Part 1 of 2
You know LovingRadiance, something in your post stuck in my mind and (fortuitously) drew it back into the official thread topic:
In that way, I think it's virtually impossible for me to truly know what kinds of challenges many black people must face. Oh I can imagine and try to tap into my empathy abilities, thus gaining something of an appreciation for what they struggle through. But I'd have to *be* them in order to really get it, and no one can really *be* anyone except themselves.
So while I still think imagining and empathizing is good and necessary up to a point, there also needs to be a point when we admit to each other, "I can't really know what it's like to have to face the kinds of hardships you have to face. I can only use my imagination and get a blurry picture of the tip of the iceberg. But if you'll forgive that shortcoming in me, then maybe you'll still be willing to help me better understand how I can help you."
People with mental/emotional disorders get discriminated against for things that other people *can't* see. People with a "minority skin color" get discriminated against for things that other people *can* see.
Which may be one reason why it was so easy for me to reach out to those blacks who were around me and want to mingle my company with theirs. Because, I don't know what it's like to be black, but I do know what it's like to be a misunderstood outcast. Put it this way: There's a good reason why I soon tired of being back in Utah after my stay in Detroit. When marital engagement offered me the chance to run back from Utah to Michigan, I seized it.
And by the by: on further reflection, I remembered the clutch of black neighborhoods in Mt. Clemens which is a small city north of Detroit. I was a piano teacher in Mt. Clemens, and thus had opportunity to engage each week with a good handful of black students at least. So, there again, I learned a little more about "the black culture in that area."
Which, wouldn't ya know it, proved to differ from one individual to the next. Once again, breaking a race down into separate cultures doesn't tell you the whole story. You still have to break separate cultures down into single individual people because no two people are *really* the same, no matter what.
Sad to say, one black girl was my student and I struggled with her. I never disliked her per se, but her "ribbing sense of humor" was worse than mine, and her weekly goal seemed to be to find some new way of getting under my skin. (Pardon the "skin" expression.)
Usually lessons with her were just 30 minutes of minor annoyance, and sometimes even playfulness with her facetiousness. She didn't at all practice like she should have, but by then I'd learned to tolerate that in a student as long as said student was still reasonably respectful towards me as a teacher and as a fellow human being of theirs.
But man, I'll never forget the one piano lesson where that student really did get under my skin. I was passing from youth into my middle-ages, and as a result, she saw opportunity to point out that my fingernails were getting ridges on them, and she thought that was gross.
Hell, I think she meant that as a joke/jibe/poke in the ribs. But God did that hurt, and I didn't even know why. I wasn't even mad. I was just ashamed. I started trying to hide my fingernails, the owie was that bad. [shaking head]
I had another young black lady as a student and, bad as I am at names I still remember her name: LaRenna. I neither confessed nor acted on the thought in any way, but, in addition to having much personality charisma, she was also physically gorgeous and I secretly crushed on her a bit. Her sense of humor was also unflagging and she and I always had a ball poking each other in the ribs, but she also failed to practice much at all, and I was too new of a teacher back then to realize that not practicing doesn't necessarily a bad student (let alone person) make. I eventually "dismissed" her from my tutelage because she wasn't a productive student. God did I grow to regret that decision. My loss.
For awhile, a black man was a student of mine. He had a few Stevie Wonder songs he wanted to learn, which actually helped me to "discover" Stevie Wonder's music and fall in love with it. I didn't get to know the student in question all that well, but I got to know him well enough to learn that he had personal (often relationship-related) heartaches in his life, as, well, frankly, we all do. And no matter what, he was always as gracious and courteous toward me as if I was a king and he was a prince, or the other way around, who could tell. He had to cease taking lessons all too soon. I'd have liked to spend more time with him and get to know him better.
My longest student-teacher interracial relationship was with two young boys who were being raised by their grandmother. I don't think piano was really their thing. After I moved to New Mexico, they started getting into sports and stuff. So they were, well, deplorable in the practicing area. And they were trying at times! another "Odd Couple" type of relationship between me and them. They must have had ADD or something, I couldn't get them to concentrate on the task at hand for more than a few minutes. But their sense of humor was so infectious that I couldn't help but like them. I'll never forget the time when the younger brother grabbed the older brother from behind, and the older brother looked at me and cried, "Mr. Kitchen!" [yes "Kitchen," I eventually had my entire name legally changed] "Help me! He's hate-raping me!" At which point I collapsed into my chair, laughing against all my better judgment. Those two brothers were nuts!
Love means never having to say, "Put down that meat cleaver!"