Pity

Pam suggested that I don’t need to pity people for not having white friends. Oh boy. I sucked air on that one. Shit, I sound that stupid? I don’t think I *pity* people for not having white friends. White people really kind of suck.

It’s more that I have an innate terror of being treated like I am invisible. I don’t need to be someone’s best friend but I need to have people act like I am present.

So like the neighbor on the corner. People referring to her as “That Chinese lady” is erasing and rude. I mean… yes she is both Chinese and a lady… but she has a damn name. She has a personality that is much more interesting and important than her ethnicity. She’s one of the neat gardeners. She has funny stories. She’s super generous and kind.

If all you are willing to acknowledge about her for decades is that she is…. Chinese…. that’s fucking shitty to me. It is her neighbors being fucking self absorbed assholes. Why in the fuck would you not get to know the people who live near you?

I’m not “friends” with everyone in my neighborhood. I don’t have time. But I’m cheerful and outgoing and I introduce myself and I act like people are here. Lots of folks don’t reciprocate much and that’s ok. Even the people who don’t want to be my friends…. I can tell you something about them other than their ethnicity. So and so is incredibly meticulous about their car–they clean it at least once and often two or three times a week; eventually I will be rude enough to ask them if they use their car for work and appearance is completely important. I can tell you who cooks food of such delightful aroma that walking past their house is hard because I waaaaaaant to stoooooooooop.

I know which houses have children even if we don’t speak. I know which houses have elderly people who don’t get out much.

It is weird to me that people would want to live around others for decades and not know these things. I didn’t know all these things in the first 5 years I lived here but after 11 years… why in the hell would you not get to know your neighbors?

My neighbors knock on my door and ask for help reading documents, they borrow tools and ladders, they give me food, they ask me if they can borrow one egg because they ran short for a recipe.

I live in a god damn neighborhood. I live in a community and a lot of it I have created by force of will. I’m not ok with people referring to “The Chinese Lady On The Corner” as if it is a title. She has a name. She is a person. Don’t do that. And people tell me all the time they are glad I’m here doing this. Folks are enjoying knowing people more.

WHY DID Y’ALL WAIT UNTIL SOME PUSHY BITCH MOVED IN TO ENACT THIS SHIT!? Most of these people were here for 20 or more years before me. But they didn’t meet anyone. They didn’t feel…. I don’t know… permission?

It isn’t that I think that everyone must have white friends. It is that I think it is horrible to be alienated in your neighborhood. I think it is horrible to not be able to have people who pass you every day treat you like a real person.

A lot of my neighbors barely speak English. They speak a myriad of languages. They teach me small phrases or greetings because clearly I want to reach out. Most of the older people who walk past my house for health purposes seem to find me pretty funny.

I wish more people wanted to create community connections across different cultural lines. Not because it is a pity to not have white friends. If this were a Hispanic neighborhood and the Indian/Asian immigrants felt they couldn’t talk to anyone I would think that was sad too. Even if you basically took white people out of the equation.

It isn’t that everyone should want white bastards in their life.

I’m not color blind. I see race. I see differences. I think differences are what make us interesting. I think that having friends who do not have your specific background is educational, fun, and a good idea for future security.

In my life I have been shocked by who has given me help during the worst of crunch times. Near strangers.

I know my neighbors and I give my help freely and unstintingly. I don’t keep score of favors. There are some people I help a bunch and some I don’t help at all. We share food with a lot of houses and we discuss gardening with far more people.

I can find stuff in common. For one thing, it’s really fun to talk gardening with folks for whom English is not their native language because we talk about the names of what we are growing and then it gets into neat etymology conversations about the similarity in sounds.

I don’t think anyone should be pitied for not having white friends. But I think it is wonderful to have friends who can help you think about the world in different ways.

I think this springs from not really having a culture I strongly identify with in a positive way. I don’t want to be reaffirmed in my identity. I imagine it would be very different for folks like Pam’s family who like their culture and their language and don’t really see benefit to branching out.

But that is really fucking hard for me to imagine. It kind of breaks my brain. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be inside a brain that felt like that. I can’t imagine only wanting to know people who are like me.

Fuck. What would that even mean?

Which doesn’t mean people are wrong or bad or to be pitied for having a mindset I can’t understand. But it does mean I’m obnoxious about inserting myself into peoples lives because I can’t imagine that they don’t want me.

That’s not true. I know lots of people don’t want me. It is more accurate to say that I can’t imagine people not wanting more connection. Which is seriously limited in my thinking.

But what does “I know enough people” feel like?

I sure as fuck don’t know.

I have this existential hole inside me. I don’t know what bad things are coming just that more bad will come and my ability to survive will depend on the kind of net I have created for myself. I can’t imagine feeling secure with a net made up of only one kind of person.

I was sent to too many strangers of various backgrounds to ever believe my safety can be guaranteed by white people.

Which doesn’t mean my perceptions are right, just that they are mine.

I’m certainly used to many neighbors being kind of direct in how they let me know that they aren’t interested in getting to know me. Yeah, that happens too. Most often by folks who moved here and brought their WHOLE family with them. They have no time or mental bandwidth and I try not to be obnoxious. I’m friendly and courteous without pushing too hard (I hope).

Part of the reason I think it is sad that folks don’t cross racial lines is because some of the folks I talk to tell me flat out that they are much happier living here now that they talk to people who live near them. They had been sad. But for some reason it never occurred to them to try and talk to people until I initiated?

WHY IS THE WHOLE PLANET FULL OF LESBIAN SHEEP.

I’m a ram. Ma’am. Because sometimes cis-chicks just have to step up.

I’ll walk right up to you and say, “Hey. How you doin?”

If somebody has to open the door well, I’m used to burning my hand. Won’t matter if the door handle is hot and uncomfortable.

Which is part of how I fuck up so much. If you constantly put yourself in uncomfortable situations where you have to be brave and communicate in ways that are outside your norm… you fuck up a lot.

I even kind of think I don’t fuck up that much given how often I step outside my bubble.

But maybe I’m lying to myself.

I hope to goodness I don’t pity people for not having white friends. But I do feel irritated as fuck with white people not taking the initiative and saying, “I have lived here for a while and you are new. Hi! My name is: ________. I hope you like living here.”

Not because we are the gatekeepers… we aren’t. Because I wish people of every race would do that to new comers in their community and I try not to yell at people of other races. I yell at white people. It’s my lane.

So I think it is more that I am upset with white people for not trying harder than it is that I pity people of other races for not having white friends.

For a long time this was a white majority country. I think whatever group is in the majority is an asshole if they don’t reach out to under represented groups.

I hope that isn’t the same thing as pity.

5 thoughts on “Pity

  1. Quiet One

    This reminds me of a documentary I saw on Netflix called “Happy”. Community was one of the biggest things that generated happiness.

  2. P.

    Not the whole world.

    The thing I’ve noticed the last few times I’ve been in Urban America is how studiously people avoid interacting with others. Earlier this week I was in New York and committed the most grave sin of making eye contact with someone. They were so discomforted by it that I felt awkward for forgetting and moved to another seat. I don’t think it’s a white thing necessarily – the person I made eye contact with wasn’t white, but I suspect also wasn’t an immigrant. In my defense, it was an hour trip on transit.

    I’m invisible everywhere in Urban America. But I also know there is nothing to be done about it. I’m fascinated that you don’t accept that.

    1. Krissy Gibbs Post author

      But… I do a lot about it such that I end up not being invisible. That’s totally something I can influence. I can insert myself into peoples notice.

      I do it all the damn time.

  3. Pam

    I love without end that you are obnoxious about your people.
    I like to think that I am the same way myself, though I have limited capacity (as do we all) and direct my efforts in some different directions. Exhibit A~ Tonight I finally got a return phone call to an extended uncle here that I’ve tried to contact 4-5 times this last week. (He was on a cruise.) He lives here and doesn’t know me from Adam. I think he is my mom’s cousin. They’ve met maybe a handful of times, if that. But I invited myself and my visiting baby sis over for dinner this weekend. I love it.

    Anyway, even when people feel perfectly content within those lines, *I* certainly think it is a pity that many of us don’t make the effort to reach across those lines. Because I am a judgey bastard (more on that in a short email, incoming.)

    Love you.

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