I attend a small catholic church in a White neighborhood. On a good day, we’re about ten Black people at most. On two or three occasions, I think I have only been the only Black person there. I only say this to give you a visual color demographics of the church – so to say.
The catholics do this peace-be-with-you thing where everyone shakes their neighbor’s hand, and it’s supposed to mean that we’re all at peace (and wishing each other the peace of the Lord). Ever since the swine flu palaver broke out last year (or was it this year?), the members of this particular catholic church I go to have stopped shaking hands with each other, apparently to stop the spread of swine flu. Some people still shake hands, but most just smile or bop their heads up and down.
Silly me, I didn’t know. I still went to church stretching my arm out, only to be met by apprehensive faces. Honestly, I thought it had something to do with my race. I later found out that the swine flu was the reason for their lack of hand shakes. Unfortunately, I still think my race has something to do with it. Why? Because this catholic church is in a predominantly White neighborhood with older, more conservative White people. Oh, and they’re mostly Republicans, too – if that means anything to you. I should also mention that I noticed the lack of hand shakes before the swine flu broke out.
I’m always almost breaking out in sweat whenever it’s time for peace-be-with-you because I never know what kind of neighbor I have sitting next to me. Some of them are very happy to shake my hand while the rest could not be bothered. I don’t want to stretch my arm out and be left hanging. At the same time, I don’t want to leave anyone hanging. What to do, what to do?
Anyone else thinking what I’m thinking? I think that prior to the peace-be-with-you, I should interview all my neighbors and ask them how they feel about having their hands shaken. It will save us all some time and embarrassment. And repressed anger.
What say you?