Baratunde Thurston: Being the black friend . . . first of all, let me define what this means. So within, again, we’re talking generally American society, but I think this gets a little global for black people who are in environments of mostly white people maybe or mostly non black people, but I think especially white people . . . we could be talking about school, about the workplace, about some sort of organized activity like sports . . . You have a special role to play, and we’ve understood in society that black is kind of cool. Black got us jazz and hip hop and all kinds of sports accolades and entertainment, and that’s well and good. And white people kind of often feel better, feel like it acknowledges them as open minded people, as progressive people, to say, “It’s really cool. I've got this black friend and therefore I'm not racist. Therefore, I'm more plugged in. Therefore, I know what’s hip.”
What is less celebrated or understood is what the black friend can do and has done historically for the black community. And we think often of great civil rights leaders. We think of people who marched in the streets and sacrificed. We rarely think of the quiet, diplomatic efforts of the black friend who is friends with white people who answered their questions, who prevented racial conflagrations, maybe even riots, by simply saying, “No, white friend, you can’t say the N word. No, white friend, please don’t touch my hair. No, white friend, not every black person has an opinion of Barack Obama.” And so by diffusing potentially inflammatory situations quietly, diplomatically, with a smile and through conversation, black people in this country have benefited greatly.
So I would just really right now like to take a moment of silence to the unsung heroes, to the black friends, who have made America better.
Okay, I think we all feel a little better now and all understand. Add that to our history lessons, the black friend.
Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd