I just wrote this for class. I also cried about my lost childhood best friend almost all day yesterday. She deserved so much more, and I wish she could have gotten it out of life. Rest in peace, beautiful.
Growing up, my childhood best friend was Yvonne McBride. She was half white and half black, and in the small, rural town where we grew up, she was not accepted by anyone. Her parents were divorced, and she was raised by her white mother and grandmother. I remember being at her house once, watching TV and eating dinner on an average Friday night, and her own grandmother ranting about how disgraceful it was that Yvonne’s mother had married a black man and had her. It was stated blatantly in front of her and directed toward her, and this was commonplace in her family. Yvonne’s grandmother always acted as if she wished Yvonne were white, and Yvonne’s mother never defended her choice or her child (possibly out of fear that she would stop getting assistance from her grandmother, or possibly because she agreed - I never could tell). In their family, Yvonne’s older sister who WAS white received a disgraceful amount of favoritism, but no one ever defended Yvonne, and they all spoke and acted as if they agreed she would be a better person if she were white - as if she was the one who made the choice to be born a mixed baby.
In elementary school, she was not accepted by our classmates. She was the only black girl in our entire small private Christian school, and though she “acted white,” she never fit in. I don’t think a lot of the kids in our school were knowingly racist - they just came from a small rural lifestyle where anyone who acted or looked different in any way was ignored and avoided, and she happened to fall into this category. In middle school, her mom enrolled her in public school, and I remember hoping, for her sake, that she would meet some mixed or black kids to be friends with. However, this tragically did not happen. She became a target because her skin was so much lighter than the other black girls, and she was extremely intelligent and always carried herself with dignity. I remember her calling me one day after school crying, which she never did. A small group of black girls had cornered her in the bathroom at school, knocked her backpack out of her hands, got in her face, and screamed at her, accusing her of thinking that she was “better than them.” When I asked her how she reacted, she said she screamed right back and told them she would kill them if they got in her face again. I was startled by her response until she explained, “If I act scared of them, they will harass me forever. They need to be scared of me. It’s the only way I can defend myself.” I remember constantly being so distraught that my amazing friend could be treated by every group of people as if she didn't belong. She was beautiful and intelligent and funny and bubbly, but everyone rejected her, even in her own family. If what you are is black and white but no white people accept you and no black people accept you, then who are you supposed to relate to? Who are you supposed to be?
Once we started high school, we lost touch, but this week’s readings and thinking about my childhood friend prompted me to look her up online. I discovered that her life turned out so much worse than I had hoped. She spent quite a lot of time in and out of jail from 2009-2012. She was arrested for a DUI, various probation violations, and eventually assisting in an armed robbery. She was sentenced to 55 months in jail, and a few months after this, she caught some kind of flu and was quarantined along with over 100 other female inmates. She, however, was the only one who died from the mysterious illness, while in jail, at age 26. I was heartbroken when I learned all of this, and it made me question if she had lived in a different town, went to a different school, or had different color skin, would she have had a better life? If her grandmother had not told her she did not accept her, if her mother had supported her in any way, if the black girls at her school had let her into their inner circle, would she instead have a husband and children and be alive and well? It’s something that will honestly sadden me for the rest of my life. However, I am choosing to also view her and her life as an inspiration - I hope that my counseling and general attitude toward anyone I ever meet in the future, honors her memory and the lessons she taught me.