MY FIRST WHITE FRIEND by Patricia Raybon


Confessions on Race, Love, and Forgiveness
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 In these related essays, an African-American woman documents her passage from racial hatred to personal salvation and delivers an eloquent message of hope. For most of her life Raybon saw that ``white people, conveniently, played their timeless role . . . every day [they] did something hateful''--and she hated them in response. But in middle age, Raybon, a journalist and commentator on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition, found that she had to ``stop hating . . . to start living.'' Here she traces the origins of her racial hatred through several generations, focusing on how lessons of hate, not love, were taught in daily life (her own, her father's, his mother's). A combination of racism and self-doubt fed their desire for white approval, a condition that became more acute for Raybon when her family moved to a predominantly white Denver suburb. There she learned a self-negating art: ``Smiling when nothing is nice. Laughing when nothing is funny. Agreeing when nothing is agreeable.'' These essays, while episodic, are packed with powerful moments: Raybon seeing her first anti-segregation picket, being terrorized by a pack of white boys at school, being approached on the playground by a kind girl who became her first white friend. In her quest for peace, the author looks mainly to God and to the writings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Through them, she says, she freed herself from the hatred for white people that had kept her a slave to her anger and her past. But forgiveness, she stresses, is a process, a matter of degrees. Unfortunately, Raybon leaves some holes in the narrative: The relationship between her own daughters--one dark-skinned, and one light--remains unexamined, and readers never learn what became of Kerry Monroe, her first white friend. A tale of hard-won racial healing, and a universal testament to the power of reaching out and moving on. (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-670-85956-7
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1996