I think I've told this story before, if you've heard it, scroll down to section 2. This first part just sets up yesterday's story.
My friend Singer is a tall, beautiful African-American woman. We were in small group together for a year. At the beginning of that year, she'd mention she didn't like people touching her, whereupon I'd lean into her shoulder, "What? Like this?" After a year of picking on her, she became one of the best huggers I know. We often joke that I broke her will.
A few months ago, I gave her a ride home after church. While walking three blocks to the car the gray sky began to drizzle and Singer flung up her hands to protect her bangs. When we got into the car I opened the storage bin and pulled out a big red velcro roller, rummaged around and gave her a blue pick/comb. She stared at me in disbelief, "OTRgirl, You are Black!! Nobody I know has rollers and combs in their car except my mother! You are the blackest white girl I've ever met."
This was quite affirming for me. I've often said that my soul is 25% black; but it's not something I can go around proclaiming. Honestly most of my white friends just roll their eyes, "Yeah, yeah, whatever." Sure I can do corn rows, finger waves, spiral curls, perms and wraps for black hair. I know how to double dutch. I love Kirk Franklin. Most of all I know that a playful insult is actually a sign of deep respect (in case you're wondering, that doesn't translate too well into white or Asian culture. And yes, I get in trouble all the time.).
All that leads to yesterday. Singer and I sat together in the back row at church. We tend to talk and laugh a bit, so it's better to be less visible. (Though, come to think of it, that put us right in front of most of the pastoral staff. Oops!) We had an African-American pastor as visiting speaker. When he preaches, his whole church comes with him. At one point he said the American church, has 'lost its shout'. He was basing the sermon on a story of 10 lepers who stand at a distance and shout in desperation for Jesus to heal them. "Where is your desperation? What are you willing to shout about?" Somehow this led into a joking riff about how this is easier to do this if you're black. "If you haven't noticed, we're loud. I'm loud. If you're sitting next to a black person, turn to them and say, 'shut UP!' "
Singer leaned into my shoulder, "Shut UP, OTRgirl!"