I decided I would begin my reading assignment into whiteness by reading the book My First White Friend and writing my reactions. The book is about a black woman writer Patricia Raybon who found that she was consumed with hatred of white people. This created very unhealthy stress in her life. I knew nothing about the book before I found it on the shelves in the Milwaukee Public Library. When I saw the title I thought surely she had meant that a person in high school or event elementary school had made a difference in her life.
How is it possible one could live so late into adulthood wrapped up in hatred? When I compare this to my own experience I found that I had a love hate relationship with white people during my early years. I transferred from an all black school to an all white one in the 4th grade. There were white people in my black neighborhood, although none who I would call a friend. There were all-black middle class and even upper class people around us and some of them were my friends. There was a doctor and an electrician among them. However, our safety was threatened by some angry kids who liked to fight and bully. And their parents were thieves. My mother became convinced that for my sake we needed to move away from this mostly black area just a few blocks away into an all white one.
As anyone who grew up in the desegregation area knows, today’s white ally could become tomorrow’s racist. That was the same era, sometimes known as the baby boom generation, where Patricia Raybon was grew up and became an adult. In later observations I will examine the differences and similarities in our struggles.