Relationships

5 Things I Want to Tell My White Friends

5 Things I Want to Tell My White Friends

Dear White Friends…

When I first started getting all of your text messages and DMs and phone calls in the days after George Floyd’s death, I was incredibly touched, if also a little bit surprised. Each death or act of violence against a black person in this country (let alone the run of the mill daily injustices) feels to me, and people who look like me, like a relentless mental and emotional jabbing. But now, suddenly, here I was getting messages from so many of you — from high school friends I haven’t spoken to in years, writing clients, former colleagues — offering heartfelt messages of support and condolence. I could have gotten hung up on the ultimately futile question “Why now?”, but I was too focused on the many intense feelings bubbling inside me, among them: gratitude.

Friend, I have to tell you that there is something incredibly powerful about seeing my reality recognized and affirmed. You must have known this and that’s why you reached out. What is friendship, after all, than to have your specific travails witnessed, and acknowledged. For your friend to turn to you and say, “I see you. I’m here for you. I can’t take away your pain, but I can share it.” That’s easier and par for the course when it comes to the shared trials we’ve faced — the break ups and illnesses and work drama — but you and I, we lose that common ground when it comes to race. Unlike my black friends, you can’t share in this fraught experience with me in a way that’s borne of the shorthand of understanding and visceral connection — it’s a harder bridge to cross for us, though, we’ve proven, not impossible.

That’s why my favorite messages that you’ve sent over the last couple weeks have been the ones that are explicit and to the point, all those variations of, “It’s so hard to be a black person in this country and I’m sorry.” This simple recognition, direct and blunt, was an affirmation I didn’t even realize I was so hungry to hear from you. Even as I knew in my heart that you understood racism and generally condemned it, it was different to hear you express it so pointedly, so personally, and with such raw emotion. When you called me crying, when you sent messages so thick with genuine concern and sincerity it brought tears to my eyes, when you alluded, so bravely and honestly, to the guilt that you feel that you get to live a life that is inherently less fraught, less dangerous, less difficult than my own, for no other reason than that I have dark skin, I felt your concern like a current linking us.

I’ve been thinking a lot about race and friendship… not just in the last few days and weeks, though for sure that’s been the case, but over the last year since I’ve been writing my novel, We Are Not Like Them, an intimate portrait of a lifelong interracial friendship and the reckoning that happens in the aftermath of an incident of police violence — a story that feels all too timely today. At its heart, the book explores a vexing question that is on many people’s minds, especially these days: Is a true and close friendship between a black woman and a white woman possible in our racially polarized world?

It’s certainly very rare. Though not so much for me, actually. I have a lot of you — dear white friends. The reasons for this are to a degree a question of circumstances: I grew up in a predominantly white Maryland suburb where I was often the “token” black kid in girl scouts, in gifted and talented programs, and in ballet class. In these places and in school, I met you and we bonded for life. Fast forward to adulthood: the other place people make friends is at work. And for the last 17 years, I’ve worked as a book editor in an industry that’s an egregiously and aggressively — I would argue, obscenely — white space. Publishing is also an intimate industry where the people you work with are a close-knit community and I’ve made lasting friendships with white colleagues who I deeply admire and respect. But it also means turning the other cheek to the colleague who joked, “Well, you’re the whitest black person in the world.” Or to the executive who reminded us that we didn’t “want to compromise the value of our books” when we discussed pushing for more “diverse” authors.

To be a person of color — especially one in an all-white space — is to be constantly scanning the horizon for signs of danger… or disappointment. It is to be hyperaware at all times as to how you’re being perceived and vigilant about monitoring what people are saying and doing and thinking and hope the other shoe doesn’t drop in the form of an offhand offensive comment or revelation that would forever color the way I think of you. Only after this careful assessment can one take tentative steps towards friendship, as you and I have done. But even then the mental energy to build and maintain trust is a labor of love; for a black person to make a white friend is to take a specific risk and a leap of faith. These are all very real factors that make entering into an interracial friendship like we have feel scary and fraught. It’s exactly why friendships like ours are so rare. We’ve had to be brave with each other in very specific ways and we’ve had to stake our friendship on a willingness and ability to “go there.” Meaning, true intimacy is impossible without the subject of race being fully and completely on the table. There can be no room for eggshells in our friendship, or elephants; they’d take up too much space between us. Your messages to me, warm, brave and blunt, are a testament to your willingness to engage in hard truths about our experiences and a reminder of the importance of that. That was always true, but it is the case now more than ever.

So, in that spirit, and in this strange, surreal, moment where it feels to me that we’re in one of those lay-our-souls-bare, type crossroads, I wanted to share some confessions.

* I wish you had other black friends. As I was reading all your heartfelt messages of support, I thought, “Oh my gosh, how exhausting to have to write to every black friend in your life,” but then I realized, I may well be your only black friend. And it just got me thinking, I love you, but I’m tired of the role of “the black friend,” too. When I look around and I’m the only brown face at your wedding, or your milestone birthday extravaganza, or your book launch party, it makes me wonder how that came to be? I wonder if you’ve ever had a black person to your home besides me? I wonder if you’ve ever been in an all-black space and, if so, how that made you feel? We live in a highly segregated society for sure, so it takes more effort for you to seek out black friends, but I want you to think about how you could branch out into other spaces and do the work of making those connections. And yes, that work is going to fall to you since, for all the reasons I just mentioned, it’s harder for a black person to put themselves out there for friendship in the same way — years of oppression would give anyone some trust issues. Don’t let that be an excuse not to try to connect with more people who look like me. Think about who you welcome into your world and where you could venture out of your comfort zone to meet other people. It can’t be that you haven’t been given the opportunity to connect with other brown people (we’re everywhere!)… So, perhaps it’s a matter of trying harder. Would you be willing to do so? Will you make sure that your kids have brown friends, too? And will you do so sincerely because you know it would enrich your life and your kids, not just because it would signal your racial virtue. You have no idea what it would mean to me if your social circles were generally more inclusive.

* I don’t want you to think I’m special/exceptional and that’s why we’re friends. When we were little girls writing in chalk on the blacktop, I had already begun to internalize a message required of so many minorities: prove to them that you deserve to be welcomed here, in this room, in this career, in this relationship. Above all, show yourself to be “one of the good ones.” I don’t know if I ever told you the story of how my parents had been close friends with a white couple for some years, when, at dinner one day the husband said, “John, Sallie, we don’t even think of you as black people.” And then the wife chimed in with, “You’re just like us, with the same good values.” I’ve lost track of the times I’ve heard a version of, “you’re not *really* black. Which is still less than the times I’ve heard a version of “you’re pretty… for a black girl.” You know how much these comments irk and hurt me. And I want to be confident deep in my bones that our friendship isn’t based on the fact that you think I’m somehow “exceptional” or different from “other black people” in some way. And I don’t want our relationship to have been forged “despite” my blackness. (Or solely because of my blackness either, for that matter.) I don’t want us to buy into the myth of the acceptable black person, the one “who’s just like you,” because it belies a simple truth: No matter what superficially “acceptable” trappings I appear to have, the inescapable reality is, I will always have the “wrong” color of skin in our society, and I will always belong to a community of people who are seen as inferior and are oppressed, demeaned and killed. That comes with a harsh toll, practically and emotionally, for every black person in America.

* I worry you’re not fighting hard enough when I’m not around. Sometimes, I imagine you at Thanksgiving dinner, or having a reunion with your sorority sisters, or sitting in a work meeting and letting all manner of offensive comments slide in the name of keeping the peace. I can’t help but to secretly wonder if your brother-in-law or cousins in Nebraska harbor hate towards me; if your parents or grandparents were standing in the crowds smiling at a lynching or spitting on black kids trying to integrate schools. I think about how many times you may have heard the N word, or listened to someone vent about lazy animals or welfare queens or argue that black people are just more violent or not as smart. Or maybe the comments or opinions are more subtle, but just as insidious… “I would never date a black guy.” Or, “This woman at work is so ghetto, I don’t even know why they hired her. She doesn’t fit in.” I wonder how many times you’ve overlooked a comment or an insult that had I been in the room with you would not have been uttered or would have embarrassed you if it had. My wish is that, if you haven’t done so in the past, you start now, calling people out — even if it’s hard. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Even if it costs you something, an awkward moment or even a relationship. I want to be confident that wherever you are — eating pie with your dad, having a glass of wine with your Amy Cooper-esque friend — that you are willing to speak up and unequivocally decide not to accept bigotry with a zero tolerance policy. I want you to imagine me, with you, right at that table and think, “I will not be able to look Christine in the eye if I let this go.”

* I’m scared that I haven’t shared enough. I feel close to you, but part of me does worry that perhaps I’ve shied away from the difficult parts sometimes. To avoid being the girl who’s “always talking about race,” maybe I’ve limited or edited my experience. Maybe I haven’t opened up enough about my challenges as a black woman. Or maybe you haven’t probed enough? I don’t know, but what I do know to be true is these conversations must be had and must be ongoing with us. Part of being intimate with someone is that they see and understand much of your experience. That’s not easy when it comes to us because there will be many parts of my experience you can never understand – but it means a lot when you try to do so. I know sometimes fear can hold people back, too. If there’s one thing I find utterly tiresome, though, it’s when white people hedge and say they are “too nervous to talk about race” — it feels like an easy out to avoid discomfort and sets up a defensive position and a dynamic where I have to comfort and reassure you before I can talk about the truth of my life or just avoid saying anything all together since you’ve already warned me it’s uncomfortable for you. In our true friendship, we can’t ever be afraid to speak… or listen. If we can discuss the PH balances of our vaginas at length, then surely we can keep tackling conversations about race.

* I worry that you think our friendship itself is enough: It isn’t. I need your friendship (your love and support), now more than ever, yes. You’ve been there for me through heartbreak and job negotiations and ill-advised hair styles. But there’s something greater at stake, right here, right now, in summer 2020. I keep thinking about this phrase: there’s nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come. There’s something exciting and electric and hopeful about this moment — you feel it, I feel it. We don’t want to lose it. We can’t afford to lose it. So, I need you fighting for change. I need you to stand by me — yes, you always have — but even more, I need you to stand up for me now. What does that look like, you may be wondering. It looks like getting out of your comfort zone to connect with more people of color, and talking to your white friends and family, the ones who may have never talked about race before, or maybe even thought about it — it means doing the uncomfortable work of forcing the issue with them. It involves closely examining who else is in your social circle and why. It means action: and not just giving money, though that’s important, too, if you can, obviously, but also confronting all the ways that your life might be made easier — getting a loan, a house, having access to a better school/education, cleaner air, the full complex and imbedded system of white supremacist policies that has made all of that so — and working to fix it. Then it means engaging at the local level — your school board, your county council — to change those policies. All of this is going to make you feel uncomfortable, and guilty, and maybe even exhausted, at times. You already have so much on your plate — how will you have time to add racial justice crusader to your list? But if there’s one thing I know and love about you it is that you are fierce and resilient and passionate and curious and have always believed in the strength of your convictions. You understand deeply, fundamentally, how high the stakes are and that we can’t afford complacency any longer. You, of all people, understand that this battle is — and it is a battle – is important on a moral level, but also a very personal one: because you know me, because you love me, because you want the world to be better for people who look like me. What you and I know to be true is that it is possible. What you and I can do is to continue to be a beacon of love and connection in this world. Our friendship can help light the way forward.

I love you. And I’m counting on you.

Xo, C.


Christine Pride is the author, with Jo Piazza, of the novel, We Are Not Like Them, forthcoming from William Morrow. She lives in New York City. You can find her on Instagram at @cpride.

P.S. 14 great Black-owned businesses and 5 Instagram accounts to follow.

(Illustration by Joelle Avelino for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Petra says...

    Your words touch my soul. I am not mighty but everyday I will strive to do the hard work that I need to do for you.

  2. H. Hussain says...

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this and share it, Christine. I have been struggling lately with hearing things from my white friends and thinking of things from them in the past. Thank you, and thank you to the commentators on this post. Humanity isn’t lost.

  3. BRN says...

    Thank you for this post. It was wonderful and gives me lots to think about.

  4. Pam says...

    This entire article speaks volumes on so many levels, Christine (my mom’s name was Christine, btw). My heart and “head space” have been moved on so many levels in the past month and a half. I admit that I had been disenchanted by the lack of response from some of my white friends. As a benefit of the doubt, maybe they didn’t know what to say or how to approach this topic with me. In true friendship, we can’t be afraid to talk about issues/topics with one another that may be hard or rather uncomfortable. However, I am grateful for the changes I am personally making and the changes in my heart to do something greater. Thank you for sharing your heart and thoughts.

  5. This is extremely touching, as well as enlightening. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  6. Josh Roitberg says...

    Hey Christine, thanks so much for writing this.
    I think you do a great job expressing the thoughts and ideas that alot of black people want to say and alot of white people want to hear about. It’s really helpful to read about this and not get distracted by all the other things going on in the world right now.

    I hear your message and will do my best to take action in my life moving forward.

  7. Harold J Ferguson says...

    Thank you for writing this. It speaks to my heart and mind. Many of these things a friend has said to me already. I know how tiring it is from a white man’s perspective, and have gotten into a glimpse of how hard it is for women of color. For me to become an “activist” it took a good friend suggesting some reading, and shortly after that, George Floyd being murdered 6 blocks from my front door.

  8. Patricia Milano says...

    Thank you so much for being strong enough to say what’s good and what more needs to be done and that it’s not done , you know …..I am not black but i love black people and have some black family and friends, it’s not enough to just be , we must do ….and that’s what you have taught me….action !!! I will continue to support black owned business and advocate for black people expessialy young adults….thank you for this ….good journey ahead

  9. Anneberlyn Valladolid says...

    Thank you for taking the time to write this. I was reading this out loud to my family and I started sobbing, it touched my heart. If all of us work together, we can help change the world for the better. We just need more and more good people on our side. We are the future, we can help make the world a better place that everybody has dreamed for. Please everybody, do not let that opportunity down. We need to do something we need to make change in the world. And I just know this is gonna be a better world in the near future for all of us. For our kids, for our family, friends etc. Please We need to take action now!

  10. Hi all– I’ve been so blown away by all the comments here.  I just wanted to say a collective, thank you.  It means so much to me that my words touched you.  I only wish I could respond with care and detail to every single person, especially given the depth of thoughtfulness and kindness radiating from this whole thread.  I’ve read through multiple times and will continue to do so when I need to feel a surge of hope that with people like this, like you, we’re on the right track.  Progress toward the world we all want may be much slower than any of us would like, but it is steady.  Please keep in touch!  

    • Bill Woodman says...

      Your dad shared your wonderful piece of writing with me recently. Your article was very moving for me personally and contained so much insight on black-white relations today. Your writing has inspired my wife and I to do more. I am so grateful for my opportunity to know your dad from our college experience at Capital U. John remains as one of my best friends today. Hoping to see him and your mom in November. Take care,
      Bill and Donna Woodman (Bise)

    • Rena says...

      THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! You put into words, in this article, what I have felt for so many years. I have tried to explain to my “Dear white friends” how it feels, how I want to react and why, but they just don’t get it. I guess, a small part of their issue is the state that we live and it’s deep history of racial ignorance’s. I am still having to explain to them about the BLM movement and that all the violent videos of blacks doing ignorant things to unsuspecting whites, has nothing to do with the movement, as they use it as evidence against the movement, saying, “look at this, this is why I don’t support BLM”. I’m tired of explaining EVERYTHING BLACK, thank you so much this article!! I want my white friends to read it and understand how their black friends feel, YOU PUT ALL OF OUR FEELINGS AND REQUESTS IN PLAIN SIGHT, GOD BLESS YOU!!!

      Rosemary Cosby, 50
      Alabama

  11. Sonia says...

    Thank you for this.

  12. I feel tremendously fortunate that you shared your feelings and your gift of articulating yourself. So many people have similar feelings, but not the words to express ourselves.

    You’ve inspired me to think of ways to show I care and to overtly stand for equitable treatment.

    Let this conversation continue until there is such profound change that we are looking at this in the rearview mirror. Continue until the day comes that future generations see discrimination as a remote concept.

    • Zakariya Jawara says...

      This statements are so inspiring! And I believe if we can understand, tolerate each other we could all make the world a better place to be. It all begins with only one word, we are equal. And we must fight equality, socio justice system. And empowering black lives matter.

  13. Care says...

    Thank you for taking the time to write this and share. We will keep going. <3

  14. Alex says...

    Thank you.

  15. Meggles says...

    This was outstanding. Thank you so much for helping me, a white person, understand a bit better. I really appreciate it.

  16. This right here. I’m a black woman and this was exactly how I feel. Great post.

  17. Margo says...

    Thank you for the beautifully written post, Christine. Many Black women feel as you do, and wish to tell this to their white friends. However, as a Black woman, I do not feel as you do. This is not what I would tell my white friends. I do not write this to be divisive. I write this because I feel it is necessary to state the painfully obvious to Cup of Jo readers during these trying times as we search for ways to cope and find solutions.

    All Black women, all Black people for that matter, do not feel the same way about these issues. We have a myriad of thoughts, opinions, and experiences, even within the realm of our blackness. I know it is shocking, but it’s true.

    That said, the surge of messages from celebrities, companies, heck, everyone everywhere all agreeing at the same time that Black lives now suddenly matter makes me feel, quite frankly, very uncomfortable. It’s like being love bombed. Those relationships never evolve into long-term, healthy partnerships built on trust, honesty, love, open communication, respect, and compromise. These things take time and effort.

    The United States was built with the free and forced labor of other human beings. Built into this country’s foundation by the whites in power were government programs and practices which were created to keep them in power by channeling wealth and opportunities to white people at the expense of non whites. This happened over many, many generations. This is still happening.

    Until we truly address this past, teach its history in our schools, have real conversations about how this history has shaped our country and its citizen groups, and implement effective policies to shift the many inequalities, everything I read and hear are just words to me.

    Many years from now when this period of collective heightened awareness has simmered down, our actions now, actions that we all commit to, will determine where the nation is heading. These actions are long overdue.

    • Emme says...

      As a white woman, I found this comment as powerful and truth-filled as the beautifully written post featured. I hope everyone here also reads your comment because I think what you say is imperative to forming the deep friendships Christine highlights. More importantly, I think it is critical to understanding and committing to the long, hard work we have ahead of us. Thank you for sharing.

    • Amelia says...

      Your comment is so apt. And I think it is not contrary to the article, it goes very well WITH it. I, too as an African immigrant (which in itself is not free of a myriad of issues) feel like you do- love bombed. I feel skeptical of it, but I have to have hope right?

    • Ken Louis says...

      I totally agree with you and Christine as well. I see Christine article as a necessary step to take us where we should be and it is long overdue.

    • Rebecca says...

      OMG YES! Thank you for this. The diversity of Black folk has been lost in this latest surge of racial consciousness. There are literally some Black folks in the “ya’ll actually HAVE white friends?” camp to that of Christine Pride’s camp and everything in between.

      And each stop on this spectrum feels differently about what’s going on in our world right now. To THAT, I’d encourage white folks to listen to these range of voices and not just the ones with the closest proximity to their whiteness.

    • Christine Pride says...

      I completely agree Margo. We need to emphasize that we’re not a monolith– that idea is sometimes what makes it hard to “speak out” as a black person with a thought or opinion because suddenly it can seem like you represent “all black people”, which we know isn’t true. It’s such a delicate balance speaking to a collective black experience– which, there’s certainly a lot of common ground — versus one’s very personal perspective and the various ways we each as individuals view, experience and manage racism (and life in general). So I appreciate your important comment– it reminds people of that.

  18. Alessandra Massaro says...

    This is beautifully worded and eloquent. Thank you <3 I'm listening.

  19. Jak says...

    This was beautiful and said what my heart has been feeling lately. Thank you.

  20. Elizabeth says...

    I love the compassionate and kindness with which you shared your heart here, thank you for it!

    I will admit I’m more afraid than ever of reaching out and trying to form even more friendships with black women. As a white, blond hair blue eyed woman, I confess I feel completely hated at this point. I’m so scared I’m going to say the wrong thing, I’m so scared I’m going to micro-agress. I don’t know what to say or how to approach new friendships now: if I’m very overtly friendly when I meet people (which I am by nature), will it be misunderstood as trying too hard? If I compliment a woman’s looks, hair, outfits, shoes (which I do all the time: for people of any color) will that be seen as a form of other-izing? If I apologize and begin by acknowledging my privilege, is that also seen as a weird virtue signal? And if I share these fears, is it only further evidence of my “white fragility” or “white girl” tears? I feel caught in a double bind. Even speaking to these fears co-opts the conversation and makes this about “my white feelings”.

    I’m so worried that this new insistence that everything be seen through a hyper-focused lens of race (and specifically Critical Race Theory, or Critical Theory in general) is only going to further polarization. I think Critical Race Theory is the real dominant, oppressive lens that is suffocating us all and drowning out real relationships. I think it teaches the opposite framework of what Martin Luther King promoted when he told us to move towards a world where people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

    I feel this unwanted segregation happening to me already, this sense of “white flight” that only serves to deepen racial divides and harm communities. I think, “Just back away, don’t say anything, don’t engage. You will make a mistake. You will be called out. You will be publicly embarrassed. You will never be accepted anyways. Just say the scripts you are told to say out loud and then back away and disengage. ”

    I’m sharing these honest thoughts with great hesitation and heartbreak. I don’t want it to be this way. How can I be a good friend and make more meaningful friendships with black women if I am seen as the inherent oppressor?

    • Susan says...

      Elizabeth, thank you for this very honest message. Conversation by definition means two-sided and I think many of us are afraid, as you write, of being in the wrong no matter what we say or do. Friendship, as Christine acknowledges, must be a two-way street. I fear that today’s extremism is making friendship more difficult, not less.

    • Julie says...

      Thank you for sharing this. One of the most helpful things I’ve been learning is: Yes, I will get it wrong. A LOT. But there’s so much more at stake besides my feelings, my discomfort…and if the most I’m afraid of is getting my feelings hurt or accidentally hurting someone else’s — not being murdered, not being denied a job based on stereotypes or disgruntled reactions to affirmative action, not having to explain to my children why they may be hated, etc. etc. — then I can do the damn uncomfortable work. And, as has often been circulated on social media: better to do the work of examining our own biases and privilege and making change, than having had the lifelong work of experiencing racism firsthand.

    • Charitie says...

      Absolutely! Grace & self-assurance are needed characteristics from both sides of a friendship. Grace, by not making assumptions about each other (we especially should be careful if it’s an assumption prescribed by the media/culture) and self-assurance, in the way of confidently knowing we personally are valuable and that value can not be taken away or given by someone else, it’s an inherent value. This is not a zero-sum game.

    • K says...

      Oh gosh. It’s interesting you bring up critical theory, because I have been reading critiques on it, haha. I do think it is problematic to declare a single causality as empirical.

      I completely understand your fear to speak, and I do think there’s a bit of an overboard and conflation going on, which I was too scared to directly say. I feel the need to say this comment, even though I myself still feel fear.

      What is our goal? To create a more equal space, free of discrimination? How do we get there? I don’t think this “join or die” mentality encourages progress. I don’t think we should be scared to question. That I am automatically unforgivably, shamefully racist if I don’t agree with looting or defunding the police, or the CHOP zone in Seattle even if I am willing to talk options and plans to their logical conclusions, even if I understand how the actions and suggestions came about? Some of these declarations “If YOU…THEN” feel like straw man/false dilemma fallacies to me.

      There are many things I’d like to explore with discussion beyond people I trust, but I have a fear of being called a racist for voicing these considerations. Not because I’m afraid of being racist (how can I even prove to you that I’m trying not to be–except to work on being a good person in the ways I believe in), but because of the “cancelling” wrath that might follow it. I think a lot of good faith conversation opportunities are being overlooked.

      And I’m also very scared about this “Karenizing” of women. And that we are not allowed to speak to defend ourselves (I’m not white, if that matters)…It seems like a very thin translucent line determining between a Karen and calling out an alleged Karen, which may encourage misogyny. I’ve read Op-Eds declaring as fact, calling someone Karen is not sexist nor ageist. I have read one saying, “If you complain about being called a Karen, that is very peak-Karen.” I’ve learned that that may be called a Kafka trap. Some videos have no due process before they are posted online for everyone to see and declare someone a Karen. What makes them a Karen? And what is the suitable punishment? Do we the public decide the punishment without due process?

      Some people are so sure they’re not Karens, but how do you know?

      You may think you’re an ally if you call out other behavior, but do you really not think the definition of ally might change under your feet, depending on…? I think it is preferable to develop our own spines, our own morals, to think for ourselves, and THEN collaborate. Perhaps we can try to not succumb to groupthink but rather aspire to teamwork?

    • Hanna says...

      There are so many sides to every converation, aren’t there? I read a great article on Darling yesterday that talks about cancel culture and how important it is to keep being engaged and in conversation: https://darlingmagazine.org/cancel-culture-and-french-fries/

      Maybe it might help you!

    • Jessica says...

      Elizabeth, you have shared what seem to be very common thoughts a white person may have at the very beginning of realizing their own whiteness. You commented on this post which says that you are interested in this work. Do not stop here. Your love of humanity must be greater than your fear of making a mistake. You will make mistakes if you choose to dedicate yourself to dismantling white supremacy-you will say the wrong thing, feel embarrassed, be unsure of the right thing to do, and maybe lose friends. Those are not good enough reasons to check out. White people like us want things to be handed to us with clear step-by-step instructions with a prize at the end. You will not arrive anywhere, but keep going anyway. The information that you are seeking is everywhere right now. Study, listen, reflect, sit with difficult feelings, and commit to doing everything you can in your sphere of influence to disrupt white supremacy. Perhaps you could start by investigating your fear of conflict. You used a quote by MLK that white people often use to avoid facing the truth about white supremacy and violence toward Black people. MLK was radical, unliked by white people, and never suggested that we hide the truth so that we can all get along.

    • Elizabeth says...

      Jessica,

      What I hear you echoing is much of what I read in Robin Diangelo’s book White Fragility. I guess my question to you would be if there is any scenario you can imagine that a White person can disagree with a policy suggestion, a particular call to action, or a person of color’s perspective on the subject of racism without it being dismissed as a signal of whiteness (and white fragility)? I ask this question in all sincerity.

    • Julie says...

      Find your way into the struggle with humility. Humility will sustain you much longer than guilt, shame, or fear of wrong doing.
      If you find yourself focusing too much on yourself and your behavior, take some time to focus on the systems that uphold racism. Find out what you can do to change or dismantle those systems.
      The systems that have kept so much of America segregated are also at fault for lack of interracial friendships, so what can you do to change those systems (school zoning, hiring practices, mortgage discrimination, and the list goes on)?

    • Adel says...

      Elizabeth I think you bring up good points, and so do the people who responded, both those who hear your point and those who don’t agree. My take is that of course we should make ourselves uncomfortable as needed to accommodate the needs of others. But if you feel like you are held to a hard to pinpoint standard in the relationship or that you are always trying to dodge potential soft spots that go beyond what your regular kindness and empathy accounts for, then there is only so far the relationship can go. The vulnerability needed for deep relationships only exist when there is a high level of comfort. If you are constantly worried that everything you say and do is being scrutinized under a magnifying glass, right or wrong, practically the relationship just won’t work.

    • Mariela says...

      The answer may sound harsh, but it is the truth, and what you are doing is far harsher: by disengaging you are complicit in the oppression, suffering and deaths of Black people. In fact, we as white people are all already complicit. However, to now be aware of your complicity and STILL disengage for your own comfort… It is simply not okay.
      Thank you for your honesty and questions. Your answer is that your comfort is NOT more important than Black peoples lives and opportunities. Now push through this and begin working.
      You say you “feel hated” right now — but that’s because you aren’t listening yet, you’re stuck in defensiveness. And there aren’t real consequences to you feeling that way. Black people have not only “felt hated,” but have been dealing with the material, psychological and physical consequences of being hated for generations.
      I would suggest listening to Sonya Renee Taylor. She does a great job at separating white supremacy and whiteness (a construct) from white people. The only way you should be/feel hated is if you continue to associate yourself with white supremacy by disengaging from the REAL issue and centering yourself as the victim instead.

    • Jessica says...

      Elizabeth,
      I would look up the characteristics of white supremacy culture and identify your thoughts, beliefs and actions that are rooted in whiteness, then ask yourself why you wouldn’t support a policy decision that is overwhelmingly supported by the Black community.

  21. Andrea B says...

    This is beautiful, Christine. Thank you for sharing this part of yourself here.

  22. Rebecca says...

    This was brave. Thank you so much for sharing.

  23. Elizabeth says...

    Christine, thank you so much for being vulnerable and sharing this. Can’t wait to read your book.
    “There’s something exciting and electric and hopeful about this moment — you feel it, I feel it. We don’t want to lose it. We can’t afford to lose it.”
    Yes, yes, yes – it is way beyond time.

  24. Nicole says...

    There’s so much so many of us avoid, in the name of comfort and friendship. But yeah, if we can talk vaginas we can talk race. Friendship’s premier litmus test. :-)

  25. Patricia says...

    I’m so thankful for my African American friends who are anti-BLM. They see it for what it is: anarchy in beautiful clothes.

    • L says...

      Yikes, Patricia, did you read this article?

    • sophie says...

      what in the world are you talking about patricia? did you read the article? or did you just come here to trash BLM?

    • Heidi says...

      What? Patricia, you are SO confused about the reality that drives this movement. Wake up!

  26. Claire says...

    This is an amazing essay. Thank you, thank you Christine for this. So much to think about and lots and lots of things I need to work harder at.

  27. K says...

    i have an adjacent question/comment. I’ve gone down a rabbit hole watching a lot of podcasts on Youtube and it implies that Black people’s interests are not monolithic. Which seems like an obvious statement, but it seems that Black Lives Matter is assumed by most of us to mean the same thing as Black lives matter. Anyways, I wonder how this might factor into the BLM movement? How one would fit these people into the narrative? Not all are liberals, or conservatives. How credible they are to people might depend on one’s political affiliation? Quite a few are Ivy League professors, if that matters either way.
    Anyways, some new-to-me names I’ve come across: John McWhorter, Glenn Loury, Carol M. Swain, Chloé S. Valdary.

    • Emily says...

      I also enjoy Thomas Chatterton Williams who has a very nuanced take on racial topics.

    • Elizabeth says...

      I’ve been reading and listening to Thomas Sowell and podcast interviews with Coleman Hughes. I too wonder how the representation of black voices seems to show only one side? I didn’t realize there are so many important black voices with varying opinions on how to conceptualize racism and proceed forward.
      The documentary Uncle Tom was another video I recently was introduced to as well. I didn’t realize the extent to which further marginalization was occurring, particularly for black voices who don’t support the aims of the BLM organization.

    • K says...

      Hi Emily–thank you for the intro to Thomas Chatterton Williams, I started following him on Twitter and appreciate his point of view.

      Hi Elizabeth–I’m in awe of Coleman Hughes (and his age!). His way of sharing ideas is so careful, considerate, precise and succinct. I also love that he mentions that he is constantly trying to maintain his mental flexibility and surrounds himself with friends that disagree with him in big ways. Thomas Sowell is thought-provokingly articulate as well. Funny, I just heard of Uncle Tom documentary today.

      for anyone curious:
      Coleman’s participation at the Bill H.R.40 hearing last year (in juxtaposition to Ta-Nehisi Coates): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5AQyWAWHU4

      The entire hearing for context, in which my takeaway is that everyone has a distinctive opinion, although often with overlap. And how important it is to listen to multiple perspectives: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6egQuqcWAg

    • Emily says...

      Some great thinkers you’ve mentioned.

      A good listen is The Fifth Column Episode 188 featuring Kmele Foster, Coleman Hughes, Thomas Chatterton Williams, John McWhorter, and Glenn Loury.

      It’s important to read *multiple* perspectives on this and any issue.

    • Rebecca says...

      K – If you want to dive into the diversity of thought amongst Black people, it is SUPER important to look outside of academia and folks with blue checks on Twitter/IG thanks to tons of white followers.

      They often have no on the ground connection to Black communities. This was super apparent as Brittany Cooper aka Crunk Feminist is writing articles for TIME saying that people haven’t fought for Breonna Taylor as much as they have for George Floyd. Meanwhile, Black folk in Louisville (that no one is listening to because they have no proximity to whiteness) been marching for Sista Taylor for MONTHS before she even became national news.

      Re: BLM the movement, a lot of Black folks don’t trust it and gagging at how much money has been donated to them, when local chapters are on Twitter saying donations have never trickled down to them. To TRULY support Black people, donate your time and money to small, local organizations wherever you live.

  28. Erin says...

    Thank you so much for writing and sharing this.

  29. Ashley says...

    So beautiful xoxo

  30. Heather says...

    This is so beautiful – thank you for sharing.

  31. Christine says...

    Wow! I’ve been reading this wonderful blog for years, and this is the first time I have been moved to leave a comment. As a white woman, my head has been swirling over the last month as I process more deeply what it means to be Black in our country (and in the world).

    While I have been educating myself through books and articles and practicing activism; I have struggled in having those hard interpersonal conversations with my friends who are not white, my family members and my co-workers.

    Your generous and vulnerable words have given me the motivation I need to push these usually uncomfortable conversations forward. Thank you for this post.

  32. Agnes says...

    I have more than one black sister-friend (at the moment, 3 sister-friends and at last check on my phone just now, another 3 friend-friends). That’s black, I’m not counting brown and others. By sister friends I mean slept in your bed, take vacations together, know you longer than 10 years, know all your family, been to family events with being the only white person etc.). And honestly? The time I felt most honored to be let in to one of my sister-friend’s experiences was when she ranted with real anger and pain about the culture she lived in (white-dominant). All I could say was, ‘there’s so much pain.’ What else could I say? That she let me into her hurt meant so much. I want to know how you feel. It breaks my heart that this is our world. Being a Christian, I am lucky to be able to go to church and bond with people of every race over something bigger and more beautiful than all of us, that holds us together. I just hope and pray that others get this opportunity in their workplaces and neighborhoods and make the effort to know people that are different, because guess what, MY life is BETTER for intimately knowing people who make different food, listen to different music, communicate in different ways and have different perspectives. MY LIFE IS RICHER because of you, and I thank you for that. Thank you for sharing YOURSELF. Looking forward to the novel.

  33. Jamie says...

    Thank you. Opened my heart right up!

  34. Thanks, Christine, this was perfect. I wrote a somewhat similar article, To The White People Who Want To Be Down (more an open letter to white people in general, but yes to my friends as well, who really appreciated it).

    • Stellan says...

      Sherrelle – thank you for directing us to your article To The White People Who Want To Be Down. It awesomely brings full circle Christine’s message regarding personal relationships, to guidance in the public arena. Being a white woman who came of age in the 1960’s, my consciousness was formed during the ‘Black is Beautiful’ era. Having aspired to advocacy my entire adult life, I still find that I am but an ignorant nymph (of the ‘immature form of insect’ variety) when it comes to the language skills and practice of anti-racism, no matter how much I ‘study-up’. I live in a predominantly white suburb, and also figure there is no real reason anyone of the Black community would care to hang with me. So basically, I go to the protests (Seattle) and stare down the police, because some of them are clearly itching for an unjust interaction in this town. I am humbled by this time, and shall remain a humble, ignorant-but-self-educating ally. Again, thank you both Christine and Sherrelle.

  35. Maywyn says...

    Thank you, Christine for you thoughtful and thought provoking words

    I’ve experienced relationships where race fades so very far into the background, there are moments when we realize at the same time, how deeply we think of each other as only a Person. It is a joyous feeling valued and trusted as a friend. It isn’t that we put aside our labels to side step issues. It is about not allowing labels of race to control the lives we share between us as friends.

  36. Z says...

    Thank you. This was beautiful and true. Thank you for giving words to feelings that are hard to express but impact so many interactions. I now have something to share with friends who have been texting and emailing me at this time. “I’m okay” has been all I could muster so far. Looking forward to your book — congrats in advance on its release!

  37. Aliya says...

    I am forwarding this to my friends who are White. I have had the same/similar experience of receiving reach out emails and texts. I struggled with how to respond and often let them sit unanswered for days before I did. Thank you for articulating truth for me. And btw you sound lovely and thoughtful and like an ideal friend, brown or otherwise.

  38. Andrea says...

    This is a good article and reflection, but I wonder why we are mainly talking about race relations as mainly an interpersonal concept? How about asking ourselves questions about the places we live, the schools in our city or state and who gets opportunities such as jobs and promotions?

    America works well for some people and not for others, but we don’t want to think about who it doesn’t work for—if we have affordable housing, sustainable jobs at all levels of education, real opportunity. Instead, it’s easier to spend our time and effort on decadent pursuits and privilege hoarding for ourselves and our kids without acknowledging what effect our choices have on others.

  39. Sasha L says...

    Thank you for your generosity in sharing with us. I promise it won’t be wasted.

  40. Sarah says...

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Christine. It’s a powerful reminder to us white people who think we’re progressive and accepting, but need to do so much more work. Especially when it makes us uncomfortable or risk harming relationships with family or friends.

  41. Thank you so much for this. I read every word, learned a lot and going to share. xx

  42. Meg says...

    Simply put- beautiful and true. Thank you Christine. Now, let’s get to work.

  43. This is beautiful and true and generous. Thank you for taking the time to share your heart and actionable steps on moving forward. The momentum you describe is everything — there’s so much at stake. Your voice is so important, now and always!

  44. Mouse says...

    This from Erin expresses what I’m feeling a lot these days:
    “Maybe one thing white people can do is let go and let the world change around us, and embrace it. ”
    I’m a white 60 yr old liberal who basically tries to be kind to people whoever they are. Although my parents were unusual for their time in embracing people of different backgrounds, I’m sure I have elements of unconscious racism. I also have some black friends, although in rural Maine that can be difficult. I have close relationships with some of my African-American students. But I have felt that my main effort has been political, in that I support the party that has the most room for necessary change. That said, I sometimes feel resistant to certain ideas that are coming up now in that party, and when I feel that, I try to step back and allow other voices. It’s their time now, and I am looking forward to the world changing around me even if it’s not exactly what I might envision. Maybe that’s my small contribution, in addition to what Christine so beautifully enumerates above. It’s time for our structures to CHANGE and for new voices to be the main driver of that change. I will add my small voice to yours.

  45. Jess says...

    Thank you for all of this. I just pre-ordered your book and I look more to hearing more of your voice.

  46. Zo says...

    Thank you for explaining this so well and for the courage it must have taken to write this ❤️

  47. sarah from switzerland says...

    Such a wonderful post, thank you so much!
    Last week I was talking about the BLM movement with my cousin, who is of indian descent but grew up with a white family here in Switzerland. He was saying he “could never date a black woman”, that he’s just not attracted to them. I felt quite stuck, because I think he probably hasn’t unpacked his internalised racism but since he’s a non-white person and I am white, I didn’t feel like I could patronize him about race issues. I just gently pointed out that maybe he could challenge himself on what these “préférences” mean, where they come from and whether they can be changed. But I feel like I didn’t do enough.
    If anyone has advice for these sorts of interactions, feel free to tell me!

    • Ursula in Cádiz says...

      Bonjour Sarah,
      Sadly, India -with its caste system- is deeply racist: it’s not about being brown – everyone is brown, therefore it’s about HOW brown. I wish I could point you to some interesting reading about this (maybe someone else can help) as you say you realise it’s internalised. That having been said, I am not saying your cousin is necessarily racist, after all there are plenty of people who have certain physical preferences they are more attracted to. And isn’t this exactly what this is all about? Judging someone by their exterior envelope and not what they have/are inside? As a woman I would be tempted to start the conversation from that aspect. People with black skin; people with disabilities; anyone with an exterior that seems ‘different’ – they are all just PEOPLE. People to get to know before deciding if you like them or not.

  48. clue says...

    Hello from France
    i was very touched by this letter. It made me think a lot. I will try to integrate all of this in my life, because i’ve come to understand that you might feel the same as we women when we endly begin to understand sexism around us and it could be the same kind of letter i would like to share with all the men around me sometimes… But I understand that the burden must be sooooooo heavier being a woman AND of color (this is a strange expression to me, in french it feels very old-fashioned, so please forgive any misuse of terms). I can’t fathom it in fact. I’ll have to think of it more.
    Anyway. I feel i’m going to print your message and harbor it on my fridge to read it again everyday. It’s good to know, to learn, to change, and to imagine what i’ll teach my 8 months old son after all these new things… Thank you.
    Chloé

  49. Amy says...

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is such incredible writing and such honest and compassionate insights.

  50. Fiona Suckling Lundblad says...

    This is powerful and calls out to me. I will continue to be an Ally for you, Christine, and for the Black community. I will work harder and educate myself further. You made yourself vulnerable and for that, I will continue to grow. I look forward to reading your novel. Much love, friend, to John, Sallie, Curtis and your sisters. Xo

    • Fiona says...

      Jackie! I knew it was a J

  51. T says...

    Thank you for being vulnerable and writing things that white people and those who pass for white, including myself, must read and understand. I’m sorry that you may be exhausted and frustrated by having to teach others about what you need. I’m sorry for a history that so unjustly treated your ancestors, and now impacts your own life. I will reflect on what you shared, and carry it with me. Thank you.

  52. mika says...

    This was so powerful, Christine. Thank you so much for your words.

  53. SARAH says...

    What a powerful essay. Thank you, I will pass this along.

  54. Abigail says...

    Searching my soul to make sure I’m not the next Amy Cooper. I don’t think I am, but I’m for damn sure indexing countless, micro-interactions I’ve had over the years to make sure my self-perception is accurate. I have plenty to atone for, not because I’m blatantly racist, but because I’ve chosen to live in my own, easy bubble.

  55. Caitlin L. says...

    Thank you Christine.

  56. Katie says...

    Thank you. Thank you for your graciousness. I have noticed many women commenting about other people being racist and how they “just can’t believe it”. From a white woman who has never shied away from a conversation about race or from calling people out on their bigotry, I have been reminded recently about the importance of humility. I will no doubt inadvertently commit micro aggressions, say insensitive shit and hurt people in the future (as I have done many times in the past) and the only way I get better is to listen and reflect and change when someone calls me out on my racial bias, insensitivity or privilege.

  57. Eileen says...

    Thank you, Christine, for your thoughtful words. Be well.

  58. jane says...

    Wow. Eloquent clarity. So appreciate this and that now it can be said.

    Another question as well, for everyone: how do we navigate the cultural, I was going to say ‘divide’, but I think differences is what I mean. So that we ‘can’ be friends? A few years ago I tried to befriend a black woman I felt a connection with, but it didn’t take. She was married with two tween children and beginning a new career so I get that she was very likely unable to make mental or physical space for a white friendship. I briefly wondered if maybe I was not really cool enough. Black or white I find it a challenge to befriend women – they can be sooo choosey. I probably am myself so. . . Thanks to this post now I have a little better idea of all this might entail.
    I’ll be more aware now of other possible connections and continue to make an effort.

    • Mollie says...

      I think white people have broken a lot of Black people’s trust over the years. She may not have wanted to befriend you because she was trying to protect herself from a lot of pain white people have inflicted on her in the past, through microaggressions, gaslighting (“I’m sure they weren’t trying to be racist!”), etc. It could also just be that you didn’t click on a personal level. Join some organizations that are important to you and meet Black people organically. Some friendships will work out, and some won’t!

  59. Grace says...

    This was so powerful. Thank you. I got chills reading the line “there’s nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come.” I marked your book as want to read on Goodreads. You are such a beautiful writer.

  60. Morgan says...

    This moved me to tears and I’m going to read it again and really let it sink in. Thank you, Christine.

  61. mwa says...

    My god, this broke me: “I want you to imagine me, with you, right at that table and think, “I will not be able to look Christine in the eye if I let this go.””

    What a gorgeous, important essay. I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic, and how I need to be a better ‘white friend.’ Thank you, thank you, thank you for this, Christine.

  62. Kiana says...

    Such a beautiful, moving and powerful essay. Thank you Christine. I will think about your words every day and try to use them to inform the actions I take from now on.

  63. em says...

    BAM. powerful and also practical. thank you for sharing – would love to hear more from you.

  64. M says...

    I love and appreciate this so very much. Thank you!!

    • Mutaleni says...

      Amen. Thank you for this excellent essay Christine. Thanks to Jo for better equipping this platform with voices like yours – and for always keeping the conversation open.

  65. What a powerful essay. Thank you!!

  66. Sarz says...

    Christine, your voice is a beautifully trained one; I would read whatever you wrote. I’m privileged to live in what’s increasingly seeming like an *unusually* diverse, harmonious bubble. What is happening outside of it has finally grabbed my attention. I must be a better ally. There is always a way to be of service.
    Thank you for the work you do.

  67. Isabelle says...

    Such a thoughtful, deep and beautifully written piece. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your vulnerable experiences, thoughts and wishes for a better future, and for your openness to helping guide white people in bettering themselves individually and within their friendships. I’ll be reflecting on this message for a long while, and passing it along as much as possible. Really looking forward to reading more of your work in your upcoming novel :)

  68. MW says...

    It’s like you dived into my brain… No, into my heart… And pulled out what I’ve been wanting to articulate.

    I’m half black, half white. Have brown skin. Live in this world in a black body. Went to elite private schools and have always been the only, or one of the few, black people. My friends are relatively diverse, but my world is/has been very white, so I’ve been getting a lot of notes and feeling what you described upon receipt. And now, thanks to you, I have something I can point those well-meaning friends to, to help them understand and do better.

    THANK YOU. Thank you so, so much.

  69. marie says...

    I have not lived in areas with many black people but one of my good friends is black, her and her husband moved here from Tanzania. Everyone in my area is from other places around the world, as I type this my sons have their BFFS over from Bangladesh. These people actually just express how grateful they are to live here, says it is so much more dangerous and scary where they are from. I have felt confused about what I can do. My family, my husbands family have never been at all racist but I understand the privilege I have. It hurts so much to think about what blacks have gone through just bc of their skin color, its just is unbelievable really. Almost like how I often wonder how the heck the Holocaust even happened. How did people ever treat another so badly? I just really know what to do though, I would never stand by and let racism happen in front of me but to be honest, I never see it, people are not racist around me. I don’t really do social media. What are some things I can do, If feel like my white friends just post random tid bits on their social media and its all they do, are they judging me for not posting things? I have seen some black people around lately at the store and the beach and I smile and say hello and hope they feel that I want them there. I feel so much love for them as many are feeling right now. But clearly thats not enough but I just don’t know really what else I can be doing.

    • Elisabeth says...

      We can all do concrete things to impact systemic racism: we can vote for candidates at every level who pledge to correct systemic inequities including racist policing and inequities in education, and encourage our friends and family to do so; we can speak out when he hear other white people spreading misinformation or denying the realities Black people experience; we can donate to organizations that are working to correct these systemic inequities (right now: bail funds, orgs working to end mass incarceration, organizations working on the vast disparities in health care and maternal health care between Black and white Americans — money is so needed in all of these areas!); we can continue to read and listen to Black people and amplify their voices in times of crisis, and also in our everyday lives (why not prioritize seeing films by Black directors or reading novels by Black authors as a matter of practice?); and we can prioritize buying from Black-owned businesses when we can. Antiracism is more than being kind and welcoming (although that’s important) — it’s about using our privilege to dismantle and rebuild the systems that our white ancestors built that keep us on top, to the detriment of everyone else. Thanks for asking!

    • Coral says...

      Hi Marie, I have felt similarly. A good starting point for me has been education and increasing my self-awareness about my privilege as a white person. Layla Saad’s workbook *Me and White Supremacy* is a good tool for this. I’ve given money and signed petitions but have yet to take that step of changing my daily life to be anti-racist, rather than simply not racist. For me, action comes from understanding.

    • Mollie Whalen says...

      Marie- Another question I am asking myself is, Why do I live in a primarily white neighborhood? How can I make sure my children are learning to be anti-racist? Let me inquire about the curriculum being taught in their schools. Let me learn more about American history myself (Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X Kendi is a great start) so I can educate those around me. Also, I would recommend thinking more about how you are complicit in upholding the system. That’s what I’m doing! Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad is another great resource. “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist.” ~ Angela Davis

  70. SlyBK says...

    Thank you so much for this piece. Truly. XX

  71. M says...

    I am a black woman and this made me burst into tears. I have never read something that completely put every inch of my soul into words. THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

  72. M says...

    Christine, this is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you for the emotional labor it took to write this heartfelt letter. Beautifully done and much appreciated.

  73. AJ says...

    Wow, this was a powerful read. Felt like a friend talking right to me. Thank you, Christine

  74. CS says...

    Truly a fantastic piece. I relate totally on so many levels. Thank you! Can’t wait to get your book!

  75. Christina says...

    Well just picture me sobbing at my desk (which is fortunately, now, at home). As a Black woman, it has been so gratifying to read the recent pieces by Black women on COJ and feel so thoroughly seen, and feel my perspective expressed boldly on these pages. I keep thinking about a quote I read on Grace Atwood’s The Stripe blog about how reading is meant to be a mirror and a window, in that we should all seek out two kinds of texts: those that are a mirror of our own experience and those that are a window into the experiences of someone else. I have felt so fortunate over the years to read about the experiences of so many different perspectives here on COJ (particularly the Motherhood Around the World series, which I bring up to my friends as if I lived in these other countries), but to read these beautiful, emotional, complicated narratives of other Black women and feel like I’m holding up a mirror to my own set of experiences has just buoyed the soul.

    • joy says...

      Thank you for this comment about reading as a mirror and a window. As a white woman, I am very grateful for these windows. CoJ has always been fun to read, but it’s become so much more interesting as the voices featured here have become more diverse.

    • Lauren says...

      Thank you for sharing. Your comment around reading being both a mirror & a window really resonates and I appreciate Cup of Jo being a wonderful mirror into lives different than mine.

  76. CS says...

    Truly a fantastic piece. I relate totally on so many levels. Thank you!

  77. Carole Cornell says...

    Thank you for writing this. I try to be a good friend and want my friends to always know I see them and I care about the experiences they live with. You help me to see what more I can do.

  78. Mary says...

    Christine, thank you for taking the time to write this emotional, honest, soul-baring essay. You owe us white women NOTHING and yet here you are, doing heavy emotional labor so we (white women) can learn and grow. I can’t wait to buy your book!

    When you mentioned the comment, “you’re pretty… for a black girl,” it immediately reminded me of my friend’s business, Nah, I’m Just Pretty. Her focus is on colorism and she has a great line of clothes and imported textile goods from South Africa: https://nahimjustpretty.com/.

  79. Lindsey says...

    Christine, thanks so much for sharing your experience with such eloquence and grace. As I white women, I’ve been wondering how my black friends are really feeling about all this attention and engagement we’ve been giving them in recent weeks and I how I can best show them my love and support both today and in the future through consistent action, words and listening. Thank you for your voice and for your clear sighted desire that this is going to require long term behavior change. I’m hoping we can continue to show up – day in and day out going forward as we continue to move towards greater change. Can’t wait to read your book! And hope to see more of your writing on Cup of Jo and elsewhere.

  80. KW says...

    Beautifully worded. This is exactly what every white person needs to read and adhere to — I will be sharing this far and wide. Thank you, Christine.

  81. AMK says...

    Chills! Beautiful and powerful!!! “when white people hedge and say they are “too nervous to talk about race” — it feels like an easy out to avoid discomfort and sets up a defensive position and a dynamic where I have to comfort and reassure you before I can talk about the truth of my life or just avoid saying anything all together since you’ve already warned me it’s uncomfortable for you. In our true friendship, we can’t ever be afraid to speak… or listen. If we can discuss the PH balances of our vaginas at length, then surely we can keep tackling conversations about race.” YES!!!

  82. OLeary, Amy says...

    Thank you my beautiful friend, Christine. So surprised and proud to see your words here on my favorite blog. I promise to keep my eyes open and speak up.

  83. B says...

    Heartfelt thank you, Christine. This is a beautiful and important piece. Taking it all in.

  84. Hanna says...

    What a wonderful, loving and insightful essay. Thank you so much! I really hope content like this will be ‘normal’ even after the current movement ebbs away a little bit.

  85. Paige says...

    Thank you for taking the time to write this. So powerful and informative for me as white person.

  86. Katherine says...

    I truly, truly appreciate Black content being featured on this blog. Please keep running pieces like this one!!

  87. Robin says...

    Fabulous article, thank you for this. I live in a small town in Canada, population 2500, with approximately half the population being Indigenous people, and the rest of the population a multi-cultural mix. Yet, I only have 2 friends of colour, one Indigenous and one South Asian. I’ve had really interesting talks about race with my Indigenous friend, but I have yet to broach the topic with my South Asian friend. She’s coming over today to pick cherries. I’m so glad I read this article, and I think I’ll bring up the topic of race today with her. She moved here from India about 10 years ago and recently became a Canadian citizen, which required her to give up her Indian citizenship. I would love to hear what her experience has been like in Canada and in our small town.

    • Rasheeda says...

      Girl, what small town in Canada is this??? I’m coming. I live in Toronto but have lived in many small towns beforehand, and besides being the only brown girl for miles, genuinely loved my experiences. I love me a small town, minus the racism and homogeneous (all-white) nature of the majority of them.

    • Robin says...

      Lillooet, BC. By multi-cultural, I mean compared to other small towns in BC, which as you experienced are almost 100% white. There are families here from every continent, but they are still in the minority. We do have a huge racism problem, it’s simmering barely under the surface and boils over frequently. For example, when our local school board decided to put up posters in the high school to teach students about white privilege (mind you, over half the student population is non-white), there was a huge protest from the white people, and it really illustrated the problems we have here. There is also systemic racism in our institutions. As a white person, I don’t even know the half of it, but I learn a lot from my Indigenous employers and friends. All that said, Lillooet is still a great place to live, with a rugged wild beauty that I just love!

    • Jessie says...

      Where do you live? I’m guessing Northernish Alberta. You may know my family.

  88. Alli says...

    Thank you.

  89. Lauren says...

    This is important and helpful, Christine, and I too am eager to read more insights in your book to help guide my actions. Thank you!

  90. MCM says...

    Such an insightful read. Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share.

  91. Leah says...

    Gorgeous essay and love the illustration!

  92. Hannah says...

    I loved reading this. Thanks, Christine. <3

  93. E says...

    America has come a long way since the pre-Civil Rights Movement days of separate bathrooms, drinking fountains, etc. for white and black people. I’ve lived a third of my life under a black President, we have had black justices on the Supreme Court, black senators and representatives. I realize that doesn’t justify the actions that still go on some places, but I think it’s important to recognize how far we have come as a country. We’ve reached a point where a black man has the opportunity to become President – we are not living in a country that encourages “systemic racism.”

    • PG says...

      While I understand what you’re saying, E, that America has made strides in granting some rights and certainly representation to Black people, I also urge you to consider the opposite. I urge you to consider that in fact we live in a country that rewards and was designed to enact “systemic racism” in the first place. I’m about your age and I also lived through President Obama’s tenure–wherein he oversaw the deportation of over 3 million people and during which universal healthcare failed to pass. Since then, the rampant disenfranchisement of Black Americans throughout the states has led to an even larger rift in political participation from different racial groups. You may be wondering how these 3 facts about deportation, healthcare, and voting, relate to systemic racism. But don’t they? Do we not see the inequities laid bare in the iconic and over-idolized American systems right now, as a pandemic rages? Black people are 4x more likely to die of CoViD-19. Smartphone data has shown that voters in predominantly Black neighborhoods wait 29 percent longer, on average, than people who live in predominantly white areas.

      I urge you to consider that systemic racism is precisely what’s “left.”

    • MG says...

      Many points that Christine mentioned in her article are precisely that, systemic racism: “getting a loan, a house, having access to a better school/education, cleaner air.”

      More systemic racism: In our prison system, we see that we have 25% of the world’s prisoners, but 5% of the world’s population. Of that 25%, Black males are disproportionately incarcerated. They are 34% of the incarcerated male population, while Black people in the U.S. are 13-15% of the population. Black people are not more violent; they do not commit more crimes, rather they are systematically targeted, wrongfully accused, and given worse punishment for crimes. This is modern-day slavery and it was written into the 13th amendment that abolished slavery EXCEPT for serving time in prison. This is free labor by another name as many U.S. corporations use free to verrrry cheap (cents an hour) prison labor. White supremacy was used to justify slavery and it’s used to justify mass incarceration.

      Anyway, thank you Christine for what you have written here. I need to be the person who my Black friends know will always call out injustices whether they are around or not.

    • E says...

      PG, I’m curious as to where you see instances of black people being disenfranchised en masse. That was widespread in the South after Reconstruction, with blacks being beaten and lynched if they tried to vote, but according to the 15th amendment states are no longer allowed to deny any citizen the right to vote. Just curious.

    • E says...

      MG, while I do agree with the numbers you provided, I would also like to point out that there are other factors behind the high incarceration rate than simply race-based targeting. Throughout the 20th century, there has been a systematic destruction of the black family in America which results in generational poverty and higher crime rates. Prior to Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiatives, 85% of black children were born in stable, two-parent homes in the late 50s and early 60s. That number had completely reversed by the late 1980s – 85% of black children were born or living in single-parent homes. Just food for thought.

    • PG says...

      Hi E,
      So first, here’s some background on vote suppression in Georgia; you can look to Stacey Abrams’s work if you’d like to learn more:
      https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/11/georgia-election-chaos-november

      Second, divorce rates among white people and black people in the US are about the same. What is a “single parent” household? If you’re defining single parent household as one with two parents who are not married but co-parent…isn’t that a two-person household? More Americans in general are cohabitating before marriage:
      https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/02/13/8-facts-about-love-and-marriage/

      Additionally, I’m not sure how you define “a stable household.” Aren’t houses with two married parents who fight all the time a little unstable?
      Most wealth in the US in inherited (https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2019-11-29/boomers-are-thriving-on-an-unprecedented-9-trillion-inheritance — and by “most wealth” I mean the actual numbers. The people who have the most money are bequeathing the most. Other people and their descendants will never be able to catch up) and past government administrations have only reinforced that through housing segregation (https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2018/04/11/601494521/video-housing-segregation-in-everything).

    • Elle says...

      Hi E,
      Regarding your question:

      “I’m curious as to where you see instances of black people being disenfranchised en masse. That was widespread in the South after Reconstruction…but according to the 15th amendment states are no longer allowed to deny any citizen the right to vote”.

      I can’t recommend the book “One Person, No Vote” by Carol Anderson enough. It very clearly lays out all the ways that states (and not just in the South) have found loopholes around the 15th amendment, or have blatantly used practices that are not allowed by the 15th amendment requiring people to file suits, only to have the state or district slightly alter the practice to require another suit, over and over. There is evidence to show that all this has been done purposefully to systematically disenfranchise Black voters. It is really an eye opening read. The evidence laid out makes clear that this is not just a historical practice, but a current practice, and one that was a big factor in the last presidential election. Articles said that Black people didn’t show up at the polls because they didn’t like either of the candidates, but this book details all the specific ways that Black people continue to be blocked from voting.

      You can get the book here (they also sell a YA version for anyone who wants to get it for their kids):

      https://blackpearlbookstore.com/?q=h.tviewer&using_sb=status&qsb=keyword&qse=BQ7V_Xv-HEB6KnN4ZSJioQ

      or here:

      https://bookshop.org/books/one-person-no-vote-how-voter-suppression-is-destroying-our-democracy/9781635571370?aid=4832

  94. Catherine says...

    This is an excellent article. Thank you.

  95. Teri L Offield says...

    Hi, I am not black and wont pretend to know what you go through but I will stand with you. It took a tragedy but I am here. You were never meant to fight alone so here I am, I dont know you but that doesnt matter, it starts with me.

    • CS says...

      Your honesty and willingness to stand with us going forward means the world to me, a black woman. Your words are beautiful. Thank you.

  96. Lydia Williams says...

    Well-written and piercing. An excellent appeal to us white friends who need to have a greater awareness of our Black friends’ experiences. Thank you.

    • Lisa W says...

      Yes. Well written, piercing, and actionable. And echoing another comment, as a white person, the piece is both a mirror and a window. Many thanks,

  97. Lucy says...

    Thank you, Christine, for sharing this piece. It is such an important message. I look forward to your book as well.

  98. Sarah Pierce says...

    Thank you for this. I am so excited to read the book—already pre-ordered on Amazon!

  99. Christine Tran says...

    Thank you Christine, for sharing your confessions. Most of all thank you for your generosity, in sharing your reality and that power can come from recognition and affirmation. Your charitable spirit shins strongly in your words. I hear you and see you, as a Nebraskan. Eager to read your book.

  100. N Han says...

    I am sending this to ALL of my friends. Thank you. And I am really looking forward to reading We Are Not Like Them.

  101. Megan says...

    Thank you so much for sharing this and putting yourself out there like that. You write so beautiful and poignantly. I really hope that we are at an inflection point in our culture where we can all work together for change. I see a lot more white people saying ‘Black lives matter’ these days; I hope we all follow it up with actions. I’m white and have been having a lot of conversations with my 5 year old about systemic racism these days. His school has been active in teaching about racism as well and were talking about Black lives matter well before this most recent wave of protests. I’m glad for that, though I also worry about the fact that we live in such a bubble here in Seattle, which is so overwhelmingly white. A big change from where we lived previously in Oakland. I think it’s important for white people to take stock of that and question that and push to make places more inclusive and welcoming. Thanks again for sharing your story and your thoughts.

  102. Kara says...

    Love your words, Christine. Looking forward to reading your book when it’s out!

  103. Cassie says...

    This is exactly what I needed to read. Thank you for the beautifully written words.

  104. Alison Briggs says...

    this is so wonderful – thank you for sharing. For your openness and for your honesty and trust. I know I will be thinking about your words for a long time to come. Very much looking forward to reading your book!

  105. AT says...

    “My wish is that, if you haven’t done so in the past, you start now, calling people out — even if it’s hard. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Even if it costs you something, an awkward moment or even a relationship. ”

    I wonder how many people need help with this step and if COJ could offer some thoughts on how to do this. I sometimes like to start with a pseudo-innocent “huh, tell me what you mean when you say that?” approach, which puts the racist in the position of explaining and defending their racism. Usually they fumble around and can’t justify it and so they backtrack. I hope it makes them think twice before they say something similar next time. Works well with an Amy Cooper but not an open KKK type racist. Any other ideas?

    • CaraM says...

      Yes this. I am having an especially hard time with this – especially as my very Conservative in-laws post or say things that are definitely racist. My husband helps me confront their views as we are aligned in our anti-racist sentiments, but it is a hard relationship to challenge as I am a daughter-in-law that already disagrees with them on most things. They get so angry or defensive when I ask for clarification or present an alternate view. It just feels like a discussion that doesn’t go anywhere – very discouraging!

    • Em says...

      Thanks for this idea, AT. I second the call out for more of them. It is an important to have a sharing point wherein white people can provide one another with ideas and strategies about what has worked for them in starting anti-racism conversations or calling out racist commentary and bigotry.

      I would obviously also welcome ideas for this work from BIPOC, but am cognizant of limiting the requests that result in constant labour from BIPOC while us white folks try to step up and (finally!) start our work in dismantling racism.

      I have personally been struggling most with family members who think they’re anti-racist and well-informed, but are in fact not. Are saying things like “these riots really just play into Trump’s hands” and “police violence against Black people has actually been declining” and “we need to look at the facts and think things out before rushing ahead with de-funding police” (as if there have not been thousands of people “thinking this out” for many, many years, but white people have just not been listening…)
      The white fragility is ASTOUNDING to witness among these ‘liberals’ who bristle the minute I try to refute their points. I don’t want to cater to their fragility, but also don’t want to stifle the conversation. Any pointers here would be greatly appreciated.

      Thank you, Christine, for these words and thoughts. I will be sharing this far and wide <3

    • Sasha L says...

      I simply say, with a grim face, “I don’t agree with that AT ALL.” I don’t want to debate or discuss or put myself in a position of convincing someone else, but I do want them to know that I hear it and I won’t tolerate it. To me racism isn’t an issue with sides.

      I don’t hear much that’s racist because those that know me know I will call it out.

      All that being said, I’m a 47 yo white lady in an overwhelmingly white state and I know that despite efforts at becoming anti racist, racism and white supremacy are in me. So I try hard to be a person that others can call out (in). I will not be destroyed if someone calls me racist. I will examine my words/actions and learn to do better.

    • Karen says...

      Yes, I agree. I need help with this step…with my husband who also happens to be a person of colour (not Black), and I’m white. He is not the most empathetic person in general, and has been resistant (to put it nicely) to what has been going on. He seems to think too big of a deal is being made.
      He is in the category of making modern jokes that are actually racist (and sexist) but because he is joking, doesn’t think there is anything wrong with it. I am committed to calling him out on it but he doesn’t take me seriously/thinks I’m overreacting and being too sensitive. So how to deal with these kinds of people…especially when you find yourself married to one!
      (This is painting him in quite a bad light. He is a good and kind person, I think he just hasn’t realised/accepted that this behaviour is actually quite unacceptable).

    • Hannah says...

      I do this too! I will also repeat back to them, verbatim what they said. For people struggling with being anti-racist or starting to educate themselves, this is a good approach I’ve used! For the blatant and obvious racists, I don’t know if we are ever going to make a difference.

    • Elizabeth says...

      I’ve been having the racism conversation with my family for a few years now and have learned a lot about how to approach this. I became MUCH more aware of systemic racism because I started working in a predominantly Black city in Virginia working with teen moms. I have an amazing boss who gave us a list of “required reading” on racism, specifically racism in the education and healthcare system. My approach to this conversation with my family has changed significantly. I used to point out to my family how things they were saying were racist but it would usually lead to yelling and really defensive behavior and I realized that I needed to be vulnerable in order for them to receive what I was trying to say. Instead of pointing fingers, I started explaining ways that I have changed my own racist behavior or explaining specific situations where I have benefited from being a white woman (because trying to tell my immigrant Hispanic parents they have White Privilege, without specific, personal examples is a total mind fuck). One of them is being aware that saying someones race when you’re telling a story that has NOTHING to do with race IS racist. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to admit but I (and my family) did that all the time without realizing how hurtful and completely unnecessary it was. And I thought I “wasn’t racist”. These conversations are still difficult to have but from my experience, people are much more willing to listen to you if you admit to your own internalized racism from the start so whoever you’re talking to doesn’t feel like one person is right and the other wrong, because in this situation we’re ALL wrong and need to do better.

    • Hilary says...

      I’ll also chime in here and ask for help – from whatever sources and teachers people would recommend. In this virtual world we live in, my issue has been less about in-person comments and more about the disturbing things I’ve read/seen on social media. For example, I just found out, via FB, that a close college friend of mine is a racist. Or so I am labeling her because of her anti-BLM posts.

      I don’t find social media a great place for substantive conversation, but I do feel like our friend group (and the text chain we’re on that goes crazy daily) should say something as nobody has spoken up and she continues to chime in as normal.

      Do I upset the balance with 8 of my closest friends? Do I (cowardly) passively just start a new thread without her? I feel like I need to speak up, AND she’s in so deep that I don’t honestly believe real conversation is possible at this point.

    • AT says...

      @Elizabeth “I have an amazing boss who gave us a list of “required reading” on racism, specifically racism in the education and healthcare system.”

      This is an excellent idea! I have several books which had a profound effect on how I provide healthcare in the context of our inherently racist American system (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is one example). I train nursing students on occasion, and I think moving forward I will ask them to read some of these books.

    • Rusty says...

      I read an article on ALTRUISTIC EMPATHY and it essentially means to give something of or from yourself (a cost) to help others.
      By calling out racism, we take a risk, maybe even take the anger from someone, we bear the cost … but … this is the giving and sharing of empathy by acting and walking our talk.

    • Elle says...

      Starting bookclubs with friends and family members is a great way into this work. It’s doubtful you’ll be able to get everyone on board, but if you make inroads with the family members and friends that you feel are most approachable, you can start to spread the learning (and unlearning), and normalize having open discussions in your community. I believe this really helps us push our collective growing edge. In time, the edge moves and the more resistant people end up getting more and more exposure as cultural norms shift.

      I believe that the racist comments I hear or read (as well as the internalized racism I’ve had to confront in myself) come from a lack of education and exposure. In the United States, so many haven’t been taught the true history of this country, and have been taught that racism and its effects are historical. Also, White people mostly haven’t had to think or talk about race because being White is treated as a default in this culture. This has led to a collective discomfort in White communities around talking about race.

      The way I’ve approached this is to set up a book club where everyone can read different books on the subject, and then we can all get together (virtually for now) to talk about the books we’ve read and what we’ve learned, sharing quotes and personal growing points. Then people can swap if something someone said peeked their interest (obviously this part is easier once you can meet in person) . Different people might need different avenues into the work. For some, getting right into self reflection work through a book like “Me and White Supremacy” might be great, while others might be more understanding once they’ve read a book that lays out the evidence of historical and present systemic racism. Also great to add articles and movies to your list to get more people on board. I’ve even added Youtube videos. Any way to get past people’s blocks is great because an introduction even in a small way can ignite interest and curiosity.

  106. Emily says...

    Bravo. So well-written and deeply resonating.

  107. Agnès says...

    That’s a strong and very enlightning essay; from France, I understand better your country now and what’s being said and listened to is powerful and so important. It also help me understand my country better; we don’t share the same History but a similar white oppression, for sure. I love it Cup of Jo, when you invite other writers (once, I would love it if you would share the editorial process; how you choose an essay -is it because of the writer? of the topic? etc).

  108. Kerry says...

    This was amazing. Thank you.

  109. Ana says...

    So Beautiful. More please.

  110. Susan Y. says...

    This letter comes from a place of love.

  111. Katherine says...

    Thank you for your writing, Christine. I’m really looking forward to buying and reading your book once it’s released.

  112. NH observer says...

    This is all wonderful, and eloquently stated. The first bullet, though: how do white people seek out black and brown friends without seeming as if they are essentializing and exoticizing them? I say that as a woman of color whose parents are from a country that is frequently exoticized and othered. I think it’s a terrific goal — and, in fact, the only way NOT to essentialize people of color is to have enough of a critical mass so that no one person labors under the burden of representing a particular category, as pointed out in this piece — but I just don’t know how to get there, concretely speaking, without replicating the very dynamic we’re seeking to banish. Perhaps the answer is that there really is no way, but the goal is worthy enough to take the risk?

    • Kim says...

      This is the question that I am really struggling with. I only have about three real friends. I work from home. I homeschool. I have a hobby farm. I really don’t do a lot that puts me in the way of making new friends, and I feel confused about how to pursue the goal of making more Black and brown friends. I understand the reason for the urging, but the execution seems inherently contrived.

      My first thought is that when my kid is older and we are getting more into the homeschool group scene, I can look for groups that have greater diversity than seems usual in our area, but that’s all I’ve come up with that doesn’t feel like tokenism.

      I would love to know how people who are not at a time of life when new friendships are a priority are thinking about this.

    • El says...

      Same. I’m trying to think of it in a ‘if there aren’t black or brown people in my circle, is that anything to do with me or my friends?’ sort of way.
      I totally get that being too intentional about it feels like the wrong approach.

    • Samantha says...

      I agree that it feels difficult to build friendships outside of your normal group.
      Something that I am focusing on is supporting local BIPOC owned businesses and engaging with the owner/employees while there. If you become a regular at a local business, you will build a relationship with the staff. This feels more mutually beneficial (to me, at least) since I am supporting their business and livelihood and not merely looking for “a black friend.”

    • Very, very tricky for sure. The fact that tokenism is a thing is just further proof of our continued segregation in the U.S. I also find this is an issue in evangelical Christian circles…because of the need to proselytize, other people become projects rather than genuine friends.

      I’m fortunate that our neighborhood, in North Carolina, has become very diverse. UNUSUALLY diverse. Part of it is, we have chosen to stay in place for more than 12 years rather than try to “climb the ladder,” which would inevitably lead to whiter social groups, whiter neighborhoods, whiter everything. I’ve seen white flight firsthand when it comes to where people I used to consider friends have chosen to send their children to school.

      Maybe one thing white people can do is let go and let the world change around us, and embrace it. Shut the hell up for once and embrace genuine, informed curiosity about people who are different. Then fewer white people would present as douchebags when interacting with people of color.

    • E says...

      I’ve also been struggling with this. I’m bummed my friend group is so homogenous, but how do I go about changing that?

      Maybe a lot of it is about leaving space for differences. Because I never want a friend to worry about spending $35 to hang out with me, I usually propose walks or other free activities rather than meals or drinks out. I still am mostly friends with wealthy women, but I’m trying to leave that door open for wealth differences. Are there analogous ways I can be better at leaving the door open for friendships with racial and cultural differences?

    • AD says...

      I agree, it’s critical to avoid exoticizing or befriending individuals of color in an artificial, contrived way. Perhaps it’s more about changing our patterns and habits to put ourselves in diverse settings in all aspects of life. I think about this a lot, as a white-passing biracial person. From shopping at BIPOC owned businesses to going to events/children’s activities/parks and libraries that serve and engage diverse people, to questioning, insisting upon representation, and seeking alternatives to white-dominated spaces I am in…there’s a lot white and white passing people can do to create conditions where real friendships with people of diverse backgrounds can form.

    • Alyce says...

      Becoming friends with a black person/POC isn’t different than becoming friends with a white person (though I recognize that after a certain age it’s just harder to make friends in general, regardless of the ethnicity). I would start with actually talking to black people/POC and actually try to get to know them. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve been in predominantly white groups and frankly, the white people often come off as disinterested in getting to know me.

      And don’t forget that friendship is a two way street – the black person/POC has to chose the white person too. If you get signs that they aren’t feeling you, or if you recognize that you don’t actually click with the person, move on! It’s when you try to force a friendship that you cross the line into essentializing the person.

    • Sam says...

      I feel the same about this post (it’s wonderful), and have the same question about making friends.

      One of the things I love about Cupojo is the ongoing theme of friendship. I’ve employed many of this community’s concrete suggestions for making new friends and maintaining friendships, and it has been such helpful guidance as I’ve navigated many moves and jobs. I wonder whether Cupofjo could reflect on (and perhaps brainstorm with readership about) ways to be intentional about expanding our social circles in more inclusive ways.

      In my own life, I recognize a path of least resistance towards friendships with people who are in the places I’m also in–my neighborhood, school, gym, church, office, etc. On the one hand, this tendency is a big part of the problem. Many of the other people in those places are quite a bit like me in terms of privilege, values, opportunities, ability, etc.., and so they are just not diverse places along any meaningful dimension. On the other hand, I’ve wondered if I could leverage that “path of least resistance” effect for the better by just being more conscientious about the places I go, not to “seek out” black and brown friends but to be parts of communities where friendships with people who are different from me (not just racially but in a variety of ways) have the chance to develop. I can’t change the neighborhood I live in right now, but I’m trying to find a new church and gym. I’m also trying to rethink the values that have led me to these places.

      All that to say, I’d be really interested in hearing from others about how to do this well. Every situation will be really different, but maybe we can learn from example.

    • Robin says...

      This is a really important question. I am an Indigenous person and have been at the receiving end of many of these desired relationships. One of the ways I think you can seek out BIPOC friends is by doing the work- volunteering, protesting, writing letters, staying informed, and involved. When you can surround yourself with like-minded people, opportunities to connect and form new relationships will reveal themselves. I have also formed friendships through folks doing allied work to support me; in one instance, white women were appalled with how I was being treated in academia and with my permission took the organizational issue up on their own. They never asked for recognition, but they showed up and fought a fight for me. That’s huge for me because it alleviates my workload and supports my emotional capacity to carry on.

    • Ali says...

      I was just discussing this topic with my mom. She lives in a wealthy gated community in the suburbs, grew up in rural England, and only has friends from those areas. She has no black friends, and maybe never has. My advice to her (similar to the great suggestions from other commenters) was to explore interests beyond the communities she exists in.

      Try an exercise class in a different part of town, go to events like readings, or shows that are supported or founded by the black community. Consider volunteering for a local advocacy group. Become a regular at a black owned restaurant you love. It may take time, but by focusing on things that truly interest you, your shared experiences can build substantive relationships instead of surface-level ones.

    • kiki says...

      I was hoping someone else would ask this! I struggle with the same thing. I grew up in a very white community in rural Kansas and now live in Portland, OR – one of the whitest urban areas in the country. I’ve never had a close black friend (or even coworker for that matter), and that makes me so sad. I thought living in a city would help my kid have a greater diversity of friends, but Portland just isn’t that city. It would be intrusive for us to move to one of the few black enclaves that has survived gentrification. And, like many other have mentioned it’s so hard to make friends as an adult! However, all of these reasons are not an excuse. I can and will do better. Appreciate the window on COJ to help guide me on that path.

    • I think this is an excellent question that we should be thinking about both critically and creatively. Several others have suggested stepping out of your bubble on some way, by finding businesses owned by BIPOC to frequent, opportunities to exercise or take classes in more diverse settings, engaging with activism in your area, and so on, and I think those are all good suggestions.

      I think one big part of the challenge to forming interracial friendships is that so much of the US is still segregated, from the neighborhood level to the regional level. Outside of the South, most rural and suburban communities are majority white (though many parts of the Midwest have faster-growing BIPOC populations than white populations), and white people, especially middle and upper-income white people, may not have any BIPOC, or only a few, for many miles around.

      To some extent, in our current context, we can look for groups and classes which meet online and are more diverse than our immediate area, and look for people we might “click” with to try to make new friends. That’s an upside of the pandemic, the number of groups no longer tied to locality.

      But that alone won’t be enough to significant grow the number of interracial friendships. I think we as a country would benefit from a program of tax credits (fully refundable, like the Earned Income Tax Credit) which would pay people (more for families) to move from a place where they’re in the racial or ethnic majority to a place where they’re in the minority, and could double it for moving to a place where unemployment is high or occupancy is low, beyond certain targets (needs more fleshing out of details to avoid encouraging gentrification), or otherwise increase it to encourage meeting certain targets.

      People, especially low-income people, get stuck wherever they are because of the high costs and risks of moving. This program probably wouldn’t have a way to address the risks of losing a local social support system, but it could help people move to new places and repopulate both urban and rural areas where jobs and population have both dropped significant in recent decades.

      If this were paired with a substantive program for grabs and land to start, support, buy, or grow co-operative businesses, it could significantly recover struggling areas as well as generating significant demographic shifts. I’m sure my idea is imperfect, but I put it out here for consideration and criticism because we have to take risks and come up with new ideas instead of sticking by ways we’ve always done things.

  113. MyHanh says...

    Thank you for sharing so openly, Christine. Your writing is beautiful. I also have a lot of hope right now but also fear that this will die down. I’m so very much looking to the youth to keep us going. I’m inspired by them when I think of the future. I wish you power and peace.

  114. Ramya says...

    Wow! This was so powerful and beautifully written. I think it hits the nail on the head in so many ways and gives so many important, practical suggestions for the people who are struggling with where to begin. I particularly like the point about seeking out friendships with Black folk in a way that’s sincere and genuine rather than for the sake of your anti-racist street cred.

  115. Wendyloch says...

    Brilliant, loving and true. Perfect invitation for white friends, loved ones and allies to show up, be open, and do the work, even when it’s uncomfortable, from a place of empathy, caring, and justice. Thank you.

  116. Have been searching for the right words to express how I have felt these past few weeks, and they’re *all* here ❤️

  117. Cynthia says...

    Thank you for this. I want to read your book when it is published.

  118. Rusty says...

    W. O. W.
    You wrote sopowerfully, what I so often think. I havetried so hard to imagine what it might be like (in my privileged, freckled skin) and … I cannot. I. Can. Not. Ever. Know.

    A group of connected women (aquaintances) and I ran some women’s weekends a few years back, not for profit, but to make a difference and share skills, knowledge, etc. After the first one, we met to review how it went and set up the next one.
    I commented “You know, there were only 2 non-white women there and I really think this says something about us, as a group of white, privileged women”, both the Aboriginal and Burmese women were my friends.
    The responses shocked me, “What?! So do we need a token wheelchair friend and blind person too?!” Theretorts went on and on.
    I felt literally nauseous and could not believe my ears.
    I then “Lost my shit!” as my friend Chloe says. Long story short, it got ugly and visceral.
    We did run more weekends and sadly, there were no more than ‘token’ POC invited. My friends chose to not come again and I don’t blame them.
    Needless to say I slowly made my way away from that group of blind, angry, covertly racist women and I’m better for it.

  119. Faith says...

    This is outstanding. Thank you!

  120. Colleen says...

    Wow Christine, this was perfect. I can’t wait to read your book when it arrives. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.