Politics & Race
The Six Stages Of Realizing Your Friend Is Racist

By Michael Harriot

Along with the popularity and ubiquity of social media comes the acceptance of one certain peril: At some point you will realize that one of your longtime friends is in fact a racist.

I’m not talking about the innocuous discovery that your high school band camp roommate now supports Donald Trump, or seeing an Instagram post of your little league teammate standing beside his truck adorned with a rebel flag–that happens to all of us. These are just the consequences of existence in the pool of American Whiteness. What I am referring to is the red-blooded, pure, uncut racism that manifests itself on social media. Sooner or later you will encounter it. It happens when the playmate whose home you spent countless hours in drinking watered-down Kool Aid throws up a Facebook status about gorillas in the White House. Or maybe the woman in the cubicle next to you at work goes on a rant about how Trayvon deserved it and why the police should shoot down the “filthy animals” who dare attend a Black Lives Matter protest.

When you discover this (and trust me, you will) there are six universal levels that you will go through:

1. Reflection You will begin your process by ransacking your mental rolodex in search of clues. You will ask yourself if you missed the signs of racism. Were you oblivious to your friend’s racist tendencies or was their racism something that blossomed as they grew older? The answer is yes, to both questions. Remember how you thought it was strange that when you visited Brad’s house that they only used plastic spoons? Nah, home, they weren’t poor or allergic to stainless steel, they just didn’t want your mouth on their everyday forks and spoons. Either they thought they might catch the “negro” from you, or they were afraid you’d steal their silverware.

I’m sure you are subconsciously counting all the times you said “nigga” around your white playmate and you are desperately trying to recall their reaction. Don’t worry, you didn’t cause their racism. In fact, if anything, you delayed it. Having a Black friend during the formative years is neither an antidote or a cure for racism, it is just a temporary reprieve from the onset of the symptoms of the disease. For White people, having a Black friend when they are young is like swallowing a cough drop during the early stages of lung cancer–it won’t stop anything, but it delays the symptoms for a little while, which brings up the second step:

2. Were you “the black friend?” Many racists excuse their behavior by pointing out that they have a Black friend. Yes, you are the one they are talking about. I know, you and your White friend never discussed race, culture or anything of the sort, but you are now and forever an alibi for racism. Even if you stopped hanging together in middle school. Even if you only shared a cubbyhole in kindergarten, your Blackness is an extended justification for all the bullshit they allow themselves to believe while not accepting or embracing the fullness of their prejudice. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. One of the unspoken burdens of Blackness is that we all unknowingly serve as the caveat for some Caucasian lingering in the twilight of our memories as their rationalization for why they are not racist.

Somewhere, in Mississippi right now, there is a guy named James Robert Whiteman sitting in a Klan meeting drawing straws for who is going to light the cross on the Black family’s lawn who dared to integrate their neighborhood. As the local grandmaster speaks, Jimbo is thinking in the back of his mind, “I’m not racist, because one time I went to the movies with Darnell. And the movie was Barbershop. Even though I didn’t understand most of it, I laughed, so I can’t be racist.

Yeah, JimBob. WHatever makes you feel better.

3. Anger I’m sure you want to give your racist friend a piece of your mind. Don’t. If you could solve racism with a twitter response or a Facebook inbox, we wouldn’t have any problems right now. You should never be mad at a racist (George Zimmerman excluded). Even though you may want to punch them in the face, the correct move is not yelling at them in all caps on social media. You should also not present a well-reasoned argument that dismantles their racism. Why, you ask? Because there is a long-proven psychological study that tried every approach to confronting racism and the results showed a very discouraging but bedrock thesis that all race theory and cultural study now accept as fact:

Racism is stupid.

You can’t fight stupidity with logic, reason or even anger. It’s like fighting terrorism, religious zealotry and 2000-year old religious dogma with guns and bombs.

Only an idiot would do that.

4. Retaliation You know what you can do? Fuck with them. Laugh at them. It is ok, to laugh at stupid people, because stupid people are the last group of people we are allowed to make fun of. I make fun of the retarded (and no, I don’t mean the mentally handicapped. I mean “retarded” in the pure sense of the word:

Retarded: adjective characterized by a slowness or limitation in intellectual understanding and awareness, emotional development, academic progress, etc.

And I do fuck with them. I salute them with a heil Hitler whenever I see them in public. I find out where they work and send their bosses excuses like “Amber won’t be in tomorrow, she has a big Nazi convention that she will be attending.” I take their racist posts and inbox it to their Black friends. I make fake Tinder accounts for them, but put that they only prefer Black men with penises larger than 9 inches. I sign them up for the NAACP newsletter. I write on their wall how good it was to see them at the Black Lives Matter rally. Anytime I see pictures of people wearing Klan hoods, I tag the photo with their name.

See, racism can be fun.

5. Paranoia Even though it might be fun, you begin to wonder about yourself. How oblivious are you? Are all your White friends like this? Were you walking around with your eyes closed to how many of your white friends were undercover racists?

Here is the thing. If you believe this, they win. Believing that every white person hates you is the same as Donald Trump wanting to keep Muslims out of the country because a few of them have done some bad things. Look, I’m not white, nor have I ever been, but I actually don’t believe that all White people are racist, and here is why:

That shit is exhausting. 

If I was White, I know I wouldn’t be racist. I’d be too busy enjoying my White privileges like dancing off beat, living wherever the fuck I wanted or having my success tied to my intellect and ability. I tried hating on someone (besides George Zimmerman) once, and I gave it up very quickly. I believe most White people are don’t give a fuck about Black people–which is different from racism, because I don’t give a fuck about White people. If a White person moves next to me, the only thing I worry about is whether I am going to have to endure awkward conversations when I go to the mailbox. I’m sure my White neighbors only care whether my dog shits in their yard or if I’m gonna keep my lawn cut as neatly as theirs (The answer to both questions is a definitive “yes”). Do not let the precedent set by some idiot asshole whose self-worth is tied to the false superiority of their whiteness destroy your world-view.

I learned that from awkward conversations at my mailbox.

6. Acceptance This is the final step. You realize that some people are racist, and some of those people were once your friends. Unlike most people, I don’t unfriend them or delete them from my timeline. I like knowing what racists are up to and seeing the latest stupid arguments they present to defend their ignorance. We live in a society that will always have remnants of racism, sexism and homophobia. We don’t have to like it. We must always fight to eliminate it, but these subtle reminders are evidence that you are not crazy for fighting the good fight. You have to speak out whenever you have the opportunity because even if we never fully cure racism and hate, we can at least run the cretins who hate because of color or race into the crevices of society.

We do not have to accept racism, but we must accept the fact that racism exists and keep kicking the asses of those who perpetuate it.

Anything else is cough drops.

About the author

Michael Harriot is a renowned spoken word poet, the host of The Black One podcast and the editor-in-chief of NegusWhoRead. He is perpetually just getting warmed up because he has no chill. He is on Instagram and twitter as @michaelharriot

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