Shady Sisterhood: Ten “Friends” Every Black Woman Encounters

1. The friend that tests you and uses the “n” word

Sometimes it is to depict their superiority towards others of their race or ethnicity who use this term to speak of blacks. Sometimes its to capitalize on blacks who feel worthy if elevated from other blacks, so their non black comrade may use this term to refer to other blacks and declare their friend as exceptional. Regardless of the context, the use of this term is inexcusable and completely unnecessary.

I admit that I am still wading the tides of understanding this behavior. There must be some feeling of victory or power in non-blacks who “get away with” using the n word around blacks. If this is in fact the case, this person is willing to compromise the cultural legacy of their “friend” for their own feelings of conquest.

2. The friend that thinks they are “blacker” than you.

This “friend” went to a black history assembly, filled out the paperwork and is now a member of the race. He or she has read Toni Morrison, Langtson Hughes- even declared them their favorite authors. They love Audre Lorde and patronize black artists and movies. They think that their behavior aligns them more with blackness than a black person who is seemingly indifferent to these practices. Little do they know, that conceptualizing blackness as behavior and not culture is of the same prejudice of which they are trying to distance themselves.

3. The friend that assures you that you’re being oversensitive about racial issues.

I went to Sligo, Ireland for a writer’s retreat when I was twenty- two years old. The experience was very eye opening, my presence alerting many eyes towards my black body nearly everyplace I went. My presence was met with open eyes and mouths on numerous occasions, all of which were hushed by my (non black) colleagues anytime I tried to say something about it. There was even an incident where a pre-teen child walked up to me, stood there and stared while my collegeaues and her family looked away.

It does not matter how many books you’ve read, how many shows you’ve seen, whether your boyfriend, kid’s cousin’s mother’s best friend’s daughter is black- if you are not of African descent, you remain outside the black diaspora. There is no such thing as black by association, so you do not assume a position within the black dispora, just as blacks cannot capitalize on your position of privilege. Thus, you’re ability to selectively ignore issues that do not directly impact you, do not transcend to your black friend. If you don’t want to hear about it- that it certainly your right- but choosing not to acknowledge reality doesn’t it make it any less real.

4. The friend that brings up your color.

This is the “Friend” that will comment on their ambitions to go to the beach to get “your color” or “as black as you.”

Whether its meant to be funny or just a thoughtless comment, this remark, acts as a moment of difference to the black person on the receiving end. With this comment and others like it, a black individual is enabled to see themselves through the eyes of their “friend.” It is through comments like this, that it becomes obvious that you are not (insert your name here) to this “friend” of yours, but a black person. Ironically, this friend will often proclaim to “not see color.” I guess they only see color on beach day.

5. The friend that advises you on your hair

This is the friend that watched one of her (black) friends, or a youtube tutorial do a wrap or a braid out and feels its appropriate to tell this “secret” to any black woman during any hair conversation.

6. The friend that expects praise for standing up for black issues.

This is the friend that always makes it a point to mention how they held the door for an older black woman, stood up for their black significant other in a non black environment, or some other random act of social justice (sarcasm). The irony of this behavior is that they are actually behaving as they should. Expecting praise for standing up against the wrongdoings of blacks suggests that it is our problem, whereas the mistreatment of blacks is a societal problem.

7. The one that connects you on black vocabulary.

I had a peer tell me that she faced opposition in requesting that the class refer to enslaved Africans as African Americans and not African. When I attempted to inform her of her error, she firmly stood in her position of ignorance, refusing the input from someone whose ancestors were the very topic of discussion.

The term African America marks the assimilation of American blacks whose lineage began in Africa. Thus, Africans who had just been forcibly removed from their continent and displaced in America, were still knowledgeable of their language and culture. To refer to them as African Americans, prematurely strips them of the culture that history would distance them from in each day that would come to pass. Once again, no one from outside the black disapora should tell those within the diaspora how to feel, or how to refer to their own ancestors. To do so asserts an inappropriate sense of importance, disregarding significant cultural detachment.

8. The friend that is only your friend because they want to date black men.

Some non black women feel as though the best way to attract black men is to surround themselves with at least one black woman. This friend believes that her physical closeness to black people will alleviate any ideas of a racism or prejudice that have been attached to her race or ethnic group.

9. The friend that acts as a “Find Other Black People” App

This is the friend that always has a person they’d “ love for you to meet.” This individual that your friend mentions is ALWAYS black, because black people need the help of non black folk to find other black people.

10. The friend that inquires about the “nice” things you have.

This person may not actually be your friend, but is friendly with you. The friendliness is evoked as a means to break down your guard, so that they may inquire about your ability to acquire material goods assumed to be out of your pay grade. I once had a colleague befriend me when I was working retail. I initially really liked her, but soon noticed that all her questions were pertaining to my ability to buy the company clothes and still have money to attend school and have my hair done. The queries of course stem from prejudiced beliefs that blacks are impoverished, and only acquire material goods through dishonesty.

Closing Thoughts

Do these encounters suggest that blacks and non blacks can never truly be friends? Or perhaps that these anxieties are only present in  those who are not truly our friends or allies? Maybe these scenarios suggest that the unwavering ideology of black inferiority is so deeply embedded, that even those who really love us are susceptible to the impact of black politics in America.

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