It’s common knowledge at this point that when a White person starts a sentence “Some of my best friends are Black, but” you know you’re speaking to a racist.
There’s an analogue to this when discussing issues involving race, I’ve discovered. In a conversation with a family member, I was challenged with “so, how many Black friends do you have?” The family member took it a few steps further, with such questions as “When was the last time you had a Black couple over for dinner?” It was not the first time I’ve encountered this. Nor was it the second or third.
And it’s as ignorant as the guy who thinks having a Black acquaintance whom he classifies (often dishonestly) as one of his “closest friends” gives him license to malign and stereotype an entire race.
Indeed, it’s really two sides of the same coin. So, I’ll preface the remainder of this post thusly:
I don’t have any Black friends, but…
… that doesn’t mean I’m a racist and, far more importantly, it doesn’t excuse or justify your racism.
Logically, racism must be defined from the perspective of its victims. So, do Blacks as a group really care about how many Black friends I or any other White person has? I may be missing something, but of all the grievances I’ve heard from members of America’s Black population, “I don’t have any White buddies” has not been included.
I have a small circle of friends. I may not happen to have any Black friends at the time (I have at times in the past), but I do have Black acquaintances with whom I’m comfortable speaking about issues involving race. I’ve also read dozens of articles and blog posts by Black writers on such issues, and a few books as well. Are there Whites with more Black connections than I and a broader knowledge base than mine who could speak better to the question? Absolutely. But based on what I’ve learned from Blacks about racism, I don’t think the number of Black friends I or any other White person has is especially important to the Black community at large.
This really isn’t rocket science. Racism isn’t about whether you’ve found a Black couple in the midst of your White neighborhood to have to dinner. It’s about whether a Black kid with a nickel bag of marijuana is treated the same as a White kid with one would be. It’s about whether White America focuses on the cops who murdered a young Black man, rather than on the “thugs” who threw rocks and bottles and looted stores in the aftermath. It’s about whether you sling the word “thug” around, entirely unaware that you’re uttering what to many Blacks is the modern-day N word. It’s about whether a White job applicant and a Black job applicant with the same credentials have an equal chance of landing the job. It’s about whether you’re horrified at the treatment of Blacks by law enforcement, or whether you insist it’s “just a few bad apples.”
So, what’s going on when “how many Black friends do you have” is asked? When you think about it, it’s rather stunning. The clear implication is “I don’t really think all that much of Blacks in general, but you really don’t either, or you’d have Black friends.” Essentially, it’s as racist as “Some of my best friends are Black, but…”
Why this post? Here’s why: White America, as a whole, needs to clean up its act on this front. Calling out those who attempt to frame racism in terms of how many Black friends a person has would help.