Saturday, July 13, 2013

Good to Know: Insights from Your Black Friend™

In How to Be Black, Baratunde Thurston includes a chapter called “How to Be the Black Friend,” in which he states (emphasis mine):

During the Cold War, U.S. and Russian leaders installed a special direct communications device that came to be known as the ‘red telephone.’ They would use it to talk to each other in secret, explaining military movements and other actions that could be misinterpreted as acts of war. Black Friends are our red telephones. They are our covert agents. They are interracial code breakers…”

I think Thurston is on to something here. I think more white people need black friends. Yes, I do.

Because there’s a lot of confusion out there, and it seems we are having a helluva time understanding each other. And we need to understand each other, because none of us is going anywhere. Am I wrong?

So, today, I’m starting a new series on this blog, and I’m calling it (well, presumably you've already read the title, but in the interest of thoroughness I’ll repeat it) “Good to Know: Insights from Your Black Friend.”

Every so often, as events warrant and the mood strikes, I’ll be posting an insight.

And today’s insight is --

When you’re with your Black Friend, and he or she makes a comment about racism, do not, repeat DO NOT, respond by saying something like:

“It's not just black people who are affected. I think if people of every race showed more love, the world would be a better place.”


“Well, sexism is just as bad.”


“They just hired that black guy in _______. I think that’s a step in the right direction."

Because, if your Black Friend is like me, these statements are bound to infuriate.

Statements such as these, although perhaps well meaning, tend to MINIMIZE and DISMISS the concerns of your Black Friend, who is sharing with you a very palpable reality that has a very real impact on his or her life.

So be a friend, okay? And just LISTEN. Or maybe even ask a question, like “Why do you feel that way?”

Because even if talking about racism makes you feel uncomfortable, rest assured that being the object of racism is a lot more uncomfortable for your friend.

That’s it for now from Your Black Friend.



  1. Good for you. So often the Black person is responsible for adjusting/dealing with all racial issues, like how to communicate bewteen Black and white. It's great to have the Black person say, "Hey, pay attention to what you're saying. Maybe it's not appropriate."
    Good luck with this. I hope many white people will listen.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Willem. And if any white person wants to share some insight with me, some REAL insight, not some hate-filled venom crap, I'm all ears.

  2. I like Crystal comments, I don't always agree.
    I have lived in the US, and I am aware of the race situation, I am no longer there.
    It is hard to justify yourself for being different every time someone questions that. Or to explain race should make no difference.
    On the other hand, historically, some races have taken advantage of others, I am not sticking the blame on the current generation, but much of the wealth amassed through generations could have been the product of exploitation of one race to another, or one country or ethnic group to another. That explains the feelings either superiority or inferiority anyone could have.
    You don't see that Nobel prize winners equally represent race distribution in the world, nor you see athletes in different sports evenly representing all races, take basket ball, or swimming, as an example. Music is like a more balanced spectrum, but if you want to see differences, you will.
    So, what is the point to try to be a copy cat? Why do we have to excel or prove we can excel in everything? Be good on what you are good at and try not to prove a point to anyone, you don't have to justify to anyone but yourself.
    Dignity is not at stake, every human being has his/her own dignity, and if someone thinks otherwise, then I have a problem with him/her.
    And then, it is plain stupid to try to be blind on the talents of someone and pick another one because he/she is from a given race, not because his/her talents are the best for the purpose.
    I am not interested on having my name published or being identified, I spell no hate to anyone, so I remain anonymous.
    Just to feed the curiosity of anyone I would be classified as Hispanic/Latino over the US, I give a shit on those classifications, but in the square society full of classifications over there, that's my classification and, racially, I am white.

    1. Hi Anon, if I'm hearing you correctly, you're saying that we should be less concerned with what others think of us and more concerned with recognizing our own worth. Am I right? If so, of course I agree, and yet, it's a human trait to seek validation, and so old habits die hard.

  3. Good point...from a White chick <3