I always enjoy going to my book club meetings. There’s always this great camaraderie amongst us black sisters. It’s a rare thing for me in this city to be surrounded by various shades of the same colour of women. It’s hard to get a bunch of women together on a semi regular basis just to share a few laughs and talk about a book (that I have rarely even finished). It’s always a gift. Just this past Sunday, only 2 of us made it this woman’s house not too far away from me. I was late because I had rushed out to grab a coffee from Starbucks and head on over to where we usually meet only to find out once I parked that I had forgotten my phone, went back home to retrieve it, then go directly to the place only to realize that it wasn’t there but another woman’s house and after much wrangling with my phone’s GPS, I finally arrived almost 40 minutes late. Oh, but we were treated to a most delightful West Indian meal of curried goat, channah, roti and rice. I was in heaven! I couldn’t stop smiling. We started to talk about our latest read, I.nfidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. At one point, I said I had no regard for any religion that could not offer happiness and equality for all people. Somehow we got on the topic of where our hostess goes to church. She then proceeds to tell us that she goes to a church led by a priest who left the main branch because he refused to marry gay people. And that she agreed with that. Oh yeah and that the reason there is homosexuality is because of overcrowding (i.e. in prisons) and even in the animal kingdom, animals only do that if they are forced to due to lack of space for ranging. WTF? I told her that first of all, you couldn’t compare human beings to animals and also that homosexuality has been around forever, and that it has nothing to do with “overcrowding”. I didn’t get very far before my other friend piped in about something completely unrelated.
I was gobsmacked. Here was a highly educated woman, a professor, no doubt, who was funny, charming and articulate who had cooked me one of the heartwarming meals I had eaten in quite some time. She had just boxed up leftovers to take home to my husband and son. I debated in my mind just exactly what to say next and how to say it. In the meanwhile, the other woman just filled in space with some other trifling matter. I tried to get back to a story I wanted to share about an old friend of mine who had become a born again Christian and once again, I was interrupted by the other woman who just had to mention something. I debated once again about whether I should return to my story because the point was that this young man I had considered a kid brother and friend was unable to spend time alone with me any longer because it was inappropriate, that somehow being alone with me would lead to temptation or some other horseshit like that. In fact, while I was waiting for him, his male roommate entertained with me boring vacation pictures with the apartment door WIDE OPEN. Then I could tie back to the themes we were discussing where the author of Infidel discusses female subjugation in the name of religion that just because you were devout ANYTHING didn’t give you a divine right to oppress or denigrate groups of people. Or maybe I would just say one of my best friends is gay and if he were to get married tomorrow, I’d be thrilled or maybe I should have said, hey, my brother in law is gay and he’s married. So there.
But instead I said nothing and thanks to the other woman who prattled on despite my baffled face or (did my face betray my heart) and five minutes later, I’m walking to my car, boxed food in hand and feeling a bit sick. I had made my point, but I hadn’t challenged her head on.
I always find it interesting when someone who belongs to a race of people with a history of enslavement, oppression and institutional racism seem blind to the fact of their own bigotry towards gay people. I’ve just never sat at the table of someone who grabs your hand to say grace one minute and then allows crap to fall out her mouth. What makes it worse is that she thinks she’s right in holding that attitude because of scripture. But I’m pretty damn sure some people can find some sort of scripture to justify oppression of black people. Or Jews. Or women. Fill in the blank.
I sent her a text thanking her for the food knowing full well that I would never sit at her dining table again. And then she texted back telling me she was going to invite us over in the near future.
Okay, so since I lost sleep over this, I’m going to ask you – should I be polite and courteous (maybe I could use my religion that demands I respect her Buddhahood) but keep her at arm’s length (I rarely see her anyway) or should I just wait tell her that due to her beliefs, we would not feel welcome?
Sigh. That food was damn good, too.