Both Worlds

Come to think of it, growing up, I didn't have a single friend (or relative) who was white, religious, and not Jewish.

Of course, this group of people is the majority of the country. So when I remark that groups of people don't have any minorities in them, I suppose it's because my world was almost entirely comprised of (religious and/or racial) minorities.

I have many such friends/acquiantances/relatives now. Indeed I'm married into a Catholic family.

My point is to reflect, though, not to condemn. The fact is, when you raise a child, you want to be comfortable and you want them to be comfortable. And if you manage to do that, you've done a good job.

And in certain places, you have no choice. You live in Vermont, you're only gonna know white people. You live in certain parts of Texas, Hispanic people, and so on.

But this is NYC. It's very hard not to come in contact with people who are different from you. Yet many groups are very homogenous.

I will admit I sort of thought I was "better" than groups of white people with no friends of color. "Oh you, you emotionally lazy people. Look upon my Captain Planet group of friends and bow down to my awesomeness."

I kinda still think that, I guess. A little.

But anyway, it occurs to me that you bond with whoever you bond with. And most of the time those people are both near you and similar to you. And even in and around NYC, that means people who resemble you in some way.

I used to think this was the cause of much racism. And it certainly doesn't help. But if I can not hate Trans folks without actually having any close Trans friends (I just happen not to have any), I should probably (mentally) shut up about who people are friends with.

My parents had interesting views on my socializing with people of color. My mom insisted (not to me, but it was implied) I know some black people since my school was so white (four black kids in my 78 person graduating class, which isn't actually THAT bad for the era, sadly). So she enrolled me in Jack and Jill.

But on the other hand, when college came around, my dad, an HBCU grad, wanted me to apply to his alma mater and similar schools and my mom said I should focus on the Ivies, which would be a cocky thing to say if I wasn't actually good enough to get in, but obviously I did.

Jack and Jill helped me a lot. I was able to go and dance with women after their parties (and with rhythm!). But then I got to college and shrank away from the BSU because I didn't want to ONLY have friends of color. (These worries were unfounded, but 17 year olds are dumb.)

I've always wanted to do things My Way, like a little nerdy Sinatra. It's why I ran away to Korea instead of Wall Street, why I was determined to support myself in NYC as an adult educator (not easy!), why I ran every day for two years straight until I burned out. But, the fact is, I ended up, now, with a group of close friends that really wouldn't look out of place in Captain Planet.

This is all coming to the fore because I overthink things, and, many years from now (well, 4 is the plan), we might move to a suburb of the city (ew). And I realize my anxiety about that is because it's a homogenous environment and that scares me. Yet if I bury my head in the sand and force my hypothetical child to live the way I did because it's comfortable for me, I could miss out on hundreds of thousands of savings in not paying for certain types of education I would be inclined to look for here in the city, and I probably wouldn't ever be able to own a home. Just so I can feel good.

And of course, if I ever do have any political goals, I need to be able to relate to the majority, with which I still have limited experience. I only hope, if I do create a child someday, I am able to give them the experience I had and also the experience everyone else has, and show them both worlds that live right next to each other but often don't speak. I just hope my kid, if he or she exists some day, is close to people of every color and faith (or non-faith), but I suppose, I must admit, that means the majority as well.

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality