I went to visit family and friends in Missouri last week. Overall, it was a pleasant visit. While I was there, though, I was reminded of why I stay in the big city around a diverse group of people.
My best friend from high school was visiting her grandma in a nearby town so I went to see them. Grandma (as I've always called her) took us out to eat lunch at a local cafe. Though I'm not sure how it came up, Grandma began to tell me that although she liked Black people, she hoped I didn't bring one home [to marry]. She did ensure me that if I did, she would learn to love them, though.
The waitress, an older lady who was a friend of Grandma's (both ladies are probably in their 70's or 80's), came to the table to take our order. As she and grandma visited, the lady proceeded to tell her about something she had "nigger rigged." At that point, I looked at my friend and expressed my astonishment and told her I didn't know how much more I could take.
But I didn't say anything to the waitress.
I attempted conversation with Grandma about her prejudiced attitude; it went nowhere. It bothers me that here I am this outspoken, very opinionated, pro anti-racism person, yet I couldn't find the right words to say to make Grandma understand and I sat and said nothing to the waitress.
To be quite honest, I didn't want to write this in my blog. I would hate to hear what my friends who know me are thinking. I'm embarrassed and ashamed. I feel like I've let them down. I've let myself down. Where does that bold and courageous person that I've become go in situations like that?? Though I am usually prepared to deal with racist and prejudiced comments from random people in Dallas who know where I work and what I'm all about, for some reason it's much more difficult to know how to deal with those comments from family and friends from home. It always catches me off guard.
I decided to go ahead and write this because the reality is I'm sure there are others like me who have been in situations where they let something slide that they know wasn't right. I need to hear those stories so that I can think about how to take a different approach next time.
But I also need to know that those same courageous people have made mistakes. I need to know that I'm not the only one who messes up. Maybe if we started talking about those courageous moments as well as the missed opportunities, we might find that there are more of us who want to speak out. There is strength in numbers.