The first thing I noticed as I began to peruse some of my favorite reading materials on this second day of February, 2018 was a much larger than normal proliferation of articles featuring some aspect of African American history. It struck me as unusual but I quickly realized why it was the case, February is black history. As I reflected momentarily on this fact I realized something somewhat astounding. At this present moment in my life I know only three black people, and I know them just barely. and only because we work for the same company. Two men I work with directly in my building but rarely interact with, mostly because of our job roles, and the other indirectly as she runs a sister business in another part of the country. I have met her twice in person and talked to her on the phone briefly once or twice. I have not a single black friend or even acquaintance beyond those three. To my knowledge there are no other black people in my building at work, from highest level senior scientist or business manager to lowest level technician, including janitorial staff and building maintenance personnel. It must be said that my exposure to the lab/office staff is limited to my working hours and floor so at other times and other parts of the building there may very well be.
That last point does not change the fact that only two black men, one woman, and no children, exist anywhere of any consequence in my life. To be honest it has been much the same way my entire life though rarely this extreme. I have had a few black friends in the past, and had the occasional black co-worker, but right now the only black face I am aware of outside of work lives four or five doors down from me in the (shitty) apartment complex in which I currently reside, and I have seen him a grand total of three times in the approximately three months I have called this place my home. I am not the first to comment of the stratification of the American population, mostly by income, which often translates directly to race. We think of the upper middle class (white) population in the suburbs with the better schools, more job opportunities, less crime, and higher end shopping options, and the lower middle class (black, latino) city and inner city with rampant crime, limited opportunities on all fronts, and schools where chaos and disorder reign. This is a stereotypical (mis)characterization in many ways, but the broader message of the stovepipeing of the American populace by race feels very real to me, especially at present.
All that said I am not so sure it applies in my case. While my income puts me squarely in the middle to upper middle class, massive debt, poor financial decisions, and string of really bad breaks (including a serious illness that almost/did kill me) over the course of my life have left me seemingly forever stranded in the ranks of the lower middle. Honestly, most of the time, I could give two shits, which is exactly the attitude that got me where I am today. However, because of that I currently find myself living in a run down shithole apartment complex in a ‘mixed’ income suburb-like town near, but not too near, a city with a large and diverse African American population. I have a roommate as I cannot afford to live on my own, and I am currently still driving the same Honda Fit my parents kindly ‘loaned’ to me when my life fell apart after the death of wife nearly two years ago (love you forever baby and God I miss you). I could not afford to buy a car outright and do not have the credit to finance the lease or purchase of one so I would be car less were it not for them. I was actually surprised the apartment allowed me to sign a lease as I had been turned down for poor credit by another when I looked to possibly rent a small home in the area.
Bottom line is I am about as far from your typical young urban professional as one can get. At the age of 44, I don’t even qualify for the young part of that anymore. And yet still my current circle of friends, acquaintances, and co-workers only contains a grand total of three black persons. Maybe that is on me for being so anti-social or holding subconscious racist attitudes that I do not even recognize, or maybe it is on society. Probably it is some combination of those things. Whatever the factors I find it sad and a little worrisome. I guess I will end there and ask, any black people out there looking for a nerdy white friend to go rock climbing and hiking/camping with? I also enjoy talking about analytical philosophy, neurophilosophy/neuroscience, and particle physics. I love cats and build cat trees and decorative wooden boxes in my spare time. Who could say no to that? I don’t care what race, class, or creed. lol!