Culture & Community

Some Of My Best Friends Are People: A Look At Humanism & Race

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Bob Marrone with Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., Rev, Jeffrey Wheeler & Damon K. Jones at Black Westchester 2 year anniversary party at Mangoville [Black Westchester]
Bob Marrone with Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., Rev, Jeffrey Wheeler & Damon K. Jones at Black Westchester Magazine’s 2 Year Anniversary Party at Mangoville Restaurant Bar & Grill [Black Westchester]

Written by Guest Columnist Bob Marrone

I am fortunate to have lived two separate lives resulting in a hybrid third version, kind of a Marrone3.0. The first, a working class, dirty faced boy into manhood on the streets of Brooklyn where I learned the core values of hard work, honesty, loyalty and even a bit of gallantry. These ideals will stay with me until the day I die and no-doubt contributed to success in two different careers, the latter in which I remain engaged.

My second life was a wonderful ride, literally around the world during which I had the opportunity to embrace literature, science, the arts and foreign affairs. Perhaps, more useful, I was exposed to the relationships and dependencies among people, races, businesses, science, geography, resources and, necessarily, the politics of nation states.

For good or evil, I am now an amalgam of these two worlds. They are me, and I am the better for it. Like all good things, though, they come at a price.

To see the world and the people in it from two different, diametrically opposed, points of view is as painful as it is rewarding.  

I have white friends who are wonderful people who embody the values I talked about. They are the resultant gifts from the street and solid parents. They take care of their families, work hard to educate their kids and pay more than their fair share of taxes. They are all successful in a variety of blue and white-collar jobs, as well as the professions and small businesses. Most of them are going to vote for Donald Trump. Some of them, though not many, also use the N-word, while others think Barack Obama is a Muslim and hates America. Still others thing Hillary Clinton killed Vince foster.

I have black friends who believe that a black person cannot be racist, and still others who think a white man IS racist if he/she says that blacks have to stop killing each other, or that the thug aspect of the inner city culture in the black community is toxic.

I have liberal friends who can’t see how the culture of political correctness is destroying the most important thing a college and a free society can offer… the ability to think openly and critically.

I have conservative friends who believe that their religion should trump our laws even if they deny someone their civil rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.

For reasons combining the sociology of group think, tribalism and good old fashion organizational necessity, many of these folks join parties or movements that revolve around some or all of their core beliefs. They take sides and stick to their guns, even when facts disagree with their conclusions. I will expand on this at another time, but since my focus in this piece is humanism and race, I will stick to my knitting and limit any references to this dynamic to that.  

More recently one of my black friends posted a question on Facebook, implicitly asking black folks if they were “better off without integration;” not forced integration, mind you, just integration. He has also at other times over the years, made posts that I variously agreed with or disagreed with, most on the subjects of race and politics. It was, as they say, all good.

Now, though, I am starting to feel hurt, rejected even. I think a lot of this man. It is clear we like each other and each other’s company. But I worry, in my own neurotic way, that because I am white, I will not quite measure up; that I am somehow a second class friend. The irony is not lost on me here. I am sure that is a feeling that black people have had for hundreds of years both collectively and individually, and with good cause.

I want it to stop. I want it to stop for them and me and mine.  

At first blush, I want to scream out that I have plenty of black friends, and should not be shunned for being white. I want to yell out that I have worked for four black bosses, and worked with black people and black deputies all my life; that I have as two of my closest friends black women. Yet to say so is patronizing, or seen as such. But this is a story about my inner life and it needs to be honest. So it is what it is.

But I hurt now. I wonder that maybe these black friends think of me as different, and that my love for them is somehow illegitimate; that maybe I am missing something.  I never thought of it as a big deal. They are just people I love.    

I guess it’s good that I can glean from this more empathy for the black experience.  But I need to stick to my guns at one aspect of this issue.

I have Asian friends, Jewish friends, Indian friends, Muslim relatives and lots of Italian and Irish guys and girls I grew up with who are friends. I could go on and patronize every last group.  But then it hits me.

I love people, flaws and all. Most have more than enough good in them for me to see why they are the way they are, how they got they way, and why they may not always do what others of good will think they should, including what I might think they should. It is a cliché, but I am gonna go there… that’s why clichés got they way because of their consistent, if annoying, truth.

People are the same the world over, changed and affected by their individual and group experiences, often too marinated by those they identify with. My black friends have every right to question a world and society that has made them feel as I do now, and that often has denied them the American Dream they were promised. They also have the right and humanity to be wrong-headed about it sometimes. My white friends have every right to question a government that takes their money, spends it on others (and not always justly), and sometimes wrong-headedly show their own humanity by misjudging or judging too harshly, those who did not have the benefits they had.

I have also came, in my own heart, to the core of where I hope the world will be one day, especially here in America as the long history of race relations works itself out: I hope one day it will be humorously patronizing to say that “Some of my best friends are people.” Hopefully, too, I won’t have to feel guilty for wanting to say it.

Bob Marrone is a broadcaster, writer, businessman. Marrone is the Host of WVOX 1460 AM’s Morning Show, Good Morning Westchester and Executive Director of the New Rochelle Chamber of Commerce. Follow him on Twitter.

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