“I’m Friends with a Black Person, So I Can’t Be Racist”
Being friends with a person of color does not exclude white people from racist tendencies.
By Allison Colsch
We’re all familiar with the phrase: “I am not racist. I have a friend who is (insert race or ethnicity here)”. In the past month, Rep. Mark Meadows notably defended President Trump against racism allegations by arguing that since a black woman worked in his administration, there was no way he could be racist. This excuse is an all-too-common response from white people when their actions are labeled as racist. The reality, however, is that as much as they like to believe that the excuse works, having a friend who is a person of color does not negate racism in any way.
Racism is a difficult issue for white people to avoid because our society implicitly favors white privileges and superiority in various ways. That said, racism operates at many levels, and for many white people, their prejudices are not always blatantly apparent. At one level, there are the explicitly racist behaviors of groups such as white nationalists. At another level, there is the racism and prejudices that are more indirect, taking the form of microaggressions. Microaggressions, defined as subtle or unintentional acts of discrimination, are difficult for white people to identify and admit. As a result, those “little” acts of racism go unnoticed by the perpetrators. The issue is that these microaggressions do not go unnoticed by the people of color being affected.Although people of color notice, they often do not feel like they have the power to make the aggressor aware of the act. However, people of color should not need to educate others, so the fault still lies firmly with the aggressors.
The result is an ignorance where a white person believes that their association and willingness to work with or be friends with a person of color means they are not racist. The truth is that just because they are not explicitly discriminating against someone, does not mean that they are not still subtly perpetuating their prejudices through their behavior.