Statistically speaking, about 75% of White people don’t even have a Black friend, but on the off chance that you are one of the White people who do, I have a message for you from your (one) Black friend: Do better.
In her New York Times bestselling book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, author Robin DiAngelo writes, “White progressives … so often — despite our conscious intentions — make life so difficult for people of color. I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color.”
This is in part because White progressives have the most consistent access and adjacency to people of the global majority. You are our bosses, co-workers, in-laws, and friends. You love us, and we love you, but your lack of self-awareness makes you dangerous, like a blindfolded elephant mindlessly swinging its trunk, leaving destruction in your wake.
The supreme irony of cross-racial friendships is that the more I care about you, the less inclined I am to point out the racist impact of your words or actions. It’s easy to tell a Donald Trump supporter that Blackness is not a monolith and their use of racially charged stereotypes is harmful, but it’s harder to explain to my best friend from college why saying “you’re not really Black” isn’t a compliment.
I’ve made it a personal goal to stop wasting my breath on calling out my enemies (they’re not listening anyway) and to instead invest more time and energy into calling in my friends and allies. I think that only by holding each other accountable for the privileged identities we carry can we move forward into a society where those identities no longer predict life outcomes for the marginalized.
It’s in this spirit of partnership and progress that I offer this short but crucial list of phrases your Black friend wishes you would stop saying (but probably won’t tell you about). In no particular order:
I’ve made it a personal goal to stop wasting my breath on calling out my…