Friendships and Race- Black women and white women

Since moving to Maine, I have spent a lot of time by myself, since when I made the decision to relocate 1100 miles away from family and friends it pretty much meant re-starting over as far as friends. Don’t get me wrong I still have some close friends back in Chicago but the one thing that is missing for me here is just some girls to kick it with. Either Sex and the City Style or Girlfriends style since I couldn’t convince any of my friends back in Chicago to move out with me and the family. (don’t know why they didn’t want to come, LOL)

That said, making friends as an adult, plain ole sucks. It sucks even more when you are a Black woman living in the whitest state in America. That said after a few years the realization that if I were ever going to even have any casual grab a drink buddies, that I might need to expand my horizons to include white women has always left me feeling unsettled.

Now some might find the fact that I am not comfortable with white girlfriends a bit laughable especially when you consider that I have a white husband. I will admit maybe I have some deep down prejudice but the truth is that since the age of 17, its been real hard for me to ever get past the casual acquaintance stage with 99% of the white women I meet. The only exception has been my girl “C” back in Chicago, we used to work together in fact she was my boss, she can work my nerves but on some levels she is the only white woman I have met as an adult who is not walking around with that attitude and air of privilege that seems to infect so many white women at an early age.

No, truthfully my experience is that most white women are looking for a “Mammy” to their Scarlett or maybe even a nice warm Oprah to call a friend and this sista is not the one. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t try to be a bitch, I try to give folks the benefit of the doubt but inevitably on some level it just is never a match. That said I know I am not the only sista who suffers from this dilemma, I recently saw Sex & The City, the movie and was down right offended that one of the girls finally gets a Black “friend”. Carrie needs an assistant and hires Louise (played by Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, damn a Oscar winner can’t do better than being a modern day Mammy), interestingly enough I saw this movie with some white woman and while they generally enjoyed the movie, me, I was fuming over how come the helper, the savior had to be a sista?  Super Negro woman to the rescue to help restore the fallen white women, um.. no, at this stage in my life that shit is just not happening. I wanna know where is my Mammy to make it all right?

Then again, I thought about it on a large scale, sistas are often portrayed as being strong women, yet white women can just be human and on some level I have seen that at work in my real life relationships. If and when a Black woman shows emotion, its like folks cannot handle it so we stifle that shit which we all know is a bad bad thing, hello health problems.

Even well meaning white women who try to connect with a sista still get it wrong since even when a white woman is not looking for her long lost Mammy, the opposite end is trying so hard that a sista starts feeling like a special Negro pet project. Yep, I have been there, done that and that too does not work for the kid.

I was thinking about the recent primary season here in America and while there were sistas who supported Hillary, there were those of us who just could not buy into her brand of feminism that her white female supporters were selling..

After all many of the loudest and most ardent Hillary supporters where women who cracked the glass ceilings back in the 80’s while keeping some 3rd world woman of color at home tending to her family. As a young Black woman, what would I have in common with that? Not a thing. Its the reason that for sistas like myself feminism will never appeal to me, at least not in the form most commonly espoused by old skool feminists.

Perhaps white women and black women can one day find a common ground when white women can acknowledge the inherent privilege they have by virtue of being white. Until then I suspect most white women will just be casual acquaintances.

20 thoughts on “Friendships and Race- Black women and white women

  1. Hi, I just found your blog. I used to live in Vermont as a kid, so I feel your pain! 😉

    I totally identify with this post. As I get older, I find it harder and harder to relate to white women on a friendship level. I live in NC, and I have one relatively close white friend, but I’ve been trying to meet more women of color, just to get that sister-girl vibe back that I had in college.

    Currently, I find that white women either are condescending towards me, patronizing towards me, competitive with me, or just plain clueless on how to relate to me. I had a friend in grad school I was fairly close to who definitely saw me as the “mammy” in her life, even though I had just as many issues as her at the time. But when I started being proactive with my life, doing things I love to do, and experiencing some success, got a job that paid well for my humanities degree, she distanced herself from me.

    Then I had another white girlfriend who was always in distress, making horrible decisions for herself, and never taking responsibility for her life. She wanted to lean on me, and I acted as her rescuer for a while, but had to cut that off eventually.

    My current white girlfriend is a good friend, but sometimes I feel like she can’t handle it when I need something. When I’m feeling down, she can’t handle it. Like I’m not allowed to feel discouraged from time to time. I think she had this image that I’m really strong, but I think she’s now starting to see that I’m human just like her.

  2. This exact topic has been on my mind, but I wasn’t able to articulate it to either my husband or on my blog. (It doesn’t help that the few folks who read my blog are white women, mostly.)

    As a kid, I used to be friends with primarily white girls, and I had no problem with it, but now as an adult it’s a different story. I really hate that whole “oh my, you’re Black” look that I get when I go to an AP or mostly SAHM function, and it has ruined my mood so much that I don’t bother going back for a 2nd try at friendship. It stinks that white women generally make the assumption that they’ll only be in the company of other white folks in these types of groups and some of them cannot hide their surprise when one of us shows up. Oddly enough, I don’t live in a predominately white state, it’s pretty diverse here. Very diverse, but very separate, though.

    I do have a person who I’m trying to connect with right now and she’s slightly condescending. Truthfully, I don’t think we really click all that well, but a sistah is gettin’ lonely and insane (and desperate!). In my last conversation with her, she mildly put down a fact I mentioned about myself — I was describing a former teacher and told the acquaintance that this person was my G&T teacher. She told me there were flaws with G&T….um, ok, but that wasn’t the point of my story I was telling. It was a little suspect… plus she pointed out to me once that I was micromanaging my 4 year old. Suspect, definitely.

    Sorry for the novel, but this has been really resonating with me so much that I got carried away. 😛

    • I live in New Orleans and grew up in Memphis. Im white and my husband is from Senegal. Ok now that all beeing said I have tried out of true desperation to have deeper relationships with African and African American women. I have found it to be like walking a fine line. Either im immediately given a cold shoulder or feel challenged with conversation and energy is felt and its negative.
      Its so hard to explain and really feel like giving up. In some rare cases i meet women and we connect but doesnt go further or i see pressure from their friends to act differently around me.
      I have been the only white person in a department at a hospital and i feel the pain of being and feeling like an outsider. Im very empathetic and I know their is a sweet girl of color somewhere else in the world at an all white work environment feeling the pain too.
      I do feel guilt and feel i have to be especially careful of the words I use when in my heart mind and eyes i see no color.
      I realize as children we are innocent but as life goes on we are tested and bullied and discriminated and down right kicked out of groups for the most insane reasons. And it happens more as adults than kids. Lifestyle and money- all the social economic bullshit seriously plays a part of this distance between women and all people.
      I cherish the women i do connect with and understand that the problem is bigger than me that stops ALL women coming together for the sake of being women.
      And in time when generations have passed my daughters wont have to have this conversation. I pray it changes and have faith seeds are planted-seeds of change.

  3. Ok, one more thing….

    I give you a LOT of credit for being so forgiving, tolerant and not putting a foot up someone’s ass on the regular on MDC. I have thought that for a while, actually. I could never do it, even though I stick around for the good info. I give you a whole lotta props for putting up them, especially on some of the crazy threads that pop up.

  4. Hey gurl…first time posting on your blog. I like what you have to say!

    In Chicago I had a fair number of white female friends but since moving to Iowa I’ve found myself getting distant from many of them. In Chicago I didn’t have the greatest self-esteem so I put up with stuff I don’t have patience for now. I remember, though, that some really couldn’t handle it when I “became human,” so to speak.

    People (regardless of color) are always shocked to find out how old I am but I finally figured out that what they’re usually expecting when they see a 43-year-old black woman is Mammy, and that ain’t me, sorry. Part of me feels I should be more generous but part of me is also like: eff that, this is MY time, I can’t be your mule/pillow right now.

  5. Girl, I SO feel this. I love your blog. I’m glad that you have found a space for catharsis. I was VERY angry my first four years here because a lot of the things you mentioned. I’ve made many white friends along the way (never had a problem with white people). But Madison taught me a “different” side of whiteness, that nuanced racist side that secretly lurks beneath the façade of “friendship”–the side that allows a white friend you trusted to post pictures on facebook of himself with his hair in little natty dreads/fake cornrows with rubber bands talking about “I need my do-rag for my nappy hair.” Mind you, I’ve had many “race talks” with this person. I don’t even know how to address this latest foolishness, so I just pray. I don’t get angry anymore though. I just accept ignorance for what it is, ignorance, and look for the more enlightened folks.

    Fortunately, I have made some trusted white friends here. One of them studies race and “gets” it and knows all too well about the mammy role. We’ve had our disagreements, but we push through.

  6. Thanks ladies. I was so hesitant about writing this post because I know some could take it to mean I am being racist which isn’t true. Yet in 35 years I have dealt with a lot of pain inflicted by white women, not always intentional but really it doesn’t matter if what I received hurts me.

    @Pirouette, Maine and Vermont are very similiar so I know you know where I am coming from. I actually am scared about staying here long term as my daughter grows up and starts to go to school. I know all too well what it was like being the only Black person in a classroom and it can be hard. Yet living in Chicago there were still enough of us around for me to not completely feel alone.

    @Nat, I deal with friends like yours all the time, at certain point I have learned this year to hit what I call the emotional ignore button.. there comes a point when you get tired of trying to explain and talk about issues.

    @Lbella, I do think getting older helps us realize some of the mess we deal with, like you I have had my own issues with self esteem and for years put up with crap, now I just can’t do it.

    @Teeyuh, girl, I hate AP functions…. the other parents rub me worse than the average run of the mill white folks. Especially since AP’ers try so hard to be PC, that’s a whole other post though. LOL Yeah, MDC is a trip at times. That said, I have learned alot about other folks, some good and some that makes me go um…

    • Shay, I am a sixty year old white girl who grew up and still lives in the South, Georgia to be specific. Of course, things have changed tremendously since I was a little girl but from my earliest memories, I cannot remember ever being taught, encouraged or allowed to treat black girls any differently than my white friends. I had a friend named Maydell, who came to my grandmother’s almost daily to play with me before I started to school at six. We were taught to always treat others as we would want to be treated. I was in seventh grade when our county was bused here and there to de-segregate and I graduated with senior-superlatives such as “Most Popular”, “Most Dependable”, “Friendliest” and Miss S.G.A. in 1974, by a class that was 2/3 black. To this day, when I run into an old classmate who is black, they will tell me how nice and fun I always was to them and it makes me feel so good. Even the guys have told me that!

      There is so much that I would like to say but it won’t change the world, I just wish that you knew that you just haven’t found the right friend yet. My best friend in the whole world is a 100 year old beautiful, wonderful lady whom I love and cherish so much. I have created a Facebook page for her because she has so much wisdom and is such an inspiration to so many and I would like to invite you to visit her page; I am positive that you will be amazed at the spirit of EVERYONE on that page. Please read about my good friend and tell me that it is not possible. She has told me so many times that in all of her life, that I am the very best friend that she has ever had, black or white! That no one has ever loved her and cared for her as much as I do, but the truth is, she is so much like my own mother and is so wise that I am drawn to her and no one would ever believe how much we laugh and carry on. Here is the link to her page, please read about this remarkable 100 year old lady who has won the hearts of so many people. I shared a video of her cutting grass and in one week, it had over 24,000 likes! Thanks for reading this! Wanda https://www.facebook.com/groups/MissJessie/

  7. Hey there!

    I have had some very deep friendships with a few white women but have also had a few with some black women…

    i don’t think that a white woman has to understand the “plight” of the black woman to have my friendship… and I don’t feel a white woman has to turn into an honorary black woman to have my friendship..there are SOME cultural bridges that will not be crossed and they don’t have to be crossed to build a friendship…I think that a consistent respect for our differences and a demonstrated appreciation for our differences is vitally important…commonground on race or culture is not as important…

    Thanks for letting me blow my trumpet!
    Lisa

    • I am a seeker of perspectives and want to be a better person. Thank you for posting your thoughts . I just want a friend – a friend that respects our differences. Appreciates each other uniquness and sees deeper than skin. Today was a challenge with my team members at work. Im searching for perspective and opinions on the white/black female friendships. I feel this is a safe place to gain insight. Thank you – Angie

  8. Lisa,

    Perhaps I just have not encountered a white woman with enough depth because in reading your words, I was reminded of all the reasons why my marriage works despite the racial differences. For 13 years I have been partnered with a white man who had little exposure to people of color on a deep level, yet he has always been able to connect with me and respect me without any desire or need in my view to be a Black man, if that makes any difference.

    Please stop by and blow your trumpet anytime. Peace.

  9. I’d like to add the opinion of a young white female.
    At my college we recently had a presentation called Sistahs and Sisters which prompted me to do some research on the topic, which led me to your blog.
    Before I go any farther, I want to let you know that I have several, not many but some, black girlfriends. I know that a lot of women are still very racist, for example a woman my mother works with saw a picture of me and my boyfriend on my mom’s desk at work and her first comment was, “He’s not white.” My mom’s reply was, “So? What’s your point?” And proceeded to list his creditentials, including training to be an officer in the Marine Corps, her point being that race isn’t an issue, what kind of person you are should be the only issue. So, yes I acknowledge that it is still an issue in some places, but not every white woman cares about what race someone is.
    I love my friends, every single one of them, and I don’t care what race they are. I have friends from all over the world, I’m part of the International Club at my school where we get to meet people of other cultures and make friends and where race isn’t an issue. I don’t view my American friends any different than I view my international friends. I also don’t view my African American friends any differently than my white friends. I just see my friends. Furthering my point, all the people in this International Club are friends too regardless of race or gender. There are some people around who are mature enough not to care. Maybe it’s a new generation thing. Maybe it’s just a young person thing. I just hope I’ve given you all hope that not every one will have to worry about being looked down upon or treated differently because of race.

  10. Hey there, fellow Sex/City viewer here… Our brief on-the-drive-home conversation was all about how I don’t get the whole SHOOOOOZ thing that you and G were trying to help me understand. Just don’t get it. But did you miss my eye rolling during the movie re: the ridiculous “Mammy” (great summation of it) role? Holy, crap. Our conversations didn’t go there afterword, we were onto the whole mystery of the shoes/accessories, etc. (A subject which still baffles me.)

    Anyway, in this particular case, I think it’s just a situation where we were all so new at being friends there was a nervous energy in the air and we didn’t get very deep (in the 15 min drive home). I’m really sure if any of us had brought it up, we could have had a good wtf rant about it together. I wonder how you feel knowing the role sickened me, too? I’m guessing G, too.

    And, as you know, I’ll never for a second dodge the obvious fact that I’m privileged just for being white.

    I do, though, feel for you not knowing the motivations for someone’s desire for friendship. We all wonder about these things (why are we friends), but being Black is a bit like being a magnet for the most “I want to be progressive, please make me be so cool by accepting me” white people.

  11. Over a year later, but I gotta respond; what a great post this was. I’m in my late 20s, actually my last 20..but I digress..and I don’t get the mammy, rather, I’m the sista-girl to every white woman or rather, gay white, male, and that drives me crazy. I can honestly say my BFF is a white woman from North Dakota, but I think we’re able to friends, and really good friends, because I’m okay with her country ways and she’s okay with sista-girl ways, and neither one of us is trying to be what we expect the other to want us to be. I hope that makes sense.

  12. im doing a small research study on females being friends with different races for my research and statistics class. I chose this area because my bff is a black woman and I am a white woman and it still suprises me when we go out to eat or go shopping the stares we sometimes get. I will never understand prejudice. We are all just people and if given a chance, they would meet some really amazing indivduals!

  13. There’s a Catch-22 in race relations that you touch on clearly. Despite our informal but real segregation, all black people know how to operate in white spaces far better than many white people can operate in black spaces. It hurts my heart that white women have caused you pain because *you* are both wonderful and human. Individually, you are too awesome to be treated badly. Collectively, no human deserves to be treated with disdain for reasons that are beyond their control.
    But, dang. As a white woman, I still feel I’m getting it wrong somehow when I interact with black women. Am I really getting it wrong? Or am I caught up in trying not to get it wrong, so I’m overly sensitive? I don’t know.

    I do have friends, who are black women. But, as an example of me not being sure if I’m fucking it up , I found out a friend likes to read. She had a grandma, who was a librarian. She grew up going to grandma’s house and reading. I love to read! So I asked, “What do you like to read?” That’s a question I would ask anyone, but a shadow went across her face and I realized that my innocent question may have been a micro-aggression to her because racists and bigots don’t think black people can be intellectually equal (much less far superior!) to white people. And then I felt awkward and awkwardly changed the subject and OH MY GOD, THIS IS SO HARD. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ME?
    TL; DR: It isn’t up to black people to fix racism. That task is clearly on white people. However, when a white person is honestly trying to engage, meeting them half-way helps. No one should endure racism, prejudice, bigotry, or micro-aggressions, but it saddens me that white people have been awful to black people for so long that the automatic (yet understandable) reaction is “SHIELDS UP!” from black people.

  14. I have never had any white friends….being an Arizona native I had plenty of opportunity lol, but I never could find the appeal in white chicks. They are needy and dramatic and they smell weird and I do not relate to them on any level. I’ve always found everything I needed in my own people.

Comments are closed.