Nice to Meet You, But I'm Not Your 'Black Friend'

Generic image (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)
Generic image (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Hipster racism is alive and well, while it might not be as obvious as, say, the South in the 1940s. Crystal Sykes writes on the Bold Italic that as one of the few African Americans in her trendy San Francisco circle, she's tired of being the "black friend."

None of the comments were ever said with malicious intentions, and yes, being compared to Beyoncé isn't the worst thing in the world, but it's really sh—-y when these "compliments" are made because a person has no frame of reference for alternatives. (I mean because, seriously, who looks like Beyoncé? No. One.) When trying to explain why these jokes are offensive, I'm often made to feel like I'm overreacting. Or the offending person feels the need to defend him or herself, because the only thing worse than being racist is being called racist.

The thing that is hardest to explain is that these jokes are coming from a position of privilege my white friends don't even realize they have. This social advantage is so ingrained in our culture that they aren't aware their comments are coming off the backs of centuries' worth of hardship and oppression. The tipping point for me was about two years ago, at a friend's house, when I was introduced as "The Black Friend." As my friend laughed off his statement, my heart dropped at this oversimplification of me as a person. I quickly realized that the joke was on me, and the punch line was my race. I left the party minutes later.

Before all the hate mail rolls in, I'm not saying that San Francisco is racist and my experiences with assholes in the Mission can't possibly be a statement about this city as a whole. That deserves a larger article. However, in this city that prides itself in being so progressive, it feels like we need to go back and master something both simple as well as incredibly complex – each other. We can learn to embrace our differences without making them a joke or a spectacle. It might take more effort than making bourbon ice cream, but I feel like we can do it.


Read Crystal Sykes' entire piece at the Bold Italic.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.