We’re still friends. I still like many of them. I still love the ones that I’ve always loved. I still smile, answer my phone, reply to the text, show up to lunch, dinner, or coffee. Their birthdays are still on my phone, along with their kids. I haven’t erased any of our pictures together on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. I’m headed to lunch with one next week, just got in from dinner with another, and currently strategizing how to visit a few of them in the early spring when I g out west to visit my family. I may however just be a little miffed by them. Not all of them. Just the ones who have spent the past few days after the US elected it’s newest president in shock, anger, and deep grief. I’ve read the texts, answered the calls, exchanged the emails, seen the post on social media, sat next to them, yet, many of the White Women in my life have left me choosing confusion, sadness, and pity, over perhaps the well deserving anger and doubt about the authenticity of our friendship so easily deserved after recent political events.
One said “It’s so personal. This election of someone who has been so openly hateful about so many people with those identities I care for.” “I’m worried for my daughter,” another said. “I think we may need to wait on having kids, “said another. “We’ve got work to do. I am determined to do something.” I nodded, knowing it was the shock. I also pondered if every time I told them about my experiences of discrimination that I knew had its roots in racism, sexism, and ageism they thought I was joking, exaggerating, using my way with words to create fanciful stories gingerly constructed by a vivid imagination. Did they think my melanin was a perfected version of Trump’s tan? Did they, like the White woman president at my former institution, think that when I said half of the Black administrators left the small college on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, it was “a coincidence”, because we had nothing better to do after we all relocated, some as far as the west coast, only the year prior? Did they imagine me to be a master manipulator or a pathological liar who’d charmed every counselor I had over the past 10 years into believing I just had situational depression and the occasional bout of anxiety that could be managed with the right support network and increased knowledge of coping skills?
Maybe they thought my expectations too lofty, like one of my White Women friends out west. I told her that I didn’t think I could take a job that would move me closer to the west coast, because I just didn’t see enough people who looked like me in the area and some of the questions asked during my interview made me question their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. She responded with what seemed more like thinly veiled disappointment and exasperation than understanding or empathy .“Well I think if that’s what you want then you’re going to need to move to the south or work at an HBCU.” I’ve resisted calling her and telling her that if she wants a better circumstance for her children given our President elect that she may need to move to another country.
My narrative, as to what it has meant and continues to mean for me to identify as a woman of color with a disability in the United States of America has not changed just because you started reading it and decided it was a work non fiction instead of fiction. My experiences are not new, more acute, or more, because you suddenly woke from the comfort of your White Woman in the United States of America coma and feel the sharp impact of what it means to live in a country you call home that is considering whether or not it will tolerate you or your children (especially your daughters), and what acts of violence it will inflict on you (systemically and institutionally) or rights it will strip or ignore should it find you intolerable.
But yes, we’re still friends. Despite our recent collision early Wednesday morning, that’s knocked us to the ground of our current political climate, we are still friends. I think your wounds may be deeper. With all of my brown-ness, woman-ness, and differently able bodied-ness, I saw the collision coming and began to slow down. But you, you did not see the political upset that has us sprawled on the mosaic tiles of our country’s floor of grief, anxiety, anger, and fear. As I tend to my wounds, many just old scars re opened, I will wait for you to fully regain consciousness, to fully awaken to the same United Sates of America I and many of those who share in my identities or other identities that have been under a delicately stitched tulle blanket of tolerance in this country, will wait for you to awaken. I will extend my hand to you and help you off the cold floor, and will walk the miles with you on your new journey, in your new narrative, that are appropriate, until our paths diverge again. That, White Women, is what friends do. We see the hurt, we believe the hurt, we join in the hurt, we actively support the recovery as best we are able, and we journey on and let you do likewise, never to far to journey with, just acutely aware that our journeys are not the same.