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November 2012

I Don’t Have Any White Friends

One of my nice Twitter followers who is a gay, White male, feminist, discussed interracial dating and interracial platonic relationships some days ago. When he talked about platonic relationships, I re-realized that I don’t have any White friends.

Sure, I have had White classmates. Though my K-8 years were at predominantly Black schools in gifted, advanced and magnet school-type classes, my high school is a prestigious magnet school that has remained in the top 10 of the top 1000 high schools in the United States for many years now. There were many White students there, but it still was more diverse than any other time I’ve been in school, including college and grad. It didn’t have the abysmal racial population density that most PWIs have. Thus, I’m used to interacting with Whites via education. (It hasn’t always been pleasant, even at times in high school.)

Sure, I have worked with White coworkers. Since age 16, I have worked in industries from retail to education to ultra corporate corner office-type jobs. I’m used to interacting with Whites in employment settings. (It hasn’t always been pleasant.)

Sure, I interact with some cool (read: social justice, anti-bigotry advocates whose feminism is intersectional or photography business associates) White people via social media and I call them “social media buddies” or “tweethearts” (just as I call the other races of people I interact with on Twitter). We have good debates or good laughs online sometimes. (It hasn’t always been pleasant.)

But ultimately, my friends are Black women. The people who held my hand and wiped my tears (literally) at my mom’s funeral eleven years ago were Black women. The people who I share personal stories of dealing with racism, sexism, misogyny, race-specific misogyny (misogynoir) that only other Black women truly understand, microaggressions, street harassment, stress, depression and illness with and they share their personal stories with me by phone/in person are Black women. The people who I celebrate successes with, most often dine with, talk in depth with about the latest episode of Scandal or talk about the latest smart guy or asshole that any of us met are Black women. The people who I feel most comfortable discussing higher education, politics, race and gender (together), dating and other sociopolitical issues with are Black women. My phone time (rare, as I rather text) is primarily spent in conversations with Black women. My frequently called list and the people I text most are Black women. The people who’ve been supporting me most (other than family, of course—which still includes Black women as I have 5 sisters) in regards to applying for and my desire to pursue a Ph.D. have been Black women.

Though all of my relationships with Black women have not been perfect (in the last 12 years I lost 2 major friendships in rather ugly ways and I have had a few Black female coworkers at jobs that were utterly hideous towards me, though most were kind), Black women have been RIDE OR DIE for me. Thus, while ideologically I know that patriarchy has women (claiming that men make “better” friends and a bunch of other garbage that stems from internalized sexism and an attempt to please men) denouncing same gender friendships, practically, I cannot process this. I cannot imagine not having Black women as friends or having my sisters. I think I would die.

Recently I went through major stress because my daddy, who I love dearly, was sick in the hospital for 2 weeks (he’s much better now). My best friend of like 17 years checked on us almost daily, took me to lunch just to talk things out for hours and did so many other kind things for me. I’ve never experienced her level of kindness over the span of our friendship from any man, even the “nicest” boyfriends. Nothing compares.

It’s not that I actively decided that White women cannot be my friends. (And by friend, screw the Facebook definition. I mean the word FRIEND, as it meant long before social media altered it, though not to say that an online “friend” can’t become a real one over time though. Further, I do not mean “frenemy” or any other immature mess.) It’s that dealing with disgust of microaggressions and White privilege, cyber-bullying, and the general disregard for Black women’s full existence that even some White feminists have, I don’t see how actual "I call you up and have dinner, we hang out, we loan each other money, we cry and cheer together, we co-exist even if Facebook goes bankrupt, we travel together, we hug when we see eachother" kind of friendships can exist with them. (From my experiences in the last several years, most of them seem to be looking for “Aibileen” from The Help, not for a relationship between equals where one happens to be Black. Even worse, some will be “friends” with Black women as long as everyone pretends to be “colourblind” and that Black woman’s full existence is marginalized.) The best that I can hope for is minimal racism and no rudeness when I encounter a White woman…and that’s about it. Honestly, a similar wall goes up for me when I encounter one that goes up when I encounter Black men because of two decades of dealing with street harassment.

I…don’t really need any new friends of any race to tell you the truth. Social media buddies? Sure. Acquaintances? Sure. But the “friends” part is already covered. I’m really happy with who I have. I am so lucky, really. I weep for women of any race who have no women friends.

“The loneliest woman in the world is the woman without a close woman friend”. - Toni Morrison

As far as White men go, I don’t have very many male friends in general. I have had really cool and really TERRIBLE coworker experiences with White men. Online, some are cool and are social media or photography buddies. Still though…as far as a “friend” as I defined it here, no, I don’t have any.

(Oh, and…if by chance you’ve read this and are not very educated on race so you want to use terms such as “reverse racism” for my friendship experiences, please go do some research and realize that you are reading the wrong blog for you. Not even just this post, the whole damn Gradient Lair. Thanks, management.)

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