First up in my friend-fueled series on Interracial Friendships is Stephen, our food and wine enthusiast with a passion for writing. Please give him a warm welcome! Oh also, I want to encourage lots of comments and participation in this series because that’s what we’re here for—discussion and dialogue!
“A Reply About White People
I love white people. Really, I owe a great deal to them. They’ve taught me all sorts of things, like, being a professional alcoholic is okay, it’s just pronounced “sommelier”. I ran with that one. I also owe to them a huge amount of gratitude for making my earliest competitive endeavors in life successful ones, because, honestly, even in our elementary school Olympics, I was looking like the reincarnation of Jesse Owens compared to my classmates. I could go on with ironic, reverse racist banter, but Cassidy, who asked me to write this, only gives me 500 words (good luck), so I must stay on task.
The task was to respond to this article about the difficulty of maintaining interracial friendships into adulthood. The author, Brittney Cooper, explains how her relationship with her once best friend, gradually dissolved as the girls grew older. She cites a potential reason for the shift (perhaps the origins of this thesis), is that her white friend was told by her father that people should “date their own”. As the girls shifted from pre-to actually pubescent, an inability to relate to the same guy was a big deal. Then there was this notion of white friendships being “grandfathered in” before the end of highschool, and I actually found myself-at least partially-agreeing with that.
The “Grandfather” Clause
I think there are many of us who confuse the advancement of blacks in our country (obligatory Obama reference) with a dilution of racism. I’m not ready to go there. Now, it’s just a bit more advanced, and comes out in subtler ways, most often in the realm of class. While whites are increasingly comfortable with the idea of equity for blacks (and I do believe this to be generally true- particularly Millennials), most of us still do not develop super tight interracial relationships into our adulthood. This separatism has been fueled by each respective race as evidenced by Brittney’s tales of ridicule by her black classmates. I grew up in a similarly vexing environment, in which the identity surfing created a great deal of discomfort for a very middle-class black with a very upper class high school experience. Fortunately, sports to a large degree was enough to gain the acceptance of a few influential 7th grade boys and I never looked back.
There’s nowhere near enough time to go into full detail of theories and implications of this article, but I will suggest that for me, the most resounding is that blacks who’ve befriended whites throughout high school are far more likely to retain/develop white friendships into their adulthood. Develop is an operative word, here, where I’ll extend the parameters of her BFF’s “grandfather clause.” I’ve observed this on many occasions. I think that goes both ways.
There’s something to that formative time in high school. I’ve been the lone black face at weddings and will almost certainly be so again. I look at this as not quite an indictment on the bride and groom, rather a reminder of (literally) how very far apart we still are racially. Or, if you’re like me, you might’ve ended up in a place (Oregon) where there just aren’t that many “opportunities” for interracial friends. However, the longer one stays in those environments, the less likely they are to (re)discover interracial friendships. That’s a big reason I left. If we really want to properly observe interracial friendships, we should look to those who are half the age of Brittney or I, because that’s where we’ll get a better read on where whether this is an endangered or enduring phenomenon.