Why I Don’t Have Any White Friends, Explained

Illustration for article titled Why I Don’t Have Any White Friends, Explained
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Why do you hate white people?


The title of this piece states that you don’t have any white friends, which is a sign that you must hate white people. When did you become so racist?

It was when I was 17: The Pittsburgh Zoo made this big stink about getting a polar bear—press releases and parties and polar-bear-themed brunches and shit—despite the fact that they already had perfectly fine (and strikingly handsome) black and brown bears. I saw that as a metaphor for America, and I pledged to never let this country black-and-brown-bear me.


So, again, why do you hate white people?

I don’t hate white people.

But you’re a racist.

If black people could be racist, I would be. But we can’t, so I’m not. 

That doesn’t make any sense.

It does. It doesn’t have to. But it does.

Moving on ... so you live in Pittsburgh, right?


And you attended a mixed-race high school and a predominantly white college?


How does one live that life and never have any white friends?

Oh, I’ve definitely had white friends. I had a white kid at the birthday slumber party I had when I was 10, and (at least) two of my white teammates in college were friends. Just right now, in 2018, I don’t happen to have any.

If you squint, you can see the white kid there. You can also see my MCM sweatshirt and baggy red spandex.
If you squint, you can see the white kid there. You can also see my MCM sweatshirt and baggy red spandex.
Photo: Courtesy of Damon Young

So you’re not cool with any white people at all?

I wouldn’t say that either. There’s a group of guys I’ve been playing basketball with once a week for a decade. Most of them are white, and I’m quite friendly with many of them. Some I’d even call homies. As in, “John’s the white homie. He cool.”

There are also the dozens of white people I see on a regular basis in coffee shops and at the Ace Hotel (where I do much of my work) and in my neighborhood. These are people I speak to regularly. Some I like more than others, but that’s true for everyone, I guess.

These sound like friends.

Maybe they do to you. But there’s a difference between a friend and someone you happen to like and happen to be very friendly with. For instance, there are maybe 20 people I interact with on a regular basis through text, email, Google Hangouts, Slack and Facebook. With many of these people, I have the types of private conversations and share the types of inside jokes that would either be too irrelevant or too inappropriate to share publicly. The insularity of these interactions is trusting, connecting and intentional.


These are some of the people I consider friends, and none of them are white. It’s not that I’ve intentionally barred white people from friendship—just that, considering my friendship criteria, none right now would qualify.

And just so you don’t think it’s just me—that there are white people out there who consider me a friend but it’s just not reciprocated—I’ve been invited to maybe 20 weddings in the last five years. Do you want to guess how many of those invitations were from white people?



Actually, two. But these were from white people who happen to be friends with my wife.


Now, I will say that there is one white person who was at my wedding and has also been to my house within the last year to eat garlic-parm chicken wings and talk shit about white people—a standard requirement of friendship for me. But while I do consider her a friend, she was my wife’s friend first, and I’m not a friend pirate, so I’m not going to claim friend dibs on her.

Don’t you think there’s something wrong with this?

Not at all! And if you look at the statistics, this is perfectly normal. Less than 10 percent of the average black person’s friends are white—and I think that number is a little high—and the average white person has exactly one black friend (which also happens to be the character Rashida Jones plays in every movie she’s in).


But shouldn’t whites and blacks be friends with each other if we want to solve racism?

Eh. Racism is too ingrained and complex for a few wedding invitations and GroupMe conversations to solve it. We haven’t even solved Tupac’s murder yet, and he was killed in front of 34,374,984 witnesses. How the fuck are we gonna solve racism?


On an individual level, though, interracial friendship is great if it happens organically, but racial empathy and kindness are more important. And empathy and kindness can (and should) exist without friendship. I mean, I watched this Netflix documentary on humpback whales the other day, and I’m very empathetic to their plight. But I ain’t gonna invite one to game night.

Anything else you wish to add?


Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


Vanguard Knight

I “thought” I had some white friends.

However as an experiment I stopped calling people in my life to see who really cared about me. Not one of my white “friends” have called. The black and Hispanic ones reached out.

It’s been 3 months now.