14 Things About Being Black That White People Will Never Understand

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 Exclusion

TheYellowRose: 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).


The Complexity Of Black Hair

Wakeup-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!


Having To Be Twice As Good As Everyone Else

cheshirecatsmiley: 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.


How It Feels To Be The Token

iam_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 Criminal

cheshirecatsmiley: 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.


Stereotypes: Fitting Them And NOT Fitting Them

ladystetson: 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...


Being Told That Our Experience Isn't Unique

TossInTheAbyss: 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.


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 Word

dratthecookies: "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.


Our Issues Are Often Excluded From Mainstream Feminism

lovelyone20: 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.


Being Able To Detect Racism Like A Sixth Sense

ladystetson: 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 Thing

salhey: "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.


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!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!

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  • DeuS_eX_DaRe

    If someone wrote an article called “14 things about being white that black people will never understand”, would that be acceptable?

  • Cynthia Lee Watkins

    This is so “on point”. I’m 62 years old and have experienced all 14 of the things you mentioned at some point in my life. And tired of it already!

  • siri hari

    It’s a lot to rise above, but if you can do it, you’ll go the distance and meet your destiny in beauty, bounty and bliss. Develop a meditative mind, and your manners will take you everywhere.

  • whorton

    Wait a moment. . Your are going to explain 14 things that “white people” will never get. . . But you state:

    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.

    You understand white people so well, yet you assert those same people are so pompous and self absorbed, they could never understand these 14 traits?

    1. You honestly don’t think any of those “white folks” have ever been in a non majority situation? By College age, I suspect most have. It is analogous, however to a red head walking into a room and noting only a single other red head, or a person driving, say a 1970 Mustang noticing another simular car in traffic . .

    And no, you arrogantly assert that those white people are not always constantly surrounded by simular people. . that is a broad generalization.

    2. Regarding dating. . I dated a black woman in College. . 1988. We got along fine. . we spoke as normal people do. . no secret code words. . .

    Years ago, I did not hesitate to tell someone if I found them attractive and receptive to receiving the compliment. As you note, now you are so out of touch that you are hypersensitive to any potential compliment and you are referencing everything through the lens of a black woman. Problem is, the message was sent by a white man. . When effectively communicating, you sometimes have to go to the lowest common denominator for communication. Who is the LCD here? Your white boyfriend or you?

    Either you must be allowed FOR or allow for someone ELSE. . .

    3. The complexity of your hair? REALLY? Your right. . I don’t understand why you need to obess about it so. I understand wanting to look nice, but Geez. . Do you think you are really the only people to suffer idiosyncratic hair?

    4. Maybe you do have to try twice as hard, but you know what? I am an RN and have been one for 23 years. Do you have any idea how many bosses I have had to try twice as hard for, just because we did not “hit it off?”

    No, the reality of the situation is that to use a colloquial term, “Win friends and influence people,” sometimes you have to “kiss asses” and be nice or civil to people you don’t like. . that is life. . we have to do it as well!

    The reason that many white people have issues with black people, is not the individual. It is a character fault that whites AND BLACKS and indians and orientals. . . .all have. Too many people have encountered the Faux gored black chick with the bobbi’n head and the attitude that “She” is it. Generalization? Yeah, but I have encountered it, through no actions of mine too many times. I always have to wonder if someone is going to be like a hamster. Gonna be nice, tame and pleasant, or born wrong and going to bite the crap out of my finger?

    This is something EVERYONE has to overcome.. . both as actors and recipients .. Its been going on for years before any of us were ever around.

    5. Token? Laughable. . if you like being condescended to and patronized, tell those people where to go. . they were never your friend in the first place. .. You do not have to put up with that. . Once again, black people do the same thing to the token “whitie.”

    6. This is a classic. . If you are professionally dressed, and acting accordingly, You will not be treated as a criminal. Guy goes around with his pants half down his butt, Tats that would make a Con proud, gold chains like Mr. T, flashing gang signs, or acting like a THUG. . You betcha!

    The Reverend Jessie Jackson said this once:

    ““There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps… then turn around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

    People act like thugs. . dress like thugs, talk like thugs. . THEY will be treated as THUGs. . .

    Yeah, I recognize there are a few people everywhere who still “do” that.. .but conversely, there are many blacks out there who would kill every white person if the could.

    Get over it, and don’t act like a criminal!

    7. Stereotypes?

    Once again. . Protestations of “I am the eternal victim. Yeah, stereo types hurt and are oft a sign of ignorance. . BUT. . Lets talk about what happens in public schools, especially in inner cities. A kid studies and makes an effort. . how is he treated? Very poorly for “Acti’n White”

    Never before have I seen anything quite as foolish or shortsighted. But you go on to say:

    People need to understand that attributing black stereotypes to inferiority or lack of intelligence/humanity is racism at its core.

    People don’t just integrate those stereotypes right away. . but when they see repeated behaviors, they internalize them. . If I had a dime for every time I have had a car pull up at an intersection, with some fool who fells compelled to share his BOOM BOOM music with everyone, I could retire. Where did they get that behavior? What about Gang signs? What about Crips and Bloods? We didn’t start that crap. .

    You are again being hyper sensitive about the issue. If you don’t like people doing that, tell them once, if they persist, leave them to their own devices. .

    8. Unique experiences. .. .

    Wow, if you are so bothered, why do you feel the need to assert YOUR special negro/black centric worldview of some inconsequential event that happened uniquely to you. .

    I Didn’t attend the Selma event back in the 60’s and neither did you. . Does that mean that for the people who WERE there that their interpretation was invalid?

    You want to tell me about some event, I’ll listen. . I’ll not return the story with a self centered item. . .If someone does something that bothers you once again . .

    TELL THEM! Don’t put it in a secret, “Panties in a wad” list and foment a grudge over it.


    I’ll give you that its annoying. Do you honestly want to tell me that there are not local idiosyncrasies about black language that does not comport with white language? That has persisted for years. A good part of it, the community is responsible for.

    Proper english garners more respect than gangster gibberish. And yeah, whites, latino’s asians etc all do the same thing. . Welcome to the club.

    10. Angry Black women. .

    “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.”

    You nailed it right there. . But so do a lot of white people and Latinos, Ricans. . etc. . Sadly, that stereotype has been built up and cultivated by popular media. . especially shows like COPS and JAIL. . where you see the worst of people.

    11. The dreaded “B” word. . .

    Yes, there is hesitation about using the word “black” You may not recall the constant change of terms in the 60’s and 70’s. . . Colored, Black, African American. . Sometimes you did not know what was appropriate from day to day. Occasionally, we in the Melanin challenged, have at times been excoriated for using the wrong term..

    Explain to us how YOU want to be addressed. What is the important thing about yourself that you would like your audience to remember about you?

    Its sort of like a gay person, who when I first meet them, throws in my face that they are Gay. Really? Is that the most important thing about the sum total of your life? the “Oh, he is the gay guy” not the “great writer” or Blond, or Paul.. Get my point. . what do you want? If it’s not outrageous like, “Call me God” I will be happy to address you as you wish.

    12. Main stream feminism.

    Wow, I am tempted to say, don’t get me started. But that would be pointless.

    This is a valid criticism that conservatives have had for years. Feminism has been totally co-oped by the left. The problem is the Left is not your friend. They are out for their own ends. . progressive, socialist, egalitarian ends.

    Feminists, (Take Hillary for example) insist she speaks for all women. Does she speak for you? Are your issues of import, of consideration to Hillary and her bunch?

    One that has confounded and frustrated me for years is Islam. Hillary and Company herald all the rights for American women. . Abortion is sarcosanct! Nothing else matters!. . Circle the wagons! Some male legislature said he disagrees with abortion. . He must be a racist pig!

    I digress. . .sorry

    Islam however . . Women born in Saudi Arabia. Can’t leave the house without a male relative. You must wear a black Coleman tent, because those “Moose limb” men can’t control themselves. . (funny that Americans CAN) Rape and groping is common place. .

    A man may beat his wife. . .

    A man may divorce a woman AND get the children by uttering “I divorce you” three times. . that’s it!. . Your marriage is arranged anyway, so what does love matter?

    If you are raped, you are up a creek. . without 4 (four) witnesses, you are guilty of Adultery and will be stoned to death.

    A woman inherits 1/4 of what a male relative gets.
    A woman’s testimony is worth 1/4 of that of a man. .
    Want to talk about female genital mutilation?

    But yet, Hillary will not speak out about Islam.. or Saudi Arabia. . as the Clinton Foundation has taken millions in gifts. .(Hush money to not criticize Saudi. . )

    Need I go on? Everything takes a back seat to the objectives of the left. . Making sure your future daughter shares her locker room with a boy who self identifies as a Girl that day. . .biology or surgical intervention does not matter as long as TG people can use the bathroom of their choice. . .

    Is this really and truly important? Aren’t there more important things Feminism could be doing? Perhaps returning to its roots and standing up for women first and the left down on the priority list .. .

    And just think, I am a neanderthal white guy in his 50’s!

    13. Racism detection. .

    I understand this one two. . It does not just happen to black people.. It does happen to me. . but as we discussed above, its not about my description of feeling like a token and in the minority. .

    May I offer that what you experience is not a racism detector per se. It is more likely a manifestation of fear, a normal anxiety. You will have to think about the issue in depth. I cannot say for sure. Were I in that position, of say walking into a BLM rally, hell yeah, I would be fearful. . . Not afraid of being called the occasional name. . but those few individuals who feel compelled and assigned to physically engage me. . No, I think not. .

    Yes, there are still racist assholes out there. . both sides. . sometimes you have to decide if a given event is worth the anxiety from attending or being there. .Given that discretion is the better part of valor. . .I would withdraw from the BLM rally. . I recognize when I am not wanted, and have no desire to push it!

    14, Colorblindness. . .

    Think about this for a moment. . People who assert such a claim are usually in reality the ones that notice race the MOST. .

    The next time she insists she does not see color, challenge her a bit. . Ask her to tell you 10 things that are unique about her. . she will likely not make it to 10.

    Yes, its a tacit acknowledgement of race. if it makes you uncomfortable, warn them and leave. . NOT everyone does that. .

    Ashley, I may have come across as unloading on you. I am not sure how I came across your entry here. My intent is certainly not to demean or attack you. But in fairness, you asserted some common things to the idea that only black people get. .

    Yeah, there are things I don’t “get” but its not for lack of trying. . in my case most of the time, I find no reason to explore the issue. if there is a reason, I will.. Rest assured.

    As we get older, we see things through the lens of age with less tolerance to BS. . I have no doubt if I attended a “liberal arts” college, I would have a heck of a time and piss lots of people off, for not playing the game.

    But that is what it is. . The old guard progressive professors are getting old and retiring or dying off. The pendulum of political thought is swinging back to the right. . It will take a few years, but it will happen.

    My point? I don’t know really. You wrote a nice and emotive and impassioned blog entry. There were no responses. I am giving you one that you can possibly hold up and say. . “See, this fool is a racist, sexist pig” I hope not, but you may. . .

    And the truth is you know nothing of me, save my writing. I am not as bad as you may make me out to be. I do look forward to reading your rebuttal!

    Lastly, please don’t take it personally. You are an intelligent young lady who is in the process of making a difference. Keep it up!