I’m a black woman. I lived in black neighborhoods but spent most of my life at schools that were majority white. I grew up listening to soul and old school R&B, but as a teen I frequented punk shows where I was often the only black girl in the crowd. My boyfriend is white. Without giving an even more detailed rundown of my life, here’s the quick and dirty: I know a lot about white people. For that I can thank everything from pop culture, history, friendships, and basic means of survival. I mean, whiteness is kind of hard to avoid when it’s the dominating presence in the world you live in! But because of that, that makes other marginalized people easy to ignore or dismiss, like black people. It’s why blackness remains a mystery to so many white people, even among the “SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE BLACK!“ set.
None of us are born woke, and we all learn about other people little by little over time. But I’ve had so many experiences with even the most seemingly “woke” white people that just emphasize how little they know or even empathize with what it means to be black. After stumbling upon a Reddit thread covering this very issue, I found myself saying, “YES” and “Mmmmhm” out loud so much that I just had to share some of the findings with you Gurl readers. Here are 14 things that white people will never understand about being black. Don’t get offended–there are plenty of things that I, as a straight person will never understand about being gay, or things that I, as somebody who grew up middle class, will never understand about growing up poor–but it’s always important to listen to marginalized people’s gripes because it helps us become better, more empathic people.
The Deep Feelings Of 'Otherness'soopaaflii: I don't think my white friends in general understand the feeling of "otherness" that comes from being black (or a minority). I think a lot of black people subconsciously do the "scan" to see how many other black people there are when they walk into a room. I don't think white people know what that feels like very often because they are constantly surrounded by their own kind. Until you go to a concert, look around the room, and only see two other black people...you don't get it and you probably never will. The Craft
Dating Comes With Fetishization And ExclusionTheYellowRose: Dating as a black woman is so hard. Others mentioned the "you're so pretty for a black girl" and how people treat us like a fetish, but there's definitely the feeling of being unwanted. We're everyone's last pick. Men of color drool over white women. It hurts a lot to not be wanted or desired by a large portion of the dating pool. Just like on my job applications, I never identify myself as black on dating sites because men will choose to filter me out. It would be nice if didn't have to worry about creepy white guys calling us "dark chocolate" or having dudes straight up say that they don't date black girls (all thanks to racist, BS reasons, of course). Instagram
The Complexity Of Black HairWakeup-flawless: When I say my hair is tangled it is not the same as their hair being tangled. Detangling straight hair or wavy hair is not similar to detangling a 4c afro. loveypower: I switch my hair up a lot from sew ins, to naturals, to wigs and i always get asked how'd you get your hair to do that...i mean come on in 2016 have people NOT heard of extensions?! not only THAT...going from blonde, to burgundy to black within a matter of a week or two from 18 inches to about 10 inches and back. common sense. Please, don't try to empathize with our hair struggles by talking about how curly your hair gets when it's humid. And, no, I didn't cut my hair! Look up "shrinkage," please! Pinterest
Having To Be Twice As Good As Everyone Elsecheshirecatsmiley: How much harder you have to work at everything to be seen as at least as good as someone else. Growing up, almost every black person is told by their parents that they need to work twice as hard to receive the same respect as our white peers. Unfortunately, that's not just paranoia. Studies have shown that black employees receive higher scrutiny than white employees, which means they're more likely to be punished for mistakes, receive lower wages, and have negative performance reviews. We really do have to work twice as hard and be twice as careful. Daria
How It Feels To Be The Tokeniam_electric: "You're our token black person!" Shove off with this one. It was funny the first couple of times, but eventually I have personally left the situation feeling as though I was there to fill some quota. Ill-intentioned or not, nobody ever wants to feel like they're there just because. Um, we know when we're a token or not. Please, don't try to get cute with us about it because chances are...it's not cute. Boy Meets World
Expecting People To See You As A Criminalcheshirecatsmiley: That 5 seconds when you hear about someone committing a crime somewhere and you're silently hoping they aren't black. A black person committing a crime is seen as business as usual, thanks to racist stereotypes. This affects the way that black people are treated every day, especially by police. White people can commit crimes without having to worry about their entire race looking bad, marginalized people don't have that luxury. Blackish
Stereotypes: Fitting Them And NOT Fitting Themladystetson: Just because I fit some of the stereotypes doesn't mean I'm not still an individual, nor does it mean they ALL apply. People need to understand that attributing black stereotypes to inferiority or lack of intelligence/humanity is racism at its core. Black people aren't expected to like rock music (even though we invented it) or geeky sci-fi shows, but there are black people who are all about it. There are black people who do fit stereotypes like being able to twerk or not being able to swim...and there's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes--gasp--we fit some stereotypes and don't fit others. OMG, it's like black people aren't a monolith or something. It's like we're all complex, diverse people with varied interests, skills, and achievements. Wow, who would have thought! Pfft... Friday
Being Told That Our Experience Isn't UniqueTossInTheAbyss: How as soon as I mention some experience that relates to being black, they IMMEDIATELY counter with something to the effect of "me too" or "yea, that's how it is for everyone" or anything discounting what I just said about my experience. Sometimes people do this as a way to be helpful and understanding, but it can come across as dismissive. Just listen to us instead of inserting yourself into our gripes. Clueless
How Annoying It is To Hear People's 'Blaccent'Kendarlington: When I say something, sometimes white people will unfailingly try to repeat what I have said but in a "blaccent.” Me: "I'm getting pretty hungry.” Other person: "Oh, you hooongry? (Laughs) Me: What are you talking about? Other person: Whatchoo talkin' 'bout?! (laughs) OH MY GOD. I had "friends" who would do this often, and it's so awkward to call them out for being racist when they just think they're being funny. YouTube/Iggy Azealea
Being Dismissed As An 'Angry Black Woman'undependent_1: When I'm angry, it's not because I'm and angry black woman. The one time I get extremely angry and get loud cancels out all the times I was angry and was very calm. Black women have to hesitate before expressing anger in some settings out of fear of being reduced to an "angry black woman" stereotype. Our anger is valid, we shouldn't be afraid to be heard. Dear White People
Dealing With 'Black' As A Bad Worddratthecookies: "The nervousness people have in acknowledging race in front of a black person. I can't count of how many times I've asked a white person to describe someone to me and seen that far off look in their eyes as they try to avoid saying the word "black." As if it's an insult. Just say it." Um, as long as you're not saying something racially insensitive, it's okay to describe somebody as black. It's so awkward to see people clinically whisper "African-American" as a descriptor, too. Also, just a heads up: Not all black people are African-American, so get used to the word "black" sooner rather than later. iStock.com
Our Issues Are Often Excluded From Mainstream Feminismlovelyone20: When you talk about feminism it's generally white women feminism. So let's stop pretending it's for All women feminism that's being implied. This is why having an intersectional approach to feminism is so important. The voices of the feminist movement that are given the most attention often focus on issues that only affect well off straight white women. But different women have different needs. For example, for black women, police brutality is a feminist issue! If you don't agree, it's time to reconsider how inclusive your idea of feminism is. Elle
Being Able To Detect Racism Like A Sixth Senseladystetson: Detecting racism. When someone rejects you for your race it can really hurt, so it's something I try to avoid. I'm not going to walk into that gas station covered with confederate flags... I don't need that in my life. I don't want to eat in the restaurant where I'll be the first black person to eat a meal. I rather go somewhere I feel comfortable. Usually white friends are like "oh you're being crazy, no one's racist anymore LOL" and they can't fathom what it actually feels like one of the many times their rose-colored glasses pollyanna worldview is wrong. This isn't just paranoia. We need to be aware of racism at all times for our physical and mental health. Just because you can't see it doesn't mean we can't. Fresh Meat
Dealing With People Acting As If Being 'Colorblind' Is A Good Thingsalhey: "I have a white friend that pretty much only dates black and hispanic men, is obsessed with wanting a "mixed baby with blue eyes" and is convinced saying things like, "I don't see color" are okay. Why is not seeing color a good thing? So, you don't see who that person is? My color is part of me. Saying you don't see color just tells me that you'd rather live in a colorless world where no one is different, so you don't have to do any extra thinking. Everyone is different, that should be celebrated, not bleached. Having a "colorblind" approach to the world just makes you more ignorant to the fact that race exists, as do racial struggles. We need to acknowledge the way our skin color affects our lives, not ignore it to make ourselves feel less guilty. Pinterest
What other things do you have a problem discussing with white friends? Has your friendship ever hit a speed bump because of this? Tell us in the comments!