i’m white and my black friends criticize white people

dear heather,

I really hope I don’t sound racist when I ask this cuz I really don’t mean to. I’ve noticed that society is slowly making it seem more and more like being white is a dorky thing. Some of my friends are black and they criticize white people a lot in front of me. One friend even told me that her boyfriend’s response to me was “How the hell can you hang around a white person?” And then there are lots of jokes here lately centered around white people. It might just be my area, but I dunno how to go about this without making someone, including myself, feel like I’M being too serious about this issue. So what do I do? What am I supposed to think? I feel so guilty whenever I start thinking things like “I better be careful around those people before they start cracking jokes and disses at me.” I feel intimidated and guilty about all this.

I can see why you’re so confused about all of this. It’s a complicated issue, especially when most of us just “want to get along.” But consider also that black people have had a complicated history in this country. Frustration often arises in those who are not part of the “dominant” culture because many members of that dominant culture behave as though they are the “norm” and that others are not quite “standard” or “up to par.” Now imagine that your family has not really felt accepted because of their race, and actually, you have not felt completely accepted either. After generations of feeling not quite part of the metaphoric “club,” it would probably be tempting to start your own “club.” You might also form informal rules around these ideas, and challenge people who step out of line (for example, people who hang out with white people).It’s a different kind of peer pressure. Many African-Americans will tell you that they are afraid they will be accused of not being “black enough,” and that if they talk too “proper” or hang out with too many white people, other black people may call them on it. Internalized racism may account for much of this desire to conform, as some blacks, because of the history of racism, interpret such behavior in other blacks as indications that that person has accepted the dominant culture’s assumption that black people aren’t “good enough.” Too bad. It’s a circular process that results in alienation, as you can attest.

None of this excuses your being dissed by your friends, however. One thing I might suggest is that you talk to your friends about this when it does comes up. I think many people miss out on opportunities to learn about and understand each other because they are too nervous to ask questions. I would also recommend that you try to get over your fear and speak up when you’re being dissed, without dissing back. Simply say something like, “Hey come on guys, that’s not cool. How would you like it if I said something like that to you?” Say it, firm in your conviction that it is, indeed, not cool. You won’t change the world in one fell swoop, but at least you might clear the air in your neck of the woods.

take care,

Posted in: Being Different, Help Me Heather
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  • Missfiction

    i know this is old but i like to read some of the old articles whatever…. anyway…. its just that if a white person makes fun of a black person…. they are considered racist. if a black person makes fun of a white person…..its not the same. i just dont get it. im white and i have some white friends who go around saying and acting like being white is like beingthe devil or something horrible. i dont get it