July 29, 2020

Your Safe Black Friend is Still Black


It honestly seems like all hell broke loose in our nation right after my last blog post.  As if coronavirus wasn't enough, we were made to witness the murder of George Floyd as a nation and it seemed like things began to spiral from there.  Racism and unjust killings of Black people have been going on, but in the midst of a pandemic, this was the first time so many were made to sit down, be still and watch what was going on.  For many people, it was their first time really seeing the Black experience and they couldn't turn away.

The video of George Floyd's murder, riots, protests and more were everywhere you turned.  From the nightly news to social media, you couldn't get away from it.  As this was going on, you started to see a change happening.  Not only were people starting to call out racism and injustice, you even began to see people calling out brands for lack of diversity, inequality in pay to Black influencers and more.  May and June had a lot going on, but I think it was needed.

Even as a Black woman, it caused me to reflect quite a bit on my own life's journey and wondering if I am truly making an impact in the Black community.  As I thought about my life, one of the things I began to realize is that even though I grew up in a rural town in North Carolina, I had not had many experiences of blatant racism happen towards me.  In fact, I can only think of two instances and they were both quite similar.  They both involved not being acknowledged by White people.  One instance was at a store, the other at an alumnae event for my college, but the experiences were the same.  I was ignored in both settings.  Although I knew those instances to be racism in the moment, I had never experienced someone calling me a nigger or doing something so blatant that I couldn't turn away from it.

Last month, my friend Melissa asked me to join her on a live chat with a panel of women to chat about our backgrounds and what we can do to fight against racial injustice.  One of the main things I took away from that chat was a term I had never heard of.  Rada talked about what it's like to be considered the "safe Black friend."  I had never heard of this term before, but it made so much sense to me and really helped me understand why I likely hadn't experienced a lot of the same racist things as so many people I know.

If you are wondering what this term means, the "safe Black friend" is typically the Black friend that White people do not feel threatened by.  That Black friend is typically educated, talks proper, comes from a nice family and/or may have money.  This is just my interpretation, but I am absolutely sure you all know what I mean.  To put it plainly, it's usually someone that people usually don't consider ghetto or having the characteristics of the stereotypical Black person.  So as I began to think on it, I realized that I was deemed the safe Black friend in many of my friend's lives.

So, naturally as I started to share my thoughts publicly on being Black and racial injustice, I started to realize that many people weren't open to those conversations.  I started to realize that it was OK to have me around to laugh with or talk to about fashion, but not about Black issues or the Black experience.  It just wasn't OK to have those honest conversations about racism.  I realized that people forget that the "safe Black friend" is actually Black.

You can't separate a person from their race.  No matter what I do in this life, I am still Black.  For every government form, you will find me listed as a Black female because that is who I am.  Your safe Black friend is still Black.  No matter our upbringing or personal experiences, we have the right to stand up for racial injustices happening in our community.  As an outsider, it may surprise or shock you, but things happening to Black people can still effect other Black people even if it wasn't a direct action against them.

So, what can we do?  I think the biggest things are being open to learning and growth.  I, myself, have made a few mistakes when it comes to how I begin those conversations on racism and injustice, but I am learning.  We all are!  I want to encourage you to remember that Black people come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences.  Look beyond that and remember that in order to be a true friend and/or ally, it comes with accepting a person for who they are and working to honor their life and the community they represent.

What are your thoughts? Had you heard the term, "safe Black friend," before?

God bless & stay fab,


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