Presenters Rickey Smiley and Gary Owen speak onstage during the 45th NAACP Image Awards Feb. 22, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif.
Photo: Kevin Winter (Getty Images for NAACP Awards)

Congratulations!

If you’re here, that means you probably have a newly acquired black friend and you are looking for a few tips. You should be aware that this lesson is for white people who are looking to enjoy a lasting friendship. People looking to be an ally should go here.

Advertisement

Black people are constitutionally required to have a white friend under the penalty of being declared a reverse racist. The sheer number of white people alone makes it impossible not to have at least one Caucasian associate with whom you wouldn’t mind sharing a microbrewed beer.*

But relax, white person, now that you have selected a sufficient Negroid counterpart, you should be aware of the six rules that will make your friendship productive and mutually enjoyable:

*White people love microbrews. I almost believed I was genetically inferior because I could never taste the hops they spoke of when drinking their Ironically Named Caucasoid Wheat Lager Pale Ale (No, that’s the actual name. I prefer Ironically Named Caucasoid Hard Apple Cider, myself). Now I realize that it’s all bullshit. There is no such thing as hops or amber.

Advertisement

1. Know the line.

While you might come from a long line of habitual line steppers, please know that there are some thresholds you cannot cross. Never drink out of a black person’s glass or take a bite of their food without permission. Also, know that there are some black things you can’t do, no matter how close you get to your black friend.

Take a look at the main picture in this article. Gary Owen performs in black clubs around the country. He knows he has crossed the line, but the unmelanated part of Owen’s brain cannot help thinking, “Even though I’m not a member of Omega Psi Phi, Imma still throw up the Que sign because ... I’m white.”

Advertisement

Don’t be like Owen.

Owen is fucked up.

2. Be white. 

There are an infinite number of kinds of white people, and although black people are not a monolith (if you need proof, just search the comment section of any article on The Root), there is one kind of white person who is universally despised by black people:

The white person who tries too hard.

His name is always Bryan. I don’t know what it is about white people who replace perfectly good i’s with y’s, but while Brians are usually reasonable gentlemen, Bryans will give everyone else in the room a firm handshake yet insist on dapping you up. Bryans can’t simply say “Hello”; they must call you “dawg” or “my G” or something else that shows how “down” they are.

Advertisement

Look, white Bryans, no one wants a white friend like that. I’d rather have an actual black friend than a Caucasian Cliffs Notes Negro. Perhaps this is why I dislike Michael Rapaport so much. He refuses to just be white.

Rapaport is a privileged kid who grew up on New York City’s Upper West Side who sounds blacker than any actual black person I’ve ever met. His linguistic blackface is a fetishized view of blackness that is kinda racist because no one actually talks like that. In fact, the only 63-year-old man (I assume that’s how old he is from looking at photos) who can navigate life with that kind of accent is a white man. Black men can’t talk like that. Only Michael Rapaport can.

Advertisement

I bet that motherfucker’s real name is Bryan.

3. Know your role.

Even though friendship isn’t about doing favors, if you are a white person with a black friend, there are certain roles you should assume, including:

  • Talking to the police: When approached by any cop, your black homie should be able to feign deafness while you talk to the cop and explain it to your friend in that version of sign language that lady used at Nelson Mandela’s funeral.
  • Calling for anything: This includes reservations, talking to any customer service agent and speaking to any manager.
  • Explaining white things: One day I exclaimed how the writing on this season of Living Single was unfunny and shitty and—even though the color on my TV was fucked up—I hadn’t laughed once. Then my white bestie explained that I was actually watching Friends. Similarly, I thought there was an entire genre of music performed by people having epileptic seizures until my buddy explained punk rock to me.
  • Vouching: Sometimes black people need someone around to assure the other whites that they’re one of the good ones. That’s why I carry a form letter with me at all times. It is signed by my closest white allies, proving that I indeed have white friends. (This is not a joke.)

Advertisement

If I hit the lottery and became a multimillionaire, my closest friends would never have to pay for drinks when out. White privilege is essentially a societal lottery ticket.

Let your friends use it.

4. You can say the n-word.

I believe that 76 percent of the reason white people have black friends is so that they can one day get permission to use the n-word. Unlike most black people, I recognize four instances where the use of the n-word is appropriate.

Advertisement

  • If we’re discussing the word “nigger”: I’m not in the third grade. I can recognize nuance and I know what you’re saying.
  • If you’re in a movie: I’m not talking about some YouTube shit. It has to be on the big screen and I must be invited to the premiere. And I must see the script.
  • If I can slap the shit out of you ... and your oldest living relative. Also, I must be allowed to urinate on the grave of your most recently departed family member. If you’re cool with that, then I’m cool with you disrespecting me, my family and my ancestors. See ... reciprocity.
  • If someone is holding us at gunpoint threatening to shoot us unless I allow you to call me a nigger. But I’d still have to think about it for a while. There are some things I’d have to consider, like: What’s the caliber of the bullet? Where is he going to shoot me? If it’s just a .25 mm flesh wound, then I can’t allow you to say it. If it is a .357 Magnum in the chest or head area ... hold up. Let me think for a little longer.

Advertisement

5. Learn things.

Don’t hang around black people and take nothing away from the experience. Even when you only learn about the transcendent cooking utility called seasoned salt, a relationship with a black person could be beneficial in many ways.

Being in black spaces affords white people the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective. A few months ago, I was set to perform in the finals of the Individual World Poetry Slam, and 10 of the 12 finalists were black. I giggled to myself as one of the officials from the venue, a white man, stared as one of the black people passed around a jar of shea butter. Trying to be funny, I passed it to him and asked him if he needed some.

Advertisement

“Is it actual butter?” he asked me, flummoxed.

Perhaps you could take word back to your people and tell them not to fear for their lives when we reach for things like cellphones ...

or wallets ...

or dreams.

6. Don’t be a colonizer.

I know it is hard for you not to steal things like potato salad recipes, forms of art or entire countries and call them your own. I was once asked, by a white person, what was the difference between a gentrifier and someone who simply relocates into a minority neighborhood.

Advertisement

“It’s simple,” I explained. “Gentrifiers put their feet on the couch.”

The difference between colonizing a space and simply being a user of said space is the privileged mindset of assuming ownership. The reason white people take their shoes off on airplanes is not that Caucasian feet are more easily irritated. It’s because, while they are on that flight, they assume ownership of that space and believe they have the right to be comfortable.

They will go to a party and ask to change the music. They will move to a land and make the Natives walk a trail of tears. They will move to a black neighborhood and call the police because they don’t feel safe or because the music is too loud. They will open an artisan kale-cupcakery that uses locally sourced, farm-raised ingredients but won’t hire kids from the neighborhood or use the mom-and-pop cleaners down the street to launder their tablecloths.

Advertisement

They are forever saying, “Fuck your couch, niggers.”

7. Stop talking about where you grew up.

Please understand that your proximity to blackness during childhood means nothing to us. We don’t care if you grew up poor or in a mostly black neighborhood. That doesn’t get you any props. In fact, any time white people mention how they were raised in mostly black or Hispanic neighborhoods, it sounds like bragging, if only for one reason.

Advertisement

You still get to be white.

It means nothing to us because it does not afford you any insight into the black experience. You wanna know how I know? Because, like almost every black person in America, I work, play, eat and sleep around white people every day. They live next door and across the street from me. I see them at the grocery stores and on airplanes. Yet, in all these years of being surrounded by whiteness, not a single microscopic molecule of white privilege has been given to me, which is sad, because some of my best friends are white.

I have the documentation to prove it.