submit or we'll send you down to oxford mississippi and drive you the wrong way around the confederate statue and oh man how your scream will signify nothing!

Tony, my black friend in the fifth-grade

Tony was the first black kid ever to attend a birthday party of mine. I was surprised he showed up, but happy that he did. He gave me a toy car that looked like it was used. Still, it was the thought that counted. I'm sure he didn't have enough money to buy me something new. It makes me kind of sad when I think about it. Tony had a good time at my party; in photos he looks happy and comfortable. He's in quite a few of the photos, actually. You can't miss him. There's one picture where he's standing off to the side and waiting patiently for some cake. He looks relaxed in it. I've framed and put the photo on my mantle just in case any black people come over to visit or deliver furniture. I think it'll put them at ease to know that I have a history of having black friends that dates all the way back to my childhood.

Mary, my black co-worker 

Of all the black people I've had the privilege of working with, Mary has been by far the best. She is a smart and dependable person. Day in and day out Mary puts forth a top-notch effort, and she always gets the job done. Yes, she does have a slight temper, but I let that go because she's such a strong worker. I'm still not sure why she got offended when I asked her what "fo shizzle ma nizzle" meant. If she doesn't know what it means, she doesn't know. No big deal. I just thought that since I'd heard other black people use the phrase that she might know what it meant. Apparently that isn't the case. My bad. It's a term of endearment, yes?

The friendly old black man who works at the supermarket

I'm embarrassed to admit I forget the friendly old black man who works at the supermarket's name. I think it might be "Danny," but I'm not sure. God, that's awful. I should really know his name; I talk to him just about every time I go to the supermarket. He's always so friendly and helpful. One time I couldn't for the life of me find where the peppercorns were. I looked up and down every aisle and was really starting to get frustrated. Eventually I asked the friendly old black man who works at the supermarket for some assistance, and lo and behold he actually knew where the peppercorns were! He was even kind enough to show me exactly which shelf they were on. What a friendly old black man he is! I have to remember to get his name next time. "Hey you" just doesn't feel right.

The Az-Hakims, my new black neighbors

It's about time the neighborhood got some diversity, and we have the Az-Hakims to thank for it. They moved out here from the inner-city a couple of months ago and thus far we haven't had any complaints. They seem to keep a clean house and I haven't once had to ask them to turn down their music. In fact we haven't seen much of them at all. They're great neighbors. I'm not completely sure they're black, though. I'm just assuming they are because they have a black sounding last name. I saw the son once and he sort of looked like Derek Jeter. Is Derek Jeter black? I don't know.

Leon, my uncle's gay black life-partner

It hasn't been easy for me to accept Leon into the family. Initially, I was taken aback by his flamboyant nature and bright shirts. I'd never really been around a gay person before, let alone a gay black person. They're very different. I don't mean that in a bad way. Being different from others isn't an inherently bad thing. It's just that he gave me a mean case of the willies. Over time, though, the willies subsided and now I'm proud to consider Leon a part of my family -- a gay black part of my family -- but a part of my family nonetheless. Sure it's hard coming up with things to talk about with him, but who doesn't have trouble talking with a gay black man? We chat about food and the weather mostly. I've showed him the picture of my black friend Tony from fifth-grade like four times. I thought of asking Leon about show tunes or that angry gay black man from "The Real World: Seattle," but I figured he probably talks about those things all the time with his gay and black friends. Once I asked him if he knew what "badonkadonk" meant, but he just laughed and said he didn't know. I appreciated that response much better than the one I got from my black co-worker Mary when I asked her the same question. Girlfriend needs to chill. Fo shizzle. Anyway, Happy Black History Month, Leon: I'm honored to be your straight white step-nephew!

[Forever after at

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