My First White Friend: Confessions on Race, Love and Forgiveness
God help me. I stopped hating white people on purpose about a year ago.
With that daring confession, award-winning journalist Patricia Raybon begins My First White Friend--a piercing account of her decision, in midlife, to stop hating white America by learning to love herself. In a hypnotic narrative that is part journal, part memoir, part social analysis, Raybon discovers that racial forgiveness is a daring choice. But the risk isn’t in learning to love white people, it’s in learning to peel back the layers and make peace with herself. "That is the real matter. And it takes a harsh spotlight."
Raybon turns that spotlight first on her Fifties childhood in eastern Colorado, where she learned "every race distortion ever performed by dark people: smiling when nothing is nice, laughing when nothing is funny; agreeing when nothing is agreeable."
In that setting, Raybon mastered the polite "grin of powerlessness," urged on by the dogged upward mobility of her Mississippi-born father and the rigid rules of their middle-class life. But while she was soon acceptable to white people, she’d become an angry stranger to herself.
A quarter century later, Raybon realized her perplexed rage wouldn’t be remedied by stoking her buried anger for whites, but by forgiving them, especially for the past. That "audacious idea...a holy lunacy" meant first forgiving herself, but also forgiving her father for his seemingly excessive demands, her country for its caustic racial legacies, and even God for seeming to allow it all.
Along the way, Raybon unearths her family’s history to uncover the origins of her anger, then traces the significant chapters in her own life--among them her childhood confusion about race, her adolescent awe of "white" popular culture, her discovery of sex and its mythology in black life, the roles of marriage and motherhood, a rediscovery of her religious faith, and a friendship with her first white friend--to travel the hard road from hatred to forgiveness, trust, love, letting go and moving on.
An honestly direct but deeply hopeful journey, My First White Friend is a stunning, courageous and original declaration that yielding to love is forever more powerful than drowning in hate.