My friend Johnny is a middle-class white guy who grew up in a working-class neighborhood in the late seventies and early to mid-eighties. I am a black guy who grew up in that same neighborhood. In fact, Johnny and I grew up two blocks from one another. Johnny’s not a big man, but lean and strong with a crop of graying blond hair and piercing blue eyes, the kind of eyes that could go cold and lifeless in an instant if the situation called for it.
He is a tough working-class guy, years of growing up in the inner city made him and his brothers that way. Johnny and I met in the late seventies at Ferry Elementary school, classroom 103, our teacher was Mrs. Lewis, a pretty, black woman in her late twenties. Johnny is a good man, and honest man, honest almost to a fault at times, the kind of guy that if his wife asked him if the outfit she is wearing makes her look fat if he believes that it does, his answer would be a disastrous,
“Yeah hon, I think it does make you look a little thick around the waist.”
A spiritual man who certainly believes in a higher power, which is something I would attribute to his wife of over twenty years, Lisa. I know this man well, direct, honest, loyal, the kind of guy that sees things in black and white, there are no grey areas as far as he can tell. His belief is either it is one way or the other. On this point, my friend and I often disagree.
Although we stayed in touched and visited each other over the holidays and we talk on the phone almost every weekend are paths have diverged. I decided to pursue a career as a writer and he became a land surveyor. During the economic downturn a few years back, he often found himself out of work and struggling to make ends meet.
It was around this time I began to hear bitterness creeping into his voice. He talked about affirmative action, Immigration reform, border control, Donald Trump’s border wall, in short, he was sounding less like my friend that I had known most of my life and more like Fox News’s Sean Hannity, being African American I found his new views, well, new to me anyway troubling. In the years we have known each other we rarely discussed politics, and even when we did we both seem to agree on the issues.
The Faultline became plain when more NFL players took a knee and protest a system of injustice and inequality of minorities and the Donald decided that he would weigh in. I had assumed like with most things we would see this episode in much the say way, I was wrong. My friend’s response to players taking a knee was surprising and dismaying.
Over the years I had stopped seeing him as a white guy, but hot-button social issues have a way of bringing race back to the forefront. I sat listening to him spewing talking points right off Fox News. Although he never served in the military (I did) he went on talking about how the players were disrespecting America and the men and women who served in the military, and how they should stand and honor the flag no matter what. As I listened to my friend who was beginning to sound a lot like Donald Trump I realized my America and his America were two separate places.
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