Reconciling New Pro-Blackness with Old Friendships
This is a long-running personal conflict that I’m well overdue to write about it.
So, yesterday, I spent the day hanging out with some good friends, and the subject of politics came up. These days, whenever political discussions happen among most of my friends (particularly in “diverse” company), I normally just bury myself in my phone and let them exchange their different, but pretty much universally problematic viewpoints. But a couple of the comments (out of several) that especially dug into me came from one of my friends, who, to paraphrase, said something like “I recognize racism, I’ve seen it and it’s horrible, but my ancestors immigrated, here, so I didn’t have anything to do with slavery.”
Never mind that, as a white person, you benefit from institutionalized racism and white privilege, regardless of if your ancestors owned slaves, and that white supremacy didn’t end with slavery, and that even recent immigrants in the last century have played their role in white supremacy (Irish and Italian immigrants, for example). And never mind that institutional racism that actually oppresses (and kills) people doesn’t take a backseat to your fragile feelings…fuck your feelings, to be perfectly honest. I’m only becoming more and more frustrated by seeing people who I’ve held close, and have seemingly been paying at least some attention to what I’ve been saying, prioritize absolving themselves of guilt for any role they (and their family) might have played in white supremacy vs simply acknowledging that the system is fucked up and everyone has a hand in it.
But it only continued, when that transitioned into an argument about agreeing with Trump’s stance that undocumented immigrants (which, of course, he called “illegals”). To paraphrase, “My grandparents came here legally, so why can’t everyone else?” And, interestingly enough, a couple of the democrat-voting people around him wholeheartedly agreed with him.
Never mind that the market for undocumented immigrants is created and maintained via capitalism, which exploits their cheap and unaccounted-for labor, or that, in most cases, people have to immigrate here to escape the state of unrest that our own U.S. policies have put their countries in. It’s interesting seeing how, even the more “liberal-identified” people will show their true conservative colors, behind closed doors. Ultimately, our collective culture of capitalism in the U.S. breeds entitlement and selfishness, regardless of whether you vote red or blue.
Oh, and at another point in the conversation, it was “jokingly” alluded to about how I’m often “complaining” about everything. I’ve previously made reference to how problematic it is to reduce 100% valid and justified angst to “complaining.” Yes, I’ve learned to easily brush off those assertions from people, in general, as I understand it largely comes from ignorance, on their part. It also speaks to the fact that I’m clearly doing it right if I’m making people uncomfortable, to where they want to dismiss the conversation by writing me off as “angry” or “complaining.” Even knowing all of that, it still hurts when it comes from people I’m supposed to be good friends with.
It’s also worth noting that not everyone involved in this conversation was white.
There were a few other topics that came up, but I sat there, silent, through the bulk of it. I probably shouldn’t have, but it just wasn’t a fight I felt like having, at the moment (and it didn’t help that was full and buzzed from brunch, which included the obligatory Bloody Mary). I just wanted it to end and pass. Had I engaged, it would’ve just made for an awkward exchange. I’ve already gotten into a heated debate with a friend in this circle before around political issues and it sucked the air out of the entire room. Maybe it was me being chickenshit, but I just didn’t wanna do it again. But the whole situation was extremely uncomfortable, and the sense of safety I usually feel in this circle was somewhat fractured. It was just the latest instance of the growing disconnect I’m feeling with a lot of the connections I’ve held.
Outside of politics and social issues, there’s a great amount of love and respect in these friendships. They reaffirm my authentic self in virtually every other way, and they’re very much people that I consider family. But like any family, sometimes you have those issues that stick a wedge in the closeness of whatever relationship you could have with them. This also extends to friendships that I’ve had for years, that long preceded my increasing level of passion for all things Pro-Black. I’ve ended countless friendships and associations over racial issues (as probably any Pro-Black person as had to do), and that’s fine. But those friendships, for the most part, weren’t long-standing or close. It gets a bit tougher when we’re talking about people who I see as family. Again, this is my lone area of contention with a lot of these long-standing friendships, but it seems that this one area is growing bigger to where it’s getting more and more difficult to continue overlooking.
It’s a hard reality to face, but as I continue to become increasingly conscious of just how deeply racist this country’s system is, how much it can’t be reasoned with, and how much it needs to be dismantled, my mindset is just shifting to a different wavelength from that of many of the people I’ve long held close. And again, this isn’t just singling out white people — I’m feeling this with a few people of color (Black people, included), as well.
How do you maintain close friendships with people who happily shill for politicians who have been so instrumental in the destruction of people who look like you? How do you maintain close friendships with people who see the (completely justifiable) frustration that you voice as “complaining?” How do you maintain close friendships with people who cape for a system that you wanna see dismantled?
I’m still looking for the answer, but it only seems to get harder to find as time passes on. Maybe the truth is that there isn’t one, and I’ll have to accept that as the truth and proceed with these friendships, accordingly…
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