Backyard Conversations

After all, the 'We' includes you, the situations, issues, comical conversations, adventures. You Know!

Have you ever been in one of those awkward conversations with someone of another race where both of you are talking to each other about some topic that has racial undertones but both of you are pretending it is race neutral? It's not big news stuff, but regular everyday conversation.

I have a very good friend that just happens to be black and we just happen to live in an area that is slowly experiencing gentrification. The community is becoming not only ethnically diverse, but economically diverse. We have expensive houses next to boarding houses next to coffee houses next to rat infested burned out houses next to well kept 100 year old houses next to museums next to rentals for college students next to a college. There's never a dull moment in our backyard conversations. My point is, and I do have one, is that it sets up a lot of awkward/unusual backyard & over the fence conversations.

So, here I am, in the midst of an inner-city neighborhood talking to this black man about our neighbors, about chicken bones and trash thrown outside on the ground. It was so full of unspoken racial undertones. On the one hand, I felt almost guilty for talking to him about this, which no doubt reinforces stereotypes he may have about white folks, but on the other hand why can't we talk, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, about a problem that affects everyone in the community? It's that damn DuBois duality! How can he implore our neighbors to keep the neighborhood clean, free of trash and food scraps without feeling like he has betrayed some black chicken brotherhood? Or at a neighborhood meeting I mention the very same thing, I am viewed as making a racist comment.

So, I can't talk about it and the black guy can't talk about, so we go about our business and nothing gets done? Yes, we all know that to mention black folks and chicken in the same sentence makes for a sensitive topic but geez! My friend and I actually love fried chicken!! As we live and work together, we are going to have to learn how to navigate these awkward discussions. When will people realize that you can have a race-neutral beef with people that just happens to be of another race? My friend is definitely not an elitist 'Uncle Tom' if he complains, and I am not a racist if I complain. We both just want our neighborhood to be clean and safe. We don't care what color you are, stop throwing your chicken bones, beer cans, and McDonald wrappers on the ground and especially on the ground in my yard!

So, it's time to go pick up the trash in my yard from yet another Saturday night and maybe, just maybe, it will be a trash free day. I can dream can't I? At least my mailbox wasn't used for batting practice!


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