• author
    • Kelvin Wade

    • August 18, 2013 in Columnists

    Some of my best friends are white

    A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 40 percent of whites and 25 percent of non-whites in America only have friends of the same race.  When this survey of 4,170 respondents was announced, the focus was on the pockets of segregation in America. But another way of looking at the data is that most Americans have interracial friendships!

    And while questions of race are often only talked about in terms of black and white in this country,  only a tenth of Hispanics don’t have friends of other races. Half of Hispanics are involved in interracial relationships, compared to around 10 percent of blacks and whites. Hispanic and Asian integration traditionally hasn’t been fraught with as much peril as black and white. 

    I feel fortunate that I was raised in a military family. Since the armed forces were integrated long before the rest of American society, I grew up with white, Asian and Hispanic friends. Race was never an impediment to friendship in my family. When I was 4 or 5, I had a white girlfriend named Lisa. Yep, that little girl who used to bite me all the time turned me on to white women way back when.

    It’s not surprising that the region of the country with the least amount of interracial friendships is the South, while California and the West leads the pack in terms of diverse relationships. Old traditions die hard.

    Of course, someone not having friends of other races doesn’t make them racists. We tend to make friends in school, work, church and our neighborhoods. If you live in a community that’s racially homogenous it’s not going to be surprising if you don’t have friends of other races.

    But a dearth of interracial friends does make it easier to indulge stereotypes. If the media and other people who also have no interracial relationships inform one’s opinions, the chance of prejudice running wild is certainly higher.

    My sister-in-law grew up in an all black neighborhood with little concept of how their white counterparts lived. In that environment, it’s easy for misinformation to run rampant.

    The internet, however, is a game-changer in that it allows diverse individuals, who may never have come into contact with each other, to develop relationships.

    The coolest thing about interracial friendships is you have someone to ask those unsettling questions you always wanted to know the answer to. I have white friends who ask me privately about the so-called “N word,” why blacks cheered the O.J. verdict, why many blacks feel the way they do about the Trayvon Martin case and other racial issues. Years ago, I watched “Menace II Society” with a white friend, and the whole movie she’d lean over and ask me to translate the slang.

    Having friends of other races and cultures can expand your culinary, musical and political outlook. (My friend Joeie’s lumpia makes your mouth orgasm and my buddy Jesse’s mom’s chicken enchiladas transports me to Puerto Vallarta!) Relationships with different people are what break down stereotypes. It builds tolerance. Not only has this benefited race relations in America, but also the same is true of the LGBT community. The more relationships people have with folks who are different, the more we see our common humanity.

    Now I’m not one of those people who believes in a “post-racial America” or that says they’re “colorblind.” I don’t buy that. I don’t think it’s desirable. My blackness is part of who I am and I want people to see it but not penalize me for it. When I look at my friends I see white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, straight, gay, male, female, atheist, religious, conservative, liberal, old and young. I don’t’ have to erase their differences to embrace who they are.

    And while the election of the first black President may have brought some folks’ prejudices to the fore, the good news is that according to this survey, most Americans have interracial friendships. So despite the vocal minority of prejudice and intolerance, the majority of Americans will keep us moving towards a more perfect union.


    • I like your style Kelvin. Conservative friends escape me but I make up for it with all the other diversity 🙂

        • Kelvin

        • August 18, 2013 at 12:09 pm
        • Reply

        Conservative friends do test one’s patience. 🙂

    • Kelvin,
      My first girlfriend was of another Ethnic group as well. She was AA, named Kathy Molly, of Detroit. We would kiss on her swing-set until her father caught us. He threw me out of his yard and told me never to come around again. This was my first experience with racism. It was heartbreaking for both Kathy and I who I only saw at school after that-passing notes back and forth until I was sent to the orphanage in Little Rock. I often recall her lovely face. The first time we met she wanted to feel my hair for she had never felt the hair of a white person. She liked it and said it felt like silk. Ain’t love grand? 🙂

        • Kelvin

        • August 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm
        • Reply

        Years ago…I had a long distance relationship with a white woman who lived in Colorado. I flew out to see her once and got to meet her 3 year old niece. The niece had never seen a black person (they lived in a tiny town where there were no blacks.) This little girl’s eyes were so wide. She took my hand, put hers next to it and turned my hand over, examining it. Then she said, “Okay,” and that was it. We were cool. I love that memory.

    • Oh, I forgot to say that most of white America has no idea of the ordeals that black America faces daily. Most believe that all is well and equal for all races in America which is simply not the case nor has it ever been. If white America could only drive through parts of Richmond and Oakland this would become readily apparent. I’m sorry to say that through my life experience, I cannot see this changing in the near future. Perhaps for a brief time when ratios of black and white equal out at the polls, things will change of course, at least until the balance becomes unequal again-one side or the other..

    • Great perspective Bro. Kel. It took maturity and education for me to snap out of the militancy of the late 80s and 90s. I was introduced to diversity while in college and with spiritual enlightenment. I encourage young people,l particularly my own to diversify their social network. Good topic for my next column as well.

      • Maya North

      • August 18, 2013 at 8:44 pm
      • Reply

      Growing up in Missouri, which is *not* progressed near as much as I had hoped when I fled at age 17, gave me a good clue about what African Americans had to deal with, including my own mother’s vituperative spewing about how “they” didn’t take advantage of “their” new opportunities but chose to do nothing. Gads. I also grew up with the Southerner’s constant awareness of race, of how much of what you had in you, plus a deep shyness that came from expecting to be hated for being white (despite having been one of the “good” white people since age 4). It took a long time to get shed of that — actually prayed about it, I hated it so — but somehow, after much struggle, it just dropped away. Yes, I see who you are and I see who I am, and everyone else, but first and foremost I see Kelvin, and my friends Adrian and Adriane, and Carlo who isn’t Italian and all the gorgeously diverse people I know — and I think they see me. And yeah, sometimes we do talk about race. And I’ve learned to go ahead and refer to my color versus theirs and how my hair works (oily) versus theirs (not so much) — and that’s kind of fun because they were wondering about all this greasiness when they had to use a little Vaseline to tame the brittleness… It’s by rubbing elbows and seeing that we’re all normal in our own varying ways that we finally come together as just…humans. Hugs!

      • Em

      • August 19, 2013 at 9:00 am
      • Reply

      well said.

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