I went to a high school where I could count the number of black people in my graduating class on my hands. Leaving me to have a majority of white friends, and them having me as their token black friend. Looking back, there’s a few things I wish I would have told them.
Since we’re friends, I expect you to be an ally. That means sticking up for me to people you know, people you don’t know, other friends, and even your family members. When we’re in a group of people and they make a racist joke, I don’t say anything because I don’t want to be seen as the “angry black girl.” As my friend, this is where you step in and correct them. Or when your mother makes a gesture like clutching her purse tighter as a group of black people walk by, these are the things you correct. It’s not about doing me a favor and sticking up for me, as a friend there are certain responsibilities you have regardless of race. I know it may be difficult, but imagine how difficult it is to be the person being stereotyped.
I can’t do and say the same things you can. I can’t act the same way you do in public. As much fun as were having, I can’t go running and screaming in the mall. While you may be seen as kids just having fun, Im seen as the “ghetto child” with “no home training.” Yes, I answer adults with “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir” because I try to avoid any issues of me being disrespectful. I can’t go to the party where I don’t know the parents or people throwing it. I can’t get into a situation where there’s a possibility of the police being called. Not for any other reason, then my own safety and my own life.
Stop “acting black” because you think it will make me more comfortable. You don’t have to change who you are to make me more comfortable. When you do this you’re actually making me even MORE uncomfortable. When you have the aux in the car, you don’t have to play the newest Chief Kef and Young Thug songs. Blast that Billie Ellish and Arianna Grande, sis! Yes, I listen to them too. (These were the worst situations because I don’t even like rap music.) And PLEASE stop using slang you don’t usually use when speaking to me. Addressing me as your “homegirl” and adding “yo” at the end of your sentence is not comforting, it makes me cringe.
Be empathetic of certain conversations. I’ve been in very uncomfortable conversations where I’ve heard comments said by my white friends that I didn’t agree with. I felt as if I couldn’t speak my mind due to me being the only black person in the group and it put me in an uncomfortable situation. In an all white group, bringing up a topic like police brutality isn’t putting your black friend in the most comfortable position. Although, I will be happy to tell you my arguments against police brutality, it’s hard to explain to a whole group of people who never will get it.
Being friends with a black person may seem hard, you may feel like you’re walking on thin ice, but it’s not. All we ask is for you to make an effort. When you mess up, admit to it and be better. When I was in High School, I wish I would have spoken up about the things I experienced. Not just because they were wrong, but because they demeaned me as a person. Coming to college around a more diverse group of people has taught me to speak up for what I know is right.