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UnCommon Bonds

Women Reflect on Race and Friendship


Edited By Kersha Smith and Marcella Runell Hall

UnCommon Bonds is a collection of essays written by women representing multiple identities; all uniquely addressing the impactful experiences of race, ethnicity, and friendship in the context of the United States. The essays unapologetically explore the challenges of developing and maintaining cross-racial friendships between women. A primary goal of this book is to resist simplifying cross-racial friendships. Instinctively, the editors believe that there is a unique joy and pain in these relationships that is rarely easy to summarize. The essays reflect narratives that challenge assumptions, disclose deep interpersonal struggles, and celebrate the complex sisterhood between women across racial lines.

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Chapter 11: Choosing Each Other: Love, Friendship, and Racism (Jennifer M. D. Matos / Gail E. Norskey)


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Love, Friendship, and Racism

Jennifer M. D. Matos and Gail E. Norskey

It’s not obvious how we would come to be so close. We come from different places. Gail is a white (Polish and Italian), upper-middle-class, straight, Catholic, female, temporarily able-bodied person. Jen is a queer, disabled, middle-class, Catholic Latina. Gail was raised in a homogeneously white neighborhood in Gardner, Massachusetts, and Jen was raised in a predominantly people of color neighborhood in Jersey City, New Jersey. We couldn’t look more different, but it’s what you can’t see that connects us.

We feel we are like the same person on the inside. What we mean by this is that we share similar values. We value loyalty and humor, family and authentic relationships, honesty and justice. We are connected and similar—when we are on the phone together, our respective spouses will say, “I know who is on the phone—I can tell by how you are laughing—you only laugh like that with each other.” Our laughter is a powerful metaphor for our relationship. What our spouses understand when they hear us laugh is that we are completely free with each other. We can laugh like that because we don’t fear being vulnerable. We trust each other deeply.

We came to truly know what was inside each of us because of some terrible things that we experienced together. The details of...

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