We live in a little hundred-year-old Tudor house on the north side of Minneapolis. Our second story is a one-bedroom mother-in-law apartment that we rent out to a filmmaker friend of ours. This beautiful relationship results in our kids having their very own “live-in uncle.”
It was a warm, spring weekday morning with my husband at work and the kids at school. I was outside seed planning for my garden. My friend, Ms. T, was making her way to the bus stop. Yet when she saw me sitting on my stoop she decided to walk over to say hello.
She would catch the next bus.
As is our way, it took no time for us to get to talking about the community garden, growing food, medicinal plants, and so on. We would often spend hours talking about the healing properties of plants and food justice. I invited her in for a cold beverage before she went back outside to wait for the bus. As we were sitting there sharing stories, laughing, and generally just truly enjoying the moment, our housemate/renter came home. He saw us visiting and decided to pop in to say hi and of course to meet my friend.
After introductions, she cast a pointed look at me then directed her gaze back to our interrupter, gave him a nod, and asked, “Ever had a Black woman in your house?”
Nothing that comes out of Ms. T’s mouth surprises me, but I did find myself waiting and curious as to my friend's response.
To this, our housemate looked at me and said, “She’s feisty. I like her. She won’t let you get away with anything.” We all laughed. “To answer your question, while it is not very common to see Black folks in my friends’ homes in other circles, yes, here it is very natural.”
We began to let the chat take lots of turns and curves, but soon we circled back to the reality of the lack of cross-racial relationships, friendships, and neighborly interactions. This wasn’t the first time a sentiment like this has been expressed in our home or while visiting Black neighbors in their homes.
Sure, we can be neighborly. Polite. Offer surface-level “hellos” and cordialities. But what about real and true relationships? Who is invited to your dinner parties? Kids’ birthday parties? Celebrations? Traditions? Funerals? Who do you share the hard reality of life with? What do those inner circles look like?
We got caught up exploring and pondering the divide when it comes to cross-racial and cross-cultural relationships. But who better to invest in those relationships with than your neighbors, with whom you share a unique life experience?
It was a conversation I won’t soon forget. Two hours later Ms. T caught the bus.
If you would like to read more about the Black experience in white spaces, I recommend The Black Friend by Frederick Joseph.