In my house growing up, the answer to the question, "Guess who's coming to dinner?" was never "a black person."
Our white, middle class, Catholic family didn't consciously avoid eating with people of other races. Still, I went my whole young life surrounded almost exclusively by folks who look like me.
I do know that we lived next to a black family when I was a toddler. I have a clear memory of playing in the backyard with one of the girls. We were sitting in the grass, looking at the bottom of our feet, which we discovered were a similar pink-ish color on both of our bodies. We figured we must be the same color underneath the other "paint" on the rest of our skin. A lovely and actually profound encounter, but it's the only recollection I have of playing with a black child. We moved away a few years later.
As a teenager, I ended up attending a racially diverse high school, where I spent time with black people. Nevertheless, my enduring social circles remained decidedly white. Why? I'm not entirely sure. I loved and cherished my black school friends, especially from choir, but it never went further than that. I suppose it happened organically. I had more in common with my white friends; my black friends generally came from different parts of town. It's a tragedy to look back now and see how we all missed out on deeper interracial friendships. As Bishop Edward Braxton reminded us in a May article for America, societal structures make it all too easy for "birds of a feather to flock together." I am evidence of that unfortunate truth. Now, I am a Catholic sister. Even as I have vowed my life to work toward a just society, I'm ashamed to confess that I have few friends that don't share my skin color. I don't really know many black people.
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