Why I filter new friends in this tense political world
The one thing Drake should’ve said about “no new friends”
When the 2016 Election results rolled around, I was not surprised. I cried on my couch, but I was not shocked at the results. Those tears were from disappointment. I’d already dealt with two years of a disturbing college experience and plenty of frustrating experiences in Corporate America. By 2008, I’d started treating new friends the way new employers treat your job applications: I filter them out.
Some people make it quite obvious who they are. The co-worker in 2010 who was viciously nasty to every black women she encountered? We took note. The Obama bobblehead she plopped in the middle of her desk was no more than a facade. But others are more clever at hiding in plain sight. And sometimes it takes a bit more work to figure out who is hiding their -isms.
By Trump’s election, I’m just not willing to risk hanging out with racists who deny their racism.
Birds of a Feather Flock Together
Call it spying if you want to. But when you post public Instagram posts, Facebook statuses, Pinterest pics and tweets, you’ve already told the world that you want someone to read this message. And if you befriend me on any of these platforms, then you’re giving me more access to do so. But I’m a bit more open-minded than rapper Drake about “no new friends.” Instead I’m more likely to look at which people can be my “new friends.”
First, there was one homegirl who I could sit in bars with for hours, enjoyed going to dance class with and shared all kinds of juicy dating gossip. We were close enough to trade relationship woes and work gripes. She grew up in New Orleans and was one of the easiest people to work with. I thought she was much smarter and way more talented than her boss, and would’ve easily been a work reference for her if she decided to take on a managerial position.
After she left a frustrated status on Facebook about Brett Kavanaugh during the SCOTUS fiasco, you couldn’t convince me this wasn’t going to be a long-time friend even after I resigned from our place of employment. But I noticed one of her Facebook friends weighed in and accused Christine Blasey Ford of being a liar. Then another and another. And that made me wonder why were so many of her FBFs supporters of Kavanaugh. I checked her name out against Obama, which resulted in a laundry list of “thanks Obama” statuses that were not only inaccurate but rather condescending.
I asked her to explain these stats and got the kind of response you’d expect from the cheating boyfriend who is mad you went through his phone. She was more frustrated that I looked up public statuses than explaining what was said. While she did claim she voted for Hillary Clinton in the last election, the laundry list of Obama ones just didn’t sit well with me. Neither did her FBFs who ignored every last white woman who agreed with her about Ford but zoomed in with irate messages for me. Meanwhile she sat silently while they swarmed in like sharks. Be careful of the company you keep. As cool as I thought she was, I gracefully bowed out of talking to her any further. Who you choose to keep in touch with online and in person speaks volumes of your own (hidden) views.
Denial Doesn’t Make the Conversation Go Away
Then there was the time that I was the Vice President of Education for a Toastmasters group. I hit it off with a visitor who said I reminded her of an aunt. We chatted all throughout the meeting, and she asked me if I wanted to hang out and grab brunch sometime. I’m not the girliest of girls (I grew up with my older brother and a swarm of men on my block), so whenever I meet cool women, I am excited to connect. I said, “Absolutely!” Shortly after, we went to brunch and grocery shopping.
We blabbed the whole time, and I thought, “This’ll be great. I made a new friend who I can hang out with at one of my favorite clubs.” But then I made an off-handed comment about education and Trump. And she went stone-cold quiet and said in a terse voice, “I prefer to only listen to good news.” I asked her what did she mean by that. In yet another terse tone, “It’s not hard to figure out. I prefer to only talk about good news. What don’t you understand about that?”
Some people just aren’t into politics. I get it. I let her attitude slide. I switched subjects, and we were back to cackling along. Then she visited my home club again. A few Trump jokes were thrown around by other members. When she got onstage during a Table Topics question — in which she could have just talked about her trip to Ireland — she instead chose to lecture everyone about why she doesn’t talk about politics. And then I paid attention. Right in that moment I realized it wasn’t politics in particular that she had an issue with, it was the person we were criticizing. As with everyone who visits, I gave her information on joining the club and shook her hand after the meeting, but I changed my contact info shortly afterward. I had no interest in hanging out with her any longer. We haven’t spoken since.
Being around someone with different political views is one thing. I’ve done it on many occasions professionally — although I’m sure some will not admit it to my face. But befriending someone who chooses to avoid topics that are life-and-death to you and/or passions of yours is not someone you can ever trust.
When your priorities aren’t in alignment
Then there was the work friend of mine who used to IM me “I see you” everyday, who I was elated to see when he barged into the cafeteria to hang out with me for lunch. A comment about Hillary Clinton resulted in him admitting that he was pondering on voting for Trump because of “those suspicious emails.” He found another job shortly after, and I unfriended him on LinkedIn around the same time. He’s still a phenomenal person and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him, but if email conspiracies beat grabbing someone by the pussy, I’ll pass on you.
When your idea of “scary” is more or less race-based
There was the managing editor who gushed over Serena Williams and was always on Reddit. He wrote endlessly about the website and the tennis player. Then the Reddit founder and Serena Williams broke the news that they’d been dating and were getting married. Just like that, he stopped writing about both of them. I caught the sudden lack of interest and borderline bewilderment that these two could possibly get together, but I said nothing.
It wasn’t until he mentioned how Lloyd Banks was “a scary guy because he had been shot before and he knows 50 Cent” that I couldn’t be quiet any longer. I paused and told him I personally knew people who’d been shot before. I asked him, “So does that make me ‘scary’ too?” He immediately said, “No!” My follow-up question: “So what’s the difference between me and Lloyd? You’re scared of the man who got shot instead of the shooter?” He said nothing. Like clockwork, he still blasted rap music at top volume from all these “scary” guys and found no irony in his views. But by the time he told me that his family “were great people and totally not racist, but they voted for Trump for financial reasons,” I was done. Unless it was work-related, we never spoke on a personal level again.
I could go on and on with stories like this, especially from 2008 to present day. But the bigger point is this. For a black woman, specifically this black woman, knowing a person’s views on race, social justice, politics and women’s rights were already a big deal. But by Trump’s election, I’m just not willing to risk hanging out or even networking with racists who deny their racism. I can’t even trust you to be a work reference — who knows what you’ll say to another non-POC person when I’m not within hearing distance? Work out your -isms on your own time. The odds of me going to a family function and someone being a Trump supporter are zero percent. And I want to make sure that my friendships are the same. While I cannot control anyone’s political views, I can indeed control my social circle. And so I will.