Lifestyle Kuel Life Contributor: Kim Friedman Landau
She’s 30 and Queer and Black and so very Beautiful. She’s bold and fierce and respectful while unapologetically speaking her truth. She’s shy, intelligent and intuitive. She’s caring and sweet and generous.This is Taylor: my next-door neighbor and friend who is helping me better understand my Whiteness and how to become more of an anti-racist.
An Organic Beginning
Our connection started slowly with a wave, a quick greeting, some curious looks between us. David and I had just bought our house and Taylor and her wife seemed well connected to the many other lesbian families in the neighborhood. As an older straight couple, we felt somewhat like outsiders. It did not take long before we understood how that perception was all our own, and never emanated from the community. To my surprise, what could have remained a “can we borrow a cup of sugar” relationship, became an ever-deepening trust and bond between me and Taylor. Neither of us anticipated the journey we were embarking on, nor how her quiet strength would become my guide through the intentional work that I needed to do as a White person.
My Ignorance Unveiled
“With White Privilege as the backdrop of my life, I was never forced to face the devastating and constant effects that racism had on POC and our society.”
Looking back through the years, memories of relationships with POC (People of Color): a childhood friend, professors in college and graduate school, my supervisor and assistant director as a professional social worker come to mind. In more recent years there were colleagues and a man I dated briefly, yet I never thought about it. I knew I was White and they were POC, but it just did not seem relevant to anything. It wasn’t until I was in my 50’s that I started to realize how wrong I was! Tentatively, I started asking questions of one POC colleague and the man I was dating and slowing the awareness started to seep in of how pervasive racism is in our culture. With White Privilege as the backdrop of my life, I was never forced to face the devastating and constant effects that racism had on POC and our society. Learning about Systemic Racism in graduate school felt very theoretical to me and somehow, I did not see the reality in everyday life
Moving to Boston several years ago, it became clear that I was no longer living in a White world that happened to cross paths with some POC. Examining my feelings and reactions to being the only White face in the supermarket or on the streets near our home became an intriguing task. It wasn’t too long after that Taylor and I had a disagreement on social media and I asked her if she would be willing for us to have a conversation around it. She readily agreed and one rainy afternoon we sat at my dining room table for three hours talking, learning about each other’s lives, perspectives, pain, and joy. Listening to Taylor’s stories, it was shocking to hear things I could not have imagined to be true about being Black in our country and especially on our own streets.I told her this was the most integrated neighborhood I had ever lived in; she told me it was the least for her.
Taylor – My Teacher
“Taylor’s honesty and grace gave me a safe place to explore and understand my own Whiteness and inherent racism.”
Taylor described being the daughter of a Black man who was no longer in her life and her White mother whom she adored, recounting how she came to embrace her own identity as a Queer Woman of Color. Any questions I had Taylor answered without hesitation nor judgment. While at times I felt ashamed, Taylor never shamed me. At one point I told her to “slap” me if I ever said anything stupid, and with a smile Taylor said, “I won’t do that, but I will call you out.” Along with my front door, our hearts were opened up that day, as together we took a dive into the pool of vulnerability that makes true friendship possible.
Taylor’s honesty and grace gave me a safe place to explore and understand my own Whiteness and inherent racism. I had been reading for a few years how important it is to just listen and hear what POC are telling White people about their experience. We do not need to respond, defend, or explain, we just need to listen. What felt difficult before, feels easy with Taylor, and finally, I understand what Black Lives Matter really does mean and the importance of seeing race, not ignoring it.
The Work Is Just Beginning
In the subsequent year, my relationship with Taylor slowly deepened. COVID-19 became a reality and our chats are now via texts, emails, and from a safe distance across our yards. George Floyd was murdered and it felt like White voices were finally joining the rage demanding racial justice. I could see something in Taylor open up: her voice became stronger in the community, in public and on social media. She has become my touchstone on how to navigate the conversations about race we need to have. With Taylor by my side, I feel very ready to have these discussions with friends, family, neighbors, and all of you Kuel Life Women! My next blogs will be more about our relationship, some of the concrete things I have learned, and some excellent resources that have been helpful for my journey. I will also describe some of the anti-racism work we are starting to do within our neighborhood. As mid-life Kuel women, we can help make the world a better place for all of us. Will you join me?
About the author:
Kim Friedman Landau is a 63 year old retired medical social worker who lives in Boston. She is an avid bicyclist, walker, crafter, cook, volunteer, partner, mother, sister, friend and now writer. After having cancer at age 51, Kim decided that life was a journey to be treated as an ongoing series of adventures. She is having a blast trying new things and exploring new ways to grow as a person. Blogging about what she is always learning is her latest joy.