It is not unusual when you’re Black to find yourself being the only Black person a White person knows and regularly interacts with. At work or school or even church, you’re it.
And because you’re the only Black person they know, your White friend talks to you about all the controversial topics surrounding race. Before you know it, because you’re the only person your White friend knows and talks to, you become their resident expert about all things Black.
Don’t let yourself be the one Black friend.
Throughout the #BlackBlogsMatter challenge, I’ve said over and over that Black people are not a monolith. Our experiences and opinions are as diverse as our skin tones and hair styles. While our culture and history unites us, we are not the same and no one Black person is equipped to speak for all Black people. They should never be asked or made to feel as though they have to do so.
Don’t let anyone force you into that role — especially one who calls you friend.
Forcing you to be a personal Black-opedia is hurtful, manipulative, unfair and racist. Someone who is a real, sincere friend would not do that to you. Asserting they do not see your color is just as bad. A real, sincere friend wouldn’t do that to you, either.
Real, sincere friends see you as a whole person — including your race, gender, physicality, economic standing and background, sexual identity, relationship status and changes, etc etc etc. Real, sincere friends value every aspect of you; they recognize and respect you. Real, sincere friends admire and celebrate you.
Asking you to explore, express and explain painful aspects of your existence on a regular basis for their education is not something a real friend does. Certainly, if your White friends have questions and curiosities, they should feel comfortable asking you. Real, sincere friendships are the best, safest places for these conversations and they should be reciprocal. But if their learning starts and ends with you, they’re abusing your friendship and damaging you in the process.
This is not OK.
If you find yourself becoming someone’s resident expert and educator on Blackness, take these steps:
- Bring it to their attention. Tell your friend that you’ve noticed how frequently they ask you about these topics. Be as brash or polite as you feel necessary based on your desire to maintain the relationship once the conversation ends.
- Let them know this is hurtful to you. Specifically state how it makes you feel to recount these issues to your friend and why you need their regular questioning to stop.
- Suggest alternate resources. If learning about these topics is a sincere effort, your friend will welcome other, independent resources to assist them.
- Refuse to participate further. As issues arise going forward, hold back your opinion when asked. Not forever, just for awhile so your friend can get used to using other resources and not just you. If they don’t use the other resources, know that the issue isn’t really important to them and don’t participate in the conversations further. Talk about other stuff instead.
The burden is on those with power and privilege to educate themselves and use what they’ve learned to help those without power and privilege achieve inclusion, equality and equity. Disenfranchised and oppressed people should not be exclusively responsible for educating those in power. It perpetuates the supremacy that they claim they’re trying to stop.
Information is at our fingertips. There are thousands upon millions of resources online and offline available to get information and education about the issues facing Black people, Women, People of Color and any other group, if wanted. Your friends don’t need you to hold their hands through the journey. They justneed you to point them in the right direction.
Friends don’t ask friends to consistently hurt themselves to help them be a more educated, inclusive individual. Don’t let anyone relegate you to being the one Black friend.