Monday, December 21, 2015

On being your Black friend (who, like, isn't even THAT Black)

I have a lot of White friends. That's always been the case, and most of the time it's so normal that it doesn't bother me, but sometimes it does. As you could probably imagine, it also creates space for misunderstandings and the occasional awkward situation. But that comes with the territory of being the only POC - person of color - in the friend group (although it shouldn't). Here's a bit of perspective about being the "only one."

1. You saying that I talk or act "White" isn't going to make me feel better. I'm not going to sigh and say, "Golly! Thank you for noticing; I've been practicing my White accent all week! What a relief." I understand that you're trying to say that I behave differently from the stereotypical image in your head of what a Black person "should" be, and that it's funny or impressive, but it's neither. It's hurtful.

2. I will act VERY differently depending on who I'm with. When I'm in New York with my Black friends and we go out to a bar that's predominantly White, I really have no problem rolling my eyes with them, like, "Ugh. White people."

However, when I'm in Boston, where most of my friends are White, I figure my roommates probably won't appreciate that? So I refrain. But White people can also be very frustrating. #NotAllWhitePeople though.

3. I mostly date White guys. THERE, I said it. And it's not because of internalized oppression, okay? I also like Latino, Asian, and Black guys, since we're on the topic. The race, sexuality, or gender identity of who you're attracted to really isn't anyone's business but your own, but let's think about someone like me contextually. I've grown up in predominantly White school settings, and live in an area where most of the people I encounter are White. So, most of the guys I've had crushes on have been White. Rocket science, really.

4. Sometimes I get upset, and sometimes I'm quiet. Maybe it's because I had a long day, or maybe I missed my bus on the way to work. Maybe it's because going to bed was tough and waking up was even tougher knowing that another Black man/woman/child was senselessly killed. It's physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting, and I feel the pain in my heart constantly.

5. I may not bring these things up to you. In fact, I probably won't, because who wants to hear Christina complain about White people and oppression? Just because I may be your only Black friend doesn't mean that I'm ONLY your Black friend. I don't exist to know the words to that one rap song or to teach you how to twerk. I don't want to hear how cute my and so-and-so's baby would be, as if biracial children don't deeply struggle with identity issues.

This isn't just about me, either. Appreciate your friends of color AND their identities. Remember that your gay friend doesn't only exist to go shopping with you. Remember that your friend with anxiety doesn't "just need to relax." Everyone has an identity that they carry with them every day, whether or not you choose to acknowledge it.

6. To everyone: it's okay to be honest. Let your friends or co-workers know that you've had a hard day because of what's on the news, or because someone said something strikingly offensive to you. It's okay to feel and to hurt and to ask for support. Don't apologize. The people you surround yourself with should be as supportive and as patient as you are brave.

'Til next time,