Sunday, November 6, 2016
Black Friends™ and Retaining Sins
Our friendship suffered a death by 1,000 microagressions Because these incidents of microaggression felt few and far between, I was loathe to label Ellen with any adjectives. Namely: racist. The problems persisted, thorny and clinging to our friendship like wild rose vines to a trellis. After a while, I glumly realized that I was an enabling Black Friend™. She fancied herself “down,”—but only around Black people. Ironically, she parroted stereotypical Black culture to a person (me) who considered herself relatively untypical. When any black coworker entered the lunch room, she greeted them, “Yo, homie, whassup?” with an affected voice and head nod. This usually earned me, not her, raised eyebrows. Everyone knew that she spoke perfectly proper English around our White co-workers. As her resident Black Friend™ I was expected by other Black people to keep her offensive forays into Blackness in check.... I distinguish being a Black Friend™ from being a Black person who is friends with a White person. The White people I consider friends are also allies. I have come to realize I cannot have a White friend who I don’t count as both. More from Truly Takafari. A family member's best man is Black. They became best friends at an elite white high school where one was on the way out of the working class to the one percent, and one a scholarship student on the way to the middle class. They became even closer in tenth grade when one of the boys in their tight group of friends suffered a tragic fatal accident at the beach. And stayed close enough for a visit to the best man's new home in Australia, with the requisite Sydney bridge climb picture. L. was only Black in their class, just as his younger sister was the only Black in hers, and one boy and one girl made up the Black contingent in mine during the few years of my own sentence. They must have dealt with constant traumatizing microaggressions, including the one that returned to my conscience during the Black Lives are Sacred series. Trash 80, Space Invaders, lovely springy Afro right under my racist, boundary-violating fingertips. I made a diligent search for his social media contact, in the hopes that a brief and respectful amends message would feel better late than never, but turned up a blank. So in the course of a perky catch up email to the family member I mentioned the incident and asked for an email address, softening the description to the also true "idiotic." This request was refused because it wasn't at his fingertips. And he was sure that his Black Friend™ would have zero interest in an apology because he "doesn't carry baggage" and "looks forward, not back." Which is why I am so insanely grateful to my womanist colleague for keeping her boundaries so strong and retaining the immense and unpayable debt of my personal and communal participation in white supremacy for both of our lifetimes. Cause I could totally be Rachel Dolezal-- but more dangerous because of avoiding the obvious racist idiocy of fake Blackness. And to my new Jewish friend for retaining the debt of my personal and communal participation in anti-Semitism for a significant period of healing and conversion to lay a healthy groundwork for avoiding a similar pattern in our relationship.