effort to make it otherwise. Even still, I was taken aback when my friend that night asked me why in the world would I ask her if her kid’s school was diverse. She was smiling, and her eyes were reflecting the dim light of the fire but she seemed distressed. Why, she wanted to know, would something like that matter to me at all? Didn’t I know she didn’t think of the world that way, didn’t I know she didn’t see me as black? To her I was no race at all, just a person, just a person like everybody else. And didn’t I know she didn’t think about these things, she told me, because she was busy thinking about building her world, and all the small but wonderful ways it was good and all of the ways it could stay that way?