Wednesday, March 11, 2009

wish they could find a black friend

When it comes to race, things are definitely different in America now that Barack Obama is president.

For one thing, white folks are more anxious than ever to prove that things are different. And since they're such a paradoxically hyper-individualized group, white Americans are now trying to prove that when it comes to racial differences, they themselves are different. The best way to do that, it seems, is not to make some sort of collective, communal-minded effort, like fighting for social justice, or against systemic racism or the racist death penalty, or like, whatever.

No, the best way to prove that a New Day really has dawned is to find a black friend. And plenty of white folks are trying to do just that. In fact, as the Onion recently reported, America's black people are getting kind of "creeped out" by all the white people smiling at them:

A majority of African-Americans surveyed in a nationwide poll this week reported feeling "deeply disturbed" and "more than a little weirded out" by all the white people now smiling at them.

First witnessed shortly after President Obama's historic victory, the open and cheerful smiling has only continued in recent months, leaving members of the black community completely unnerved.

"On behalf of black people across this nation, I would like to say to our white brethren, 'Please stop looking at us like that,'" said Brown University psychology professor Dr. Stanley Carsons. "We're excited Barack is president, too, and we're glad you're happy for us. But giving us the thumbs up for no reason, or saying hello whenever we walk by, is really starting to freak us out."

In these increasingly hard times, with things even worse for most blacks than they are for most whites, it's a wonderful thing that some enterprising and helpful black folks have found a way to do two things at once: keep working, and help out with the white search for black pets. I mean, friends:

But then, if you're white and you happen to know Avril Lavigne, you could save some money by just asking her how she found her black friend:

Or better yet, you might just ask Sally and Johnny, a couple of "down" white folks who've been bragging about their black friends for years now, over at "Black People Love Us!"

Actually, come to think of it, if you're white, or even if you're not white, and you're thinking about the whole "black friends" thing? And you want to, like, make fun of white people for searching for black friends so they can use them, as like, dehumanized accessories? If you're looking to make a funny like that, maybe so you can like, make yourself feel superior to those other, clueless white people? Then you might stop and think about how that kind of satire is already passe. And then, not do it.

A lot of goodhearted white people have been latching onto special black friends for a long, long time. Just ask damali ayo. Or read her book on the topic, which came out almost four years ago.

damali can tell you all about How to Rent a Negro. And about how to humorously skewer the common, patronizing, self-serving, and self-making white desire for interracial harmony and absolution. Thing is, though, she did it a lot better than you ever could.

[Hey look, damali has a new book in the works--yay!]


  1. Truthfully, I've been a little confused at the number of Black people who've been smiling at little white me. It's OK, just strange.

  2. It's not as bad as it was in California after the officers were found "Not Guilty" in the Rodney King case.
    THAT was odd.

  3. I get those type of white people too. But, I think it's due to the fact that I'm smaller than the average black woman. I'm picked on for being the 'petite black woman' that is pretty much why white people want me to be their friend, date them or to treat me like a child.
    I'm not sure if this is dehumanizing, but it's close to belittling me like the asian stereotype and praising me for not being the black stereotype. It's just my experience. Macon D, did you look at the videos about the freedmen issue?

  4. Yeah, I've seen that, quite a few times. I don't think white people who do that necessarily know what's wrong with it. They think they're doing a good thing by latching onto someone who's black BECAUSE they're black. Funny how they seem to always have just one friend like that, or at most two.

  5. Your blog is really interesting nothing like anything I've read before:)

  6. I hate to bother you again Macon D. But, I do think you did miss something with the freemen issue. I wrote in my comment that the tribe leader's were "white looking" they have some native blood but they are also white. They are the reason for the issue to being with along with the white people of the past who, started the list to take land. I just want you to understand that this is a problem that white people started.

  7. Have you read Devin Friedman's Will You Be My Black Friend article in GQ?
    Check it out if you have time -- it's long and not happy go lucky.

    I think a lot of people are going through a bit of cognitive dissonance because they supported and voted a black person for President yet have lives that are completely homogenous and somehow they think that's wrong.

    But what if it's not?
    What if it's okay to have a homogenized professional and personal life yet still want equality for all?

    My personal confusion comes from the idea that just because Barack is the President, people are waking up to the idea that people who don't look like them exist in the world and could possibly be their friends because they have shared common interests.

    I find it so odd that one person would trigger that kind of realization but maybe so.

  8. Chrissy, thank you for the information here and via email about the Freedmen's Bureau. The issue that concerns you is a vexed matter between some Native Americans and some African Americans, so I initially thought that as a white American, it wasn't for me to comment on that issue. But thanks to you, I see that white people have been involved, and so now I've got some catching up to do, and maybe I will comment on it here.

    "I am not Star Jones," thank you for the article, which looks completely relevant. I suppose it is okay for a white person to have "a homogenized professional and personal life yet still want equality for all," if having a non-homogenized life means straining too hard, or in the wrong ways, to find non-white friends. Sometimes there just aren't many non-white people around (which in itself, I think, should inspire some white analysis, and then anger), and if there are,white efforts to reach out can be annoying, at best. Surely, though, there are better ways for whites to make black and other non-white friends than the ones satirized in the various items highlighted in this post.

  9. macon-

    thanks for the shout out here. very nice indeed to see that someone is taking note of who did what first :)

    and thanks for your work on this blog, i recommend it to people frequently.

    have you joined the WORK group on facebook?

    keep on the real side!


  10. You're of course very welcome damali, and thanks in return for all the work you do (including those many trails you've blazed), and for your enormous patience with us white folks.

    I haven't joined the WORK group, but I'll look into it.

  11. I am not Star Jones said:
    "My personal confusion comes from the idea that just because Barack is the President, people are waking up to the idea that people who don't look like them exist in the world and could possibly be their friends because they have shared common interests."

    Confusing and interesting idea, indeed.

    I'll even reach a little bit farther and posit that having Obama as president may be causing some white folks to develop a sort of racial double consciousness. In _The Souls of Black Folk_, W.E.B. DuBois argues that blacks live behind a sort of "veil" that separates their national and racial identities, between which they are perpetually torn. With a black president, one could argue that black identity is more in line now with national identity, causing black consciousness to be a bit more unified and, perhaps, white consciousness to be a bit more divided.

    And though its name makes it sound like a sort of pathology, double consciousness to DuBois held a promise, as well. DuBois was invested in the idea that being of a different racial background allowed black Americans to make a unique contribution to the country.

    Likewise, while I suspect that some white people would simply like to plug their new black friends into their social circles as pseudo-Barack and Michelle Obamas and simply go about their lives as usual, hopefully the experience of finding black friends causes them to consider forthrightly the differences in what it means to be a white American and a black American, and to offer their perspective on how we as a nation can come to terms with that difference.

  12. We all have our thoughts about our new president Barack Obama, which most people would love to share with one another. Barack Obama went further than any previous president in apologising for American behaviour.

  13. Did you really just cite 'The Onion' as an authoritative source?

  14. No Michael, I didn't. Note the tags for this post: "white humor" and "white satire."


Please see the "commenting guidelines" before submitting a comment.

hit counter code