A worldwide pandemic, an American election causing so much rage, and racial issues in an uproar. As if that wasn’t enough for the world to handle, relationships were also put to the test. Friendships were on the line because it wasn’t just politics coming in between people. It was values and morals. It was a defining year for people with their families and friends, and it seemed that everyone’s moral compass was at risk of shattering.
I have a very close friend in my life. Our children are the same age, we live in the same area, we have many things in common, and are often mistaken for sisters. She has supported me in some difficult moments and I remember and appreciate that even today. But 2020 tested our friendship far more than I ever thought it would. It allowed me to remove the rose-tinted glasses I viewed her with, and with that, I came to the disturbing realization that maybe I don’t know my friend as much as I thought I did.
It started with the issue of COVID-19. She was very skeptical about the virus to begin with. I understand that many people were, especially since we did not have much knowledge about it. But the conspiracy theories were getting out of hand. Social distancing became more of a joke to her. One day she decided that she would jump off of the “plandemic” bandwagon and alternate between conspiracy theorists and the mask pushing people, aka me. So it was a lot of “Psht, I don’t even know if this is real” and “OMG, people need to wear their masks!” Cue many eye rolls and a lot of tongue biting from me. But I allowed myself to feel some relief knowing that she at least wore her mask.
Then racial tensions began to arise. The death of Ahmad Arboury shocked me, and I remember running and dedicating those miles to him along with many other runners. I told my friend about it and she was strangely quiet. She merely nodded and said that it was a nice thing to do. In early May, the death of George Floyd shook the world and with it, a new movement rose against racial injustices. Being a person of color myself, my passion rose for these issues and when I spoke of them, I was met with either a blank stare or an amused smile. My fury was slowly growing. When Donald Trump failed to say any sort of unifying statement to the nation, my rage grew. Since my friend and I frequently visited each other, my rage was met with “Well, Trump doesn’t stand for racism.” My mouth just hung open. I followed that up with examples of where Trump really did stand for racism, including moments from his 2016 rallies. All I got in response was more blank stares.
I would often go to any of the local protests, donning my mask and sign. Sometimes I would go with another friend, other times I went by myself. She called me when I was on my way to one protest solo and seemed surprised that I would attend without anyone accompanying me. She offered to join me so that I wouldn’t be by myself. I politely declined, saying that I didn’t have a problem going without anyone. And I told her that I didn’t realize she would be comfortable going at all since this was a Black Lives Matter protest, not the “All Lives Matter” rhetoric that she was following. She seemed shocked that I would think that, and told me that of course she supports the movements. Well, that was news to me.
As the election grew closer, I became tighter-lipped. I knew that she had many Trump supporter friends, and I was realizing that she wasn’t just alternating in between two candidates or politically “somewhere in the middle.” She was also on the Trump side. Whenever we spoke, we didn’t mention anything that had to do with politics. My social media accounts were flooded with me posting and reposting things against Trump, about BLM, and about racial injustices. Hers was flooded with things like staying away from negativity and always looking for the positive side of things, and not letting politics come in between family and friends. It was beyond infuriating. There was passive-aggressiveness on both sides.
Maybe it was the fact that eventually Biden won the election and I could actually glimpse at what it was like to be a proud American and not at what a racist patriot is, but I began to slowly forgive my friend. I had to look at what she grew up around, the friends she chose to make, the area she was in. I looked at the education she had had, and even the social media accounts she followed. It was no wonder why she is the way she is. I had to make a decision. Should I overlook her ignorance and continue my friendship with her, all the while biting my tongue? Or should I cut her loose? My anger and bitterness over the entire year had built up to that moment where my rage clouded my vision, literally and metaphorically.
At this point, I have decided to let my friendship with her continue. Maybe a part of me believes that one day I will have enough influence over her to change her mind on some of these topics. Maybe I will have enough influence to steer her daughter in the direction of more diversity and equal rights for ALL, not just for people who look like her. Perhaps my own children can be an example of what the future generation should be like, assuming I’m doing everything I can to raise them in an awesome way! Or maybe I’m just remembering the good times that we have had in the past. Maybe, just maybe, it can be enough to outweigh any of the bad things that I have seen from her. Crazier things have happened, right?