You’ve finally decided that it’s time to make a black person your actual friend. Congrats!
Let’s say you just started a new job, or maybe your kid made a new friend at school, or perhaps some black people even just moved into your neighborhood, and now you want to make nice with them. Cool. You’re trying to make friends with black people, but you’ve never really made friends with black people. I mean, you’ve known some black people throughout your life, but never enough to really call them “friends.”
But these black people, they’re different. You feel a kinship, a connection, a bond. You feel like you want to really get to know them, have them be a part of your life and truly open up to them.
How do you do it?
How do you cross the uncomfortable divide of race and culture and make a genuine connection with your new black friend (hopefully) without it getting weird?
Worry not, because we’re here to help. For you as a not-black person trying to ingratiate yourself with the soul and get you properly down with the browns. If you are black, you can print this out for your new white friends as a quick read to help cultivate your burgeoning friendship.
I wonder if they know the other black person that I know; should I ask them?
Probably not, for two reasons. The first being that it’s a dead giveaway that you do not know many black people, if any, and that you have no idea just how many black people there are (hint: There are 47 million of us in America). Second, it’s a weak way to start up a conversation, and it lets us know you assume that we don’t have any other mutual interests beyond, well, beyond the fact that we both know some black people.
Surprisingly, you’ve got a lot more in common with the black folks around you than you think. We all eat food, we all got families and we all watch Game of Thrones (yo, black people love some Thrones, y’all). So start there instead of dragging Sheila from accounts payable at your old job into this relationship.
(Sidenote: We think we know Sheila, though. I mean, we probably do. She sounds mad familiar, but don’t just jump to conclusions about that shit, man. It’s not cool.)
Should I tell them about the black person I dated briefly in college?
Do we have to talk about race all the time?
If it makes you uncomfortable, yes. Yes, we do, for that reason.
Did you watch that O.J. Simpson 30 for 30 documentary?
Hell yeah! That shit was great. Man, there hasn’t been an exploration into the intersections of race, class, celebrity and the fault lines of the criminal-justice system like that in the history of television.
I mean, white people who like The Wire get props in our book, but if you actually watched that O.J. doc and really and genuinely walked away from it with some informed understanding of how African Americans view the police and our historic relationship with law enforcement, then more power to you. That’s worth a solid fist bump with a lower lip bite, homey.
See, THAT’S how you let us know where you stand on things. Don’t just come at O.J. like he was some kind of savage or unrepentant murderer who just indiscriminately killed people on a whim. There’s a whole story there.
But do you think that O.J. did it?
Oh yeah, he totally did that shit.
I voted for Trump. How do I talk about this with my new black friend?
You’re probably not ready for a black friend right now. Just back away from black people and deal with your own shit.
So everyone who voted for Trump is a racist?
If you aren’t, then you’re OK with racism. You were cool with the prospect of racism perniciously impacting people you now want to call friends. Racist shit wasn’t a disqualifying factor for you, sooooo …
I’m having a dinner party at my house. What should I ask them to bring?
Macaroni and cheese. Trust me. Black people excel in the macaroni arts. That or potato salad if you plan on having it served. Otherwise, we won’t eat the potato salad, and your macaroni game is gonna come up short.
Play to your black friend’s strengths. In fact, you should plan the meal in anticipation of some bomb-ass macaroni and work from there. If your new black friend makes shitty macaroni, chances are they don’t have many black friends, either, and y’all were never gonna work out anyway.
They’ve invited me over to a barbecue. What should I bring?
This one’s dicey because, in your mind, you’re probably thinking that you should answer their call as if it’s some kind of cultural exchange where you’ll have some of their native dishes and you’ll bring one of yours in kind.
Don’t do that.
When it comes to how the food is seasoned, prepared, cooked and presented, you gotta really have a thorough understanding of the black folks you’re dealing with before you just start showing up with random shit. Is this a pork house or a nonpork house? Are they cool with coleslaw? Is this a Hennessy or a Remy family? Too many variables, man. Don’t chance it. Besides, they’re going to ask you to bring a nonperishable item to keep it simple for you, so chances are you’re getting plates anyway.
But if you do start feeling inspired and want to make your Oma’s special-recipe green-bean-and-wheat salad, stop. Don’t bring that shit. No one’s gonna touch it because we’re not that polite.
Next thing you know, the party’s over and there’s a whole uneaten casserole sitting on the counter and you done hurt your own feelings. Just bring cups and napkins. Black folks love napkins. You can never go wrong with napkins … or ice, ’cause we know Marvin an’nem always forget that shit.
When do I get to use the n-word?
Never. The answer is never. Not even if you stay friends for the next 55 years and find yourselves sitting next to each other in the home whilst Wu-Tang plays in the background of your bingo game. It’s “Shame on a nuh” for you forever. Forever.
If you want to keep your black friend, don’t ever use that word.
I don’t see race, so why should I treat my black friend(s) any differently?
See, that’s where you fucked up from the jump. Anybody who cops the “I don’t see race” plea is immediately suspect to all black people. Saying that you don’t see race is essentially admitting that you’re so willing to deny your own biases that you’ll revoke part of someone else’s identity to make you feel better about your inadequacies.
Don’t believe me? Allow me to put it another way.
Would you trust a doctor who said they didn’t see or believe in cancer? Hell nah, you wouldn’t. Anybody who denies that an illness exists is immediately disqualified from treating said illness. So if you’re trying to be our white friend but ignore our blackness, how you gonna stand on our side when we actually have to confront racism?
You can’t and you won’t because you’re choosing your own comfort over our struggle. We’ll never really be friends, but we will let you order the fight and bring five of our other black-that-you-don’t-see homies to your crib with one six-pack between us and pillage your snack table off GP.
Don’t take black folks for granted, and we won’t have to take you to task.