On the pretext of helping both G and C with their seasonal allergies, I bought a big jar of "Hood Honey" at the Farmer's Market last Saturday. Honey harvested from urban bees, tough survivor bees who have been cruising the streets on their motorcycles looking for action. It might be working, C had a bit and didn't have any trouble with allergies when we were in Guerneville. Of course I am eating it myself; smeared on bread, dipped into tea.
I didn't note in my blog last night that the only word I definitively picked up from the street fight below my window last night was "nigger," possibly my least favorite word in the English language. Or, that the people shouting this word at each other were African American.
Or, that in the grocery store, sweaty and frizzy and done in after my ball game with G I was approached by a very drunk black man, slurring his words and staring at my bird's nest of hair.
"'Zat natural?" he asked me. "Why don't you put some straightener on that? You got a black daddy? Black mama? You a little bit Black?" He checked out my butt. "You got a little African womanhood going on back there. Most white womens be flat as pancakes. You got a little black booty. Don't you lose that now. You do your lunges, you do your squats. You don't want to lose your booty, cause that's all you got."
"Leave me alone," I said.
"See, that's how black women talk. You got two dollars?"
I told G about it afterwards. He laughed.
Masankho's aunt Emily is visiting the States from Malawi. She will be our host when we go there in August. She runs several children's services, and will help me find placement in an orphanage. When I met her, I said, "My sister's name is Emily."
With quintessential African warmth and hospitality she said, "Then I will be your sister too."
I feel like I live surrounded by Africa, that Africa is part of the air and language and culture here in Oakland. Drumbeats from open windows and car stereos. The flea market at Ashby BART--pure Africa. Yet how strange that C and I drove a few hours out of the Bay Area and hardly saw any black people.
My best friend is a black man who shoots baskets and plays tennis with me, teaches me about jazz, debates politics and popular culture with me and knows my family. We watch movies and eat popcorn and drink wine together. Yet when we walk down the street sometimes he has encounters with other black men where a subtle code is exchanged, a word, a look, occasionally a handshake, that doesn't exactly exclude me, but comes from a place that I don't know.
I measure how it feels different to walk into a restaurant with C, who is white, than it does with G. I have never noticed any racist attitudes on the part of servers or cops or passers by when G and I are out together. The Bay Area is a pretty mellow place and I see tons of interracial couples of every description when I am just walking around here; gay couples, Latino and Asian mixed couples, black and Asian, and every possible combination under the sun.
The difference is that when I am with C. I am not at all on my guard waiting or watching for any possibly racist behavior. That little defensive filter just disappears from my mind when I am out with a white man. We become anonymous, "normal." We blend in. We could be anywhere.