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April 15, 2005

Hanging With Lee

I did a lot of talking yesterday, and Lee did a lot of listening. I told her she was destroying my blog for all the things I might have said here went only to her. Lee is a protege of sorts. I'm showing her my Los Angeles. She comes from an extraordinarily sheltered world that I didn't know existed, and she wants to bloom under a different sun. She takes notes.

So we drove all over. We met yesterday afternoon at the foot of the hills of the Doheny oilfield and went first at the top of Hahn Park looking across the city. We cruised through the Jungle, to the Fox Hills Mall, up and down Crenshaw, to West Adams, up into The Dons, View Park and Ladera. We went to Farmers Market for my favorite Korean BBQ and watched the odd black woman scowl at us. She noticed how white men were looking at her, and we talked about all that. We went up into Hollywood and then down to the South Bay, to the Hermosa Pier and then up to Marina Del Rey. It was all new.

We talked and talked. The interesting thing I learned was about how men want to own women, and the rules that fathers and mothers make to conspire control of their bloodlines. It's makes for a wicked conservatism, and I can see how it had crushed a little life out of Lee. But she's gaining confidence in this world and she wants to be a part of all of it, not just her own well-wrapped universe.

She helped me realize how fortunate I have been at a young age to be exposed to a wide variety of whitefolks. Because she looks at them and she sees nothing. We didn't talk about white women more than once in 12 hours, but of white men and how they do nothing for her. Of course she's never been down South and you might imagine the sort she met at her elite New England college. "75% rich and 50% gay". So one can hardly blame her, as sheltered and protected as she has been, both by her parents and by her own mind. And while there's nothing particularly special about whitefolks, it's always useful to recognize them for the way they recognize themselves, which is what traveling among and between the various cliques can do for a young person.

But Lee only traveled from the old country in Eastern Europe to America as a child driven from oppression. And so she has remained close to her parents for all of her 2 dozen years, without much freedom at all. She said that if you took the African American out of the Conservative Brotherhood creed, you would harness 70% of her countrymen. And she knows of black men who hang with them finding much in common.

I say we are all emergent in America, and sometimes we clutch at ourselves when encountering cielings and walls against our ethnicity. Sometimes we hold our loved ones too close and create in them a fear of the unknown that is easily knowable. On the pier we stared into the cold black water. The sea is massive, powerful and all encompassing. But you can never trust the sea. All you can trust is your ability to swim.

Posted by mbowen at April 15, 2005 09:28 AM

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