Letters to My Tutor…

My dearest Simone,

When I was a teenager in the Mississippi Delta it was common for white teenagers to share soda from a single can with their friends, passing the can back and forth between them. Among black people in the area this was taboo behavior. Black siblings would not share a can of soda in this manner let alone just friends. This was a commonly known difference. For groups of friends that included white and black teenagers, the soda sharing situation most often worked itself out in one of two ways:

  1. The white friend offered the soda can to a black friend with the expectation that the black friend would feel flattered and included as well as an expectation of receiving credit for not being racist. Refusal of the soda was taken to be a hostile and unfriendly gesture on the part of the black friend. (Group 1)
  2. The white friend recognized that the black friend was uncomfortable with soda sharing but made efforts to communicate an openness to sharing soda with a black friend, perhaps by placing the soda can where it was easily accessible to the black friend. If the black friend did not drink from the soda can, the white friend tried not to take it personally. If the black friend did drink from the soda can, the white friend showed recognition and gratitude that the black friend crossed a cultural barrier and understood that some level of reciprocation might be expected. (Group 2)

I will give analysis of this next week. In pondering what has made certain cross-cultural experiences in California more comfortable or less comfortable, I’ve been put in mind of what types of considerations accounted for that difference when growing up in Mississippi.

So, until next time…