Can black women and white women truly be friends?
Yes, but it’s more complicated than that.
I’m fortunate to have several white women I consider my friends. I trust them. They get it — it being the racist obstacle course we black people navigate daily. They’re the ones who jump in at a moment’s notice to tell problematic white people why they’re problematic. They’re the ones who push back at their racist relatives at the risk of having no relationship with them. Fighting racism and white supremacy is paramount to them. They know it’s not okay to stand on the sidelines. They refuse to stay silent.
That’s the only type of white people I will ever call “friend.”
I want to speak directly to the white women who swear you have black female friends. Most of you have acquaintances, not friends. How do I know? If you’ve never sat down and talked to your black friend about how she navigates the world when racism and white supremacy are at every turn, you’re not her friend.
If you haven’t asked your friend what challenges she faces being a black woman in this country, ask yourself why. Perhaps you don’t care. Perhaps you think black people use the term “racism” too often. Perhaps you believe black people actually are treated equally. Whatever your reason, understand why you haven’t had that conversation with her even though you swear you’re her friend.
Trust me when I say racism exists. It’s an epidemic in this country. If you’re someone who thinks it’s not that bad because you don’t see it… ask yourself how you would recognize it if you haven’t personally experienced it. How would you know what it looks like if you haven’t been open to learning how it affects us as black women?
This is why you talk to your black friend. And you believe what she says to her. You don’t question. You don’t challenge. You believe her.
Expending the energy to convince a white person we do, in fact, suffer under the weight of racism just isn’t worth it. It’s painful, annoying and disappointing. For me, this is the end of any hope of friendship with a white person who tries to tell me how I should be feeling or those feelings aren’t valid. A white person who shows me they think they know more about racism than I do? No. I don’t even want them in my space, let alone in my circle of friends.
Look, black women have it hard enough without trying to convince white women of our experiences. If you don’t understand what we go through, you haven’t been trying to understand. That black friend you have? Either get on board and support her or cut her loose. Right now, you’re not her friend. You’re probably causing her harm because you don’t ask her how she’s doing. You take no interest in her welfare, and that’s painful to her.
For me, I live in a state of anticipation — not of anything good but of not knowing when the next white supremacist attack on my psyche will occur. I don’t know who will wield it or from what direction it will come, but it will come. It always does.
It’s just a matter of time.