I’ve written a lot about race recently which was something I never planned out, nor intended. I’m not a hard core Civil Rights activist. I’m not on the NAACP mailing list, and I’ve never worked a fund raiser for the Southern Poverty Law Center. In all fairness, I am a pretty standard issue white person, which means I generally don’t give a shit about race issues most of the time because…well…I’m white. I won the random genetic lineage lottery. As far as I’m aware I never had a choice in picking before I was born.
I don’t recall getting ready to be born and my casting agent saying to me, “I’ve got this really great gig as a black male born in Chicago.”
“Nah, I think I’ll stick to White American.”
“You sure? This is a chance to stretch your life experience wings and challenge yourself!”
“Nah, I’ll play it safe and be a White American.”
I’ve written a lot about race recently, because well…the issues of race in America have come out swinging in our cultural Battle Royale. It’s topical and relevant. And well, just like everyone else. I have an opinion that desperately demands to be inserted into the huge mishmash.
However, this time, I want to talk about something about race that is probably one of the most open things you’ll ever hear someone say:
I don’t have any black friends, and really, I’m okay with that.
THE INFERRED RACISM!
Seriously, I have no close black friend, and I’m okay with that. Why? Because I am self-aware enough to know that trying to go out to find one would be pretty racist and condescending. At my job, there are only four black people in my office, and three of them work in their own room behind a code locked door. I never really interact with them because they’re on the other side of the building. It’s not that I’m avoiding them specifically, I try to avoid interacting with people in general. In my out of work social circles, I again don’t have any black friends. Its mostly that we just don’t travel in the same circles. Now, it’s not like I’m only attending Klan rallies and Polka Festivals, there are black folks around where I go, we just don’t have a lot in common personally to connect beyond the acquaintance level, or I haven’t talked to them enough to get to know them on that level.
I’ve had black friends in the past. When I was in the army, my battle buddy was a black guy. Back when I lived in Mississippi, I had black friends that would come over and chill at our house play video games and drink. When I went to the bar, there were black people there that I would sit with and chat and joke with. It’s just that right now, in this time in my life, I don’t have a black friend. It’s just the way the cards got dealt.
In a screwed up way, NOT having a black friend has allowed me to reflect more on my own biases, inherent racial privileges, and that god awful thing we call “Tokenism.”
If you don’t know what that is, let me sum it up. “I’m not racist, I have a black friend,” “My black friend is cool with it,” “My black friend isn’t like that, he’s one of the cool ones.” Yet, we forget about one, or try to ignore it, and it’s actually become my favorite form of Tokenism; “I’ve got a black friend, so I’m more in tune with issues of racist discrimination, and I’m more aware of my white privilege than you.”
I’ve noticed that for every two white people excusing their shitty racist behavior because “my black friend” (it’s always singular), there is one that uses their black friends as a badge of honor. Like some sort of Mitre of White Enlightenment. They always talk about how much more they understand the plight of the black American. How they are so much more aware of their white privilege. and they love to tag in on facebook or twitter or whatever the fact they’re at some rally or fund raising dinner full of other self-congratulatory white people.
That’s why I’m okay with not having a close black friend right now. I think that touting your black friend as a trophy of your liberal enlightenment is just as bad as using them as an excuse to be a bigot. To me, I think I would rather have a black friend because we enjoy each others company and not as a Token of some sort to reinforce my own dickishness.