That's right, White America, you have "A" Black friend. Singular at best usually...and not usually your best friend.

Based on my 35 years of observation I would guess that in fact there are a whole lot of White folks counting Black co-workers/classmates who are really more like casual acquaintances as their "Black friend"*. Without them I think it's likely that a lot more White people have NO Black friends.


(*Black folks, am I the only one who feels unsettled thinking about which White people might count me as their "Black friend" and what kind of bullshit they're invoking me to justify?)

And yet there seem to be so many White experts on Black culture and identity...

The most common knee-jerk defense you'll hear when you call White folks out on the homogeneity of their social circles is: "Well I don't choose my friends based on their race!"


Um...yes, you do apparently. That would be like going to a buffet filled with foods from around the world and only eating burgers, fries and caesar salad EVERY. TIME. then claiming not to be choosing your food based on what's most familiar to you.

A lot of folks will also claim that they don't want to be THAT guy/girl who goes around "collecting" friends of all races just to prove a point. Here's the thing about that: as far as I can tell THAT guy/girl doesn't exist anywhere but as a figment of guilty White people's imagination. If s/he did I would have a million of them pounding down my door so they could tick off the rare-breed unicorn box, but they don't. I mean, there might be a handful of them but it's not a thing.

The idea that taking race into account when choosing friends is somehow bad or offensive is a fallacy. One born, sadly, of White people's inability to wrap their heads around the fact that there are any legitimate, meaningful reasons to be friends with people of different races and ethnic backgrounds. It seems that when they picture making friends with POC in their minds they can't picture actually wanting to be friends with those POC, thus to them it would be choosing a friend only based on race. But that's not how the real world works for people who have a multi-ethnic group of friends. It's not about choosing friends only because of their race or skin color, it's about making a point to look within diverse racial and ethnic groups for friends.

When you take race out of it for a minute you'll realize that it's not a particularly complicated concept. Most people who are not narrow-minded or basic make some attempt to make friends who are somehow unique and different from them because they genuinely find those differences interesting. For example, any time I am in a new group of people I make a point of chatting up anyone who isn't a lawyer (especially creatives, laborers and science folk) because I am a lawyer and I know so. many. lawyers. My law school classmates, my colleagues, their law school classmates, their colleagues...after a while it gets predictable and boring. It's interesting to hear new perspectives. It's interesting to learn about how people who don't sit in an office typing and arguing all day live. That's not to say that every time I approach say, someone who DJs for a living, that I will actually like them. Their lives might be different from mine in ways I don't find interesting or relatable. After chatting for a while I might determine that they are just shitty or uninteresting as a personal matter. But I make it a point to find out on the chance that they will be cool and I will end up with a new friend who is not another lawyer.

The same thing can easily be applied to making friends of another race. Segregation is real, as the census maps show us, but most folks in America these days don't live anywhere where they NEVER see people of color (and if you do, wanting more racial diversity is a legitimate reason to is near the top of the priority list in choosing somewhere to settle down for most POC).

Some years back on my Tumblr I issued a Facebook diversity challenge:

A few years later some friends and I came up with another version using your cell phone contacts, based on notion that a lot of "friends" on Facebook are really only acquaintances and that the numbers in your phone more likely represent who your actual friends are:

Step 1. Pick a number 1-6 (or roll a die)

Step 2. Whichever number you pick, chose that many letters

Step 3. Now go through your contacts on your phone. Go to each of those letters and count down by the number you selected in Step 1 (so for example if you chose the number "3" and the letter "N" you would go to the "N"s in your contacts and pick the first name on the list, the 3rd, the 6th etc. until you're through the letter.)


Take a look at the names and do the math. How diverse is your social circle really? How do you think that might limit your understanding of other races and cultures? How might that lack of understanding limit your understanding of how social, economic and cultural dynamics in America work generally?

And what are you going to do about it?