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Can Black Women and White Women Really Be Friends?

Yesterday I was scrolling through Twitter, and I happened to read a tweet by State Rep. Patricia Morgan regarding her “Black friend.” In her tweet, Patricia states, “I had a black friend. I liked her and I think she liked me, too. But now she is hostile and unpleasant. I am sure I didn’t do anything to her, except be white. Is that what teachers and our political leaders really want for our society? Divide us because of our skin color? #CRT”  

What struck me is that Patricia called this Black woman her friend. However, it is clear from her tweet that this Black woman is not Patricia’s friend and more than likely was never Patricia’s friend. 

While many people have called Patricia out for her tweet, she stands by her comment stating in an interview with The Boston Globe, “That the negative reaction to her tweet was yet more proof of the insidious nature of critical race theory. Twitter is a cesspool anyway.” While Patricia doesn’t want to take the time to learn from people responding to her tweet, I am a firm believer that the ignorance of some can be a learning tool for others. Patricia’s tweet made me ask myself, “Can Black women and White women truly be friends?” In reading Patricia’s tweet, several things stood out to me that I believe can offer insight and answers to this question.

Her first sentence, “I had a black friend,” was very telling. I am always skeptical of White people that say, “I have a Black friend.” For many White women, having a Black friend is like having that one set of good dishes that they only pull out on special occasions when trying to impress people. Also, many White people believe having someone, which is always ONE Black person, they call a friend means they are not and could never be racist. Newsflash, having a Black person that you consider a friend does not give you a “get out of racism-free card.” If your circle of friends includes a token Black woman, reevaluate your circle of friends. 

Secondly, Patricia states, “I liked her, and I think she liked me, too.” So immediately, Patricia casts herself as a real friend but only “thinks” the Black woman considered her a friend. Who calls someone a friend but only THINKS the friendship is reciprocated? Either you are friends, or you are not. The reality, I believe, is that Patricia only “thinks” the Black woman is her friend because she doesn’t really know the Black woman. She cannot definitively say the Black woman is her friend because she has probably never spent any real time with her. What is interesting about this is that White women often believe that because they work with a Black woman, it automatically makes them friends. Perhaps they chat about what they did over the weekend or share pleasantries over coffee, and for White women, that is enough to consider them having a friendship. However, friendship is deeper than surface communication in the office. Many White women fail to understand that Black women often work in an environment where few if any people in the office look like them. They are working 9-5 in White spaces, and because of that, you are meeting a person that must be strategic in how they operate in the workplace. Black women inherently understand they cannot show up to work entirely as themselves because Black women are often seen as not being team players, having an attitude, etc. If White women want to know if they are friends with a Black woman from work, ask yourself these questions, “Have I ever invited this Black woman to my home? Have I invited her to my dinner parties? Have I ever asked her out for coffee or drinks outside the office? Have I ever called her to ask about her day and truly listened? Have we ever spent any real time together that wasn’t work-related, or do I just know her from the office?” 

Then, Patricia states the Black friend is “hostile and unpleasant.” This goes back to my second point. The minute Black women let their guard down and decide they will show up in a space fully as themselves, they are labeled as hostile and unpleasant. How can Black women and White women ever be friends if Black women are labeled as hostile and unpleasant by being themselves? Often what White women view as hostile is simply a Black woman speaking the truth- a truth White women often do not want to face. Why? Because they must look inwardly, and that doesn’t feel good. If a Black woman asks her White “friend,” “How can you support a politician that seeks to harm someone that looks like me,” immediately the White woman becomes defensive. Instead of going inwardly and finding the answer, it is easier to label the Black woman as hostile because then the White woman does not have to do the hard work. It is easier to paint the Black woman as the villain, which leads me to my next point. 

Patricia goes on to say, “I am sure I didn’t do anything to her, except be white.” Now here comes the performance that many White women are experts at. Patricia has painted herself as the victim. “It’s not me; it’s the Black woman picking on me. It’s not me. It was her tone. It’s not me. It just seems she has an attitude. It’s not me. I never did anything. I was just sitting here being White, and all of a sudden, the Black woman was hostile and unpleasant. I was the real friend, and then she challenged my thinking. She mentioned racism, and I was so offended. She talked about police brutality, and it really hurt my feelings. It’s not me that has done anything wrong. I was just being White. She is the big, bad, hostile, and unpleasant Black woman. I’m the real victim in this friendship.” And Patricia KNOWS because of how this world sees Black women, people will immediately believe her. Of course, the innocent White woman has done nothing. That is how the world portrays White women. White women are always allowed to be the victim because this world has never seen Black women as victims. 

And then Patricia’s performance continues. “Is that what teachers and our political leaders really want for our society? Divide us because of our skin color? #CRT” Patricia wants to paint herself as a real friend and wants people to know her post about her Black friend was all for the sake of unity. In fact, her post has nothing to do with unity, her concern about racism, or people being divided by skin color. Her post is just the opposite. Her post vilifies a Black woman, labels her as hostile and unpleasant, and paints the White woman as the victim in this friendship. She did all of this because she wanted to really speak about Critical Race Theory. According to The Boston Globe, “Morgan introduced legislation last year banning the teaching of “divisive concepts” and making anyone “feel discomfort, guilty, anguish or any distress on account of their race or sex.” The bill did not get anywhere in the Democratic-dominated General Assembly.” That was always her motive, so why not just speak about Critical Race Theory without mentioning her Black friend? Because that wouldn’t have sold the performance. She must set it up to project that White people are just being White, and the Black people are hostile and unpleasant. In her final sentence, she mentions dividing us because of the color of our skin. I took this as a paraphrasing of what seems to be the only quote many White people know from Dr. King, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” However, if you ask many White people to tell them ANYTHING ELSE Dr. King has EVER said, they cannot tell you one word. If Patricia TRULY believed people should not be judged or divided by skin color, she would have never made the post. She judged a Black woman, made a post about her, and all we have from that is her side of the story. And somehow, Patricia believes she is the victim in all of this. 

Patricia’s tweet has now gone viral, and I hope it opens up a door for conversation. Is it possible for Black women and White women to truly be friends? I believe it is. However, friendship between Black women and White women is not always easy. Some issues impact Black women that many White women are not ready to face. Many White women are fine being “friends” with a Black woman as long as their Black issues never bleed into their so-called friendship. Many White women are fine being friends with a Black woman until they start questioning their politics and how the politicians they support are working to disenfranchise Black people. Many White women are fine being friends with a Black woman as long as she doesn’t bring up police brutality, mass incarceration, or systemic racism. Many White women are fine being friends with a Black woman as long as they never have to face the fact that Black women and White women live in two different worlds. 

Often this friendship will force White women to look at themselves. But isn’t that what friendship should do? Friends should challenge us. Friends should make us be better people. Real friends do not coddle our feelings. Real friends call us out when we are wrong. Real friends should not have to walk on eggshells every time they have a conversation. Real friends are concerned about the issues that impact one another. Real friends can show up as who they are, not wearing a mask because someone may be offended if they stand in their truth. That is real friendship. And friendships take work. They take effort. Friendship means getting in the trenches. Friendship requires that you see the other person. Friendship takes love, forgiveness, and grace. 

So I challenge White women to ask themselves, “Do I really have any Black friends?”

Photo Credit:Photo by Liz Weddon on Unsplash

11 replies »

  1. The fact of the matter is, if you are a white woman who has NEVER discussed issues of racism, or who has never heard the term misogynoir is or even know what it means, then she ain’t your friend, and ain’t never been your friend. She’s been smiling in your face in an effort to get along with you, not lose her job, not be called hostile and intimidating, or any number of other reasons why a Black woman might get along with you.

    If you’ve never spoken to her outside of work, then what you are is “acquaintances”, not friends!

  2. I feel like white women and black women can be friends but the real question is, can black women be friends with black women and other women of color? I am sure that is a whole other topic. I do understand that this article is not focused on that issue but I have found that some white women are intimidated by black women. A true friendship can be possible if and when both women are able to have the difficult conversations. When questions are raised that spark or intrigue the mind and both races can listen long enough without getting offended by the other, I think we can then begin to have a type of ship. Agree to disagree but at least acknowledge that there is a problem that exist. Understanding and effective communication is missing and that is a sad truth. I think that there is a misunderstanding of black women or black people as a whole. I have found that some white women in particular feel the need to RELATE to black women. I don’t need a friend to of any race to relate to me, I don’t need nor am I looking for an apology from whites women or white people in general. I just want to see change. Acknowledge, Act, and then change behaviors and mindsets. That isn’t too much to ask is it?

  3. White women bounce off of acquaintances, compliment someone’s braids, remember to CC you in an email, and somehow think that’s friendship.

  4. Control is not friendship, and so many interracial relationships depend on Black women being vulnerable. I’m less confident about racial justice–even having white friends–because too many people understand that if Black people were truly empowered, so many of us would begin doing our own things and never engage with people again. The dominant narrative DEPENDS on us NEVER having the capacity to truly evaluate intimacy, which requires reciprocal vulnerability, not control. I would love to be wrong about this, but I’m not seeing much evidence to the contrary.

    • Very much so with Charlotte. She didn’t have any Black friends and had never really been around Black people for any extended period of time. Like when she called her friend and was like who is that Black artist. Like any Black person would do.

  5. I am thinking what happened was, and I will say, I have noticed that black people are becoming more aware in their own way, and in the last few years, they have started trusting white people even less than before. It was easier to be friends before knowing they disagreed with Colin Kaepernick’s actions. I wouldn’t call it hostile or anything like that. But I have noticed I am now ‘mixed company’ with some of my friends. I was never considered mixed company before. It bothers me that I feel my friends do not trust me on the same level they once did, but I can understand where they are coming from.

    I have seen white writers talk about Black Lives on FB, and they have no black friends, no photos with black people, and I don’t trust that person. That’s just fake. I have tried to have the conversations white people need to be having about racism and systemic racism, and a lot refuse. It’s hard to get a busy person who is mentally exhausted to have these conversations, but some of them are really just so full of themselves they don’t care. They just pretend to. Some are afraid to say the wrong thing so they just won’t say anything at all. But there’s definitely some out there trying to define racism to black people, getting their only info on it from other white people, to take control of the kind of equality that could result from it, to dictate what is racist and what isn’t, and they act like they are advocating with that. Plus the countless white people who will say racist things when black people aren’t around. Like white people know that, don’t let a white person act like it isn’t happening. The fact is most white people thought they weren’t racist, and they refuse to admit anything. So I can see how many of my black friends are learning the idea that you think you know someone, but you don’t. So they are on guard.

    And honestly, I think some of my black friends are just sick of it all. They are angry and tired, and it’s hard for them to look at white people sometimes. Even if they love ya.

    And I think Patricia felt that vibe with some black acquaintances, and that really might have been her best go at figuring out her privilege. “It’s because I’m white isn’t it?”

    But I do think white people and black people can be friends. I think the important component is to have honest conversations about anything that can cause friction in the friendship, including racism. But they have to be honest. We can’t be too tired to have them. We all have to have the thick skin to take criticism. White people need to humble themselves for it. Like my black friends have kept me in check. It was uncomfortable, but well worth it.

  6. Hmmm in UK racism is more linked to class – there is more cultural interlap and awareness so I think it is a bit different here. That being said – it’s obvious when a white person wishes to befriend you as a proximity of coolness as opposed to seeing an individual as a person and wishing to get to know them instead of a perceived stereotype or a power play.

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