Having white friends comes with trauma I’m not willing to deal with anymore
By Erin White
July 18, 2017
I can’t take no ‘mo, White People.
I can’t answer anymore White People demanding an explanation for why something is “racist”. I can’t take anymore White People sending me videos of Black People being murdered without thinking of how it will affect me. I can’t sit through any more arguments for why race “isn’t always a factor”. And I can’t keep ignoring the cowardice silence when it’s time for White People to confront each other about race.
My dad warned me about White People when I was around 7 or 8. He told me that no matter how close I felt to these people, I would always be first and foremost Black in their mind. And at no time could a Black person rely on a White person to put their privilege on the side if it ever becomes a Me vs. Them situation. As a kid, this was, frankly, another one of my dad’s pessimistic, paranoid lectures. Be on the lookout at all times just…in case. And as an outgoing, compassionate human-being his words rolled off my back. But in time I’ve learned that Daddy-o was onto something and the ugly truth is that in one way or another, White friends, largely, just aren’t safe to have.
I really learned this lesson with White Moms. They stunned me the most. Women who have known me through adolescence, fed me and looked out for me at times, let out lashes of vapor that scared me. These maternal figures have always welcomed me into their homes, embraced me warmly, and made me feel part of their limited restriction “we’d rather you do it in the house” households. The privilege of light skin, perhaps, caused me to appear less threatening to them and a respectable dose of home training meant that these experiences with white families seemed pleasant.
These immersions into white vacuums, places where I shrunk as to not take up too much white space, doing so with an unrealized desperation to re-affirm my normality. As if sharing a meal, sleeping in White folks sheets meant that I wasn’t inherently unsavory, despite the re-enforcements from the outside world.
The first of these times, I was visiting my best friend from middle school. My second trip home in Southern California after moving to Atlanta. My friend, her mom, and were chatting in the kitchen. I had already sent my own mother an SOS text to pick me up. We talked about my new life, how I was adjusting so far from the beach, and whether or not I had found a boyfriend down there. And when I said no to the last, her mother leaned across the table and grabbed my forearm reassuringly and said, “At least now you can meet someone of your own kind.”
It was like a punch in the face. But it was hardly the last time a White elder tried to put me in my place. But it was the first time I allowed myself to acknowledge the malice being spewed at me by a White person I trusted.
With every close relationship I’ve had with a White person, their unconscious but blatant biases against and misunderstandings of Black People, in particular, tends to reveal itself sooner or later. Unprompted and accepting admissions that their Good White parents aren’t racist but would never “let” them date a black person, the tokenizing, the microaggressions, and dismissals of Black pain. The emotional labor, the holding back, the shrinking required to put up with the willful ignorance and mismanaged guilt and resentment of White People is too much.
And the fact of the matter is that I’m finding it impossible to trust any White Person to not, at some point, perpetuate ideologies that oppress me. Being friends with White People is just too fucking hard on my psyche.