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AdviceHey, Bonita!

My POC Friend Is a Racist

Hi, Bonita, 

I am a half-Asian, half-white cis mid-30s female who grew up nearby, and I am considering dumping my close late-20s cis Latina friend who grew up in rural [Northeast Georgia]. This feels like a last resort writing to you to see whether or not I am the asshole.

I think my friend might have some internalized racism, because she says things like “I don’t want to get tan too much and turn to another race” and seems to avoid Black coworkers who are too “ghetto” or who do not have a higher education degree. She loves country music and going to General’s, which I do not hold against her, except that that’s the main music she wants to listen to and the only bar she wants to go to. I love going out with her to other locations outside of Athens, but the way she talks it sounds like she wants nothing to do with the Black community other than dancing to their music.

We are both children of immigrants, but I think she subscribed to the “Black people just don’t try hard enough” mentality a long time ago. I do not believe that. I 100% disagree. I have worked very hard for what I have, but I also recognize that I have an immense amount of privilege as a straight cis half-Asian, half-white person with a stable family, even though I present as a “brown” person and so does she. How do I deal with her friend like this? We have been friends for several years, and she is well aware of my personal views, so I think it might be time to give up instead of trying to get her to see how much we have compared to others instead of what we lack.

It just feels so awkward to navigate this with a friend who I think should understand the nuance of our situation as first-generation people of color and women in the South, but I can only take upon educating fellow brown folks so much! 

Frustrated With A Friend

Hey Frustrated,

If you do decide to dump this person, I would support that 100%. I understand the struggle of wanting to maintain friendships with other marginalized people while also having to face their own prejudices and misconceptions. I have a great old friend from high school who is one of my favorite people on Facebook, but she’s also one of these people who worship capitalism to the point that she is mad at blue-collar workers for bettering themselves post-COVID. You know the ones: They crow about how lazy and ungrateful people are for wanting to quit the service industry and go on to more fulfilling jobs, and they suck because Sonic is understaffed now, and it takes too long to get her cherry limeade. We are both Black women, and I was a weirdo growing up, but she did not ostracize me like some of our other peers did. That’s important to me, and I won’t forget that, but that doesn’t mean I have to deal with her being a classist butthole. Also, we don’t see each other regularly, so getting her out of my life was easy: unfollow, mute, unfriend.  

Classism is tacky, but racism is a no-go for me. You can start challenging your friend’s casual racism by calling it out every single time she does it. If she calls something ghetto or tries to imply that all Black people or people of color are lazy, ask her to explain what she means. Make her go through each point of her position and defend it. Show her the fallacies of her perspective and how they’re not based in facts, but learned racism on her part. I’m willing to bet that she has weird identity issues about her own brown skin, but that doesn’t make it OK for her to be racist towards other marginalized people. 

Ultimately, none of this is your job to fix or tolerate. You can chip away at her racism and help her gain some perspective if you want, but that is emotional labor that I don’t think that people of color owe to anyone anymore, not even each other. There’s plenty of other friendships for you to experience, and they’d probably be less stressful and more fulfilling overall.

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