I Have No White Friends (And I Think I Know Why)
As our wedding date approaches and the planning becomes more and more likely to drive us insane — not insane in a Hannibal or Huck sense, but more of a Will Graham or Radiohead “I’ll be waiting. With a gun and a pack of sandwiches” sense — we made a concerted effort last weekend to detect the main source of stress so we could at least attempt to rectify it.
The verdict? The invite list.
Along with making you the worst person ever, the list is directly involved with the three biggest stress inducers.
1. How many people are we inviting?
2. Who will we invite?
3. How much will all this shit cost?
After debating just saying “Fuck it” and eloping and inviting everyone to a Waffle House in Washington County for the reception, we considered trimming the list. As I glanced through it to see which of her, er, our family and friends could be expendable, I noticed something:
Out of the 200 or so people we have coming, only one is White.
Actually, that’s not completely true. Six are White. But two are married to my cousins, one is one of my dad’s old co-workers, and two are that hybrid Persian/Kardashian off-White that doesn’t really count as White. But, between the two of us, only one of our closest friends is White.
It’s not like we’ve lived segregated lives. We’re both from the Whitest major metropolitan area in the country, we both went to racially diverse high schools and predominately White colleges, and we both interact with many White people on a personal and professional level. We also both have White friends. And we both like hummus. But, the wedding list suggests those friendships are limited.
Although the discovery surprised me a bit, this dynamic isn’t particularly unique. While light beer commercials and The New Girl might suggest otherwise, most of us are very exclusive — reclusive, even — when it comes to the racial make-up of the people closest to us. When it comes to close friends, we all tend to stick to our own kind.
Salon’s Brittany Cooper wrote on this last year, and suggested that our country’s complex racial politics often make it too difficult to maintain close friendships with people who don’t share a racial and/or cultural tie. I don’t disagree with her. But, after considering both personal experience and anecdotal evidence, there’s something I want to add.
When thinking about the White guys I’ve known who were comfortable hanging with a group of brothas and the Black guys I’ve known who’ve had no problem being the perfunctory token Black guy, they each had something in common with those friends: Women. More specifically, an attraction to and/or willingness to date a certain type of woman.
Basically, the White guys legitimately close with multiple Black guys were also interested in Black women, and the Black guys cool with frequenting all the “White” bars, clubs, and parties were also interested in dating White women.
I’m not suggesting they sought out these friendships just because of their dating interests. (Although, I’d totally watch a movie about a Black guy who pretended to be friends with White guys just so he could get closer to White women.) I think that who we’re romantically/sexually interested in has a substantial role in determining our adult friendships. This seems impractical, but it’s actually organic. Pragmatic, even.
Adult friendships are usually cultivated through shared activities. You like each other and you like doing many of the same things, so you spend time with each other. When you’re single, the potential of potential romantic opportunities present often determines these activities. This is one of the reasons why you might be more likely to hit one of the “Black” happy hour spots after work instead of one of the “White” ones, or why the weekend gallery crawl might interest you more than the beerfest. You just know that the type of person you’re attracted to is more likely to be there.
Even thinking of the types of activities and events I’d usually attend when I was single, a single White guy looking for a sorority girl-type was not going to find her at any of those spots. And, when I had White co-workers, as much as I appreciated them inviting me out with them, the perpetual lack of sistas — and the lack of sistas interested in Black men — there limited my enjoyment.
Also, this phenomenon is deeper than race. The White guys into sorority-girl types and the White guys into the ironic hipster types probably wont be spending that much time with each other either. And I doubt the sistas into Donald Glover are going to be frequenting the same spots as the ones interested in someone more Weebay Brice-ish.
There is a definite benefit to both expanding our horizons and not crafting our fun around the idea of romantic potential. No one would deny that. Unfortunately, by adulthood most of us lose the type of stamina and curiosity that requires.
We still haven’t decided who we’re going to cut from the invite list yet. But, we do know one thing: We’re keeping all six of the White people. It’s the least we could do, right?
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)