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photo: freeimages.com/BSK graphic: Martha G. Brady

photo: freeimages.com/BSK graphic: Martha G. Brady

Jamaica was the place I lived where I first had close friends who were black. It wasn’t that I ever thought I was better than people who were different from me. I was always friendly to people who were black, asian, native american, it didn’t make any difference to me. I understood that we were all the same underneath our skin.

I had cordial working relationships with black women before

I had had good working relationships with black women as a nurse. We were cordial. We joked together. I worked with nurses and aides with no difficulty. But we all went home after work and didn’t really do that much with each other outside of work. That went for pretty much everyone I worked with, no matter what color they were.

This was different. I had friends I was close to who were black and racially diverse. It was unique to me in the 1970’s I’m embarrassed to say

But Jamaica was a different story. I was in the minority. Most people there were not white. At first, it felt a little strange. But after awhile, I didn’t notice. Our first visit back to the U.S. everything seemed a little too pale! It took awhile to figure out why.

It was the first time I had close friends who were black. I used to feel a little cautious with what I said and how I worded what I said in certain contexts. All that was gone in Jamaica…once I made the adjustment to the culture. I had friends who were black that I had some very helpful discussions with on topics such as intermarriage (between races) which was something of a hangup of mine before I went there.

It was the first time I had close friends who were black. I used to feel a little cautious with what I said and how I worded what I said in certain contexts. All that was gone in Jamaica. Click To Tweet

I realized that much of my objection at that time was related to social prejudice more than anything. I didn’t want my grandchildren to suffer from prejudice. But the choice was given to me this way: would you want you child to marry a white, non-christian or a black, godly man. Yes, it was a slanted choice, but I saw that given that choice, it was clear! I would choose the black godly man for sure. Skin color had nothing to do with it. I wanted my children to marry christian men.

As it turned out, that wasn’t one of the options, but they had many close friends of different races growing up and in college.

This is a topic where I am unable to be neat and concise

I guess I’m rambling. I don’t know how to talk on this topic concisely. I will just say that I am fortunate that because of my experience in Jamaica, I feel comfortable talking to anyone. I don’t feel the need to walk carefully or use special vocabulary.

I’m not sure the politically correct vocabulary helps our discourse

Personally, I think the politically correct vocabulary does nothing to help our relating to each other. We can’t just talk in normal words. Well, I do, but not everyone feels comfortable doing that because they are so worried they will offend.

The very plan that is supposed to help dialogue makes it more uncomfortable and difficult. Doesn’t that seem strange?

It seems to me that sitting down with each other and finding things we have in common would be helpful. When I sit in doctor’s offices, I often find myself near a variety of men or women who happen to be black. When I strike up a conversation with them, I learn that we have much in common. Often some news event has them upset just like it does me. They often are concerned about lawlessness in our country just like I am. Their humor is hilarious as they get discussing events that are happening or Aunt Bessie’s version of it.

I just enjoy listening to their perspective. I always learn something new. And when I hear those who seem poorer…and not all are, I realize how privileged I am…and am humbled.

Challenge: Do you struggle to appreciate those from other cultures or those who look different from you? What do you do to try to get to know them/their culture better?

Do you struggle more with people who look different from you or those who are at a different class level than you? (much poorer or much wealthier) How do you attempt to bridge the gap?