America’s small, caffeinated mom to two black men: “You are my fellow Americans”

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Sitting in the food court, I look to my right. Two handsome, young, black men occupy the bench beside me. They’re laughing and talking, bantering back and forth, and then they stand up. I’m watching them, eating dinner with my family, and I’m thinking…

Black and white. Race and division. My country is burning, and there on my right, two black men.

At last I rise and say to my own three men, “I’m going to ask them something.” And there I go.

Approaching them, I say, “Can I ask you a question?” They look up at my unexpected appearance.

The tall one says with a courtly manner, “Yes, ma’am!”

Looking up into their two handsome faces, I say, “I’m a white girl, and I want to know about racism. Have you experienced it? What does it look like to you?” And there we go.

“We get it from all different places,” the shorter one says. He is wearing a doo rag. “Even from our own people.” Oh, my. From their own?

For a few, brief minutes, time stands still as I talk with them in that busy food court. I ask my questions and listen to their answers.

Here are a few nuggets that they gave me. “We are the only group of people that has a hyphen. They call us ‘African-American.’ We’re American!” I am smiling, just grinning so big. “We are black, and we’re American.”

My heart is exploding with joy, for these men are echoing what I have learned. “You are my fellow Americans,” I tell them both. “That’s how I look at you. You are my fellow Americans.”

The tall one, he says to me, “People call us African, but they don’t know where we come from. I could have come from Haiti, or–” And here, his cousin interjects, “I’ve been referred to as Dominican.” I can see why from the shade of his skin, for he’s lighter.
“We don’t know where we came from.” That’s what they tell me; they do not know their roots. “We are people of peace.” They may not know their roots, but they know this piece. “We ARE people of peace.”

That’s when I look at my two new friends, and I say, “I don’t know if you believe in God, but you come from Him. So you,” and now I’m beaming with one finger pointing high, “are royalty!”

They’re beaming, too. “Yes, we believe in God, and yes, we do come from Him.”
“I love you as my fellow Americans. I want you to know that’s how my family sees you, too.” That’s what I say.

It’s the one on the right who holds out his hand to shake mine. Then the one on the left, he holds his out, too, and white and black, we join hands.

“Thank you, Miss Rhonda!” On that happy, happy note, I turn to rejoin my family who’ve been watching our sweet interaction. Their faces are bright and smiling and warm, as they watch my new friends, Demarc and M.C., walk away.

“Mom, you can make friends with anyone,” says The Cub, and I know it’s because of the love. For the language of heaven? It’s love.

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