Things We Don't Apologize For: Who Our Friends Are

Yesterday: Never apologize for wearing a weave or braids. You bought it so it's yours.
Today: Never apologize to your new friends about old friends. There's a reason she's been your girl from day one.

One afternoon, a friend of mine came over to my dorm room to do some studying. We'd been doing more talking and joking around then studying, but that was the way of undergrad. We were getting ready to go for some food when my friend noticed a picture on a shelf...
"So, I'm not trying to get in your business or anything, but what's up with all the white people?

I turned around in my chair and stared my friend in the eye, hoping this conversation wasn't headed where I thought

"I'm not sure I follow."

She hesitated...

"I mean, all your friends from home that we've met have been white. I'm just asking, what's up with that? Did you not have any black friends in high school?

I took in a deep breath silently both to calm myself and also to create an awkward silence

"Yes, I had black friends in high school. I'm sure you'll meet some of them at some point, but does that matter? Are my white friends a problem for you?"

She stuttered, stopped and looked at me to figure out how badly she'd messed up with me, before she continued.

"N-no. They're not a problem. I just think it's kinda weird how they're the only ones we've met and most of your friends here are black. I mean, how much do you really have in common with them?"

"I get it that some of ya'll didn't interact with white people before college, and that's cool, but I went to a private school so they were everywhere. The friends of mine that you've met are true blue friends. We've been through a lot and at this point, the fact that they're white is rarely an issue for us. You can let it be an issue for you, and that's cool or whatever, but those are my girls and they've had my back like I've had theirs."

Feeling a bit emboldened, she finally made her point

"Yeah, but I'm sure there's some stuff they don't get about you the way we do."

I didn't feel like arguing with the dense, so I ended it

"You're absolutely right. There are somethings they don't get about me, but then again, there are some things you obviously don't get about me either."
This is a conversation I've had to have more than once, with more than one person and in more than one way. The first person I had to have this conversation with was my mother.
"Just because you go to school with those white people, doesn't make you white..."

My mother didn't like me spending the night places, but especially not at the homes of my white friends. I can still vividly remember the many arguments we had. After one especially heated argument, I was fed up...

"You can go spend the evening there, but you will be coming back home to sleep. That's just the end of it. If you can't find a way back to the house, then you don't need to go. Don't you have some friends closer by you can hang out with?"

"I don't get it. You send me to school with these white kids and then get mad at me for making them my friends..."
Two of my closest friends from high school are white. I'm still cool with all the black people I graduated with (well, except one, but that is SO another story) and I even consider myself close to a number of them, but I don't seem to ever have to apologize for my friendships with them.

I didn't go through all the same things with my black friends that I did with my white friends. Not in high school. You see, the black people were friends because we were black; not necessarily because we liked each other. Me and my white friends? We got to be friends because we had stuff in common, we had shared experiences; we liked each other for who we were. Don't get me wrong, eventually my black friends and I realized we had lots in common, we created shared experiences (you try being the only black kid in at least one class for 5 years) and some of us began to genuinely like each other; however, I've never had to apologize to any new white friends for my old black friends but I'm always being asked to apologize for my old white friends to my new black friends. I quit doing that when I noticed a habit my black friends and I had in college.

I was walking with 2 of my friends to the dining hall. We were all having a spirited conversation when a white guy interrupted us to say hello to one of my friends.
There was a brief silence before my friend spoke
"That was Kevin from my theater class."

The conversation we'd been having picked up again, until I decided to switch the subject

"You guys ever notice how that always happens?"


"If a white person comes up to speak, the group gets quiet until someone explains why."

"Oh yeah, that's true."

"Like we just did it. Kevin says 'hi' and we waited for Alex to tell us who he was and how he knows him. It doesn't matter who you're with, that silence afterwards always happens. Like it's an understanding that all relationships need to be explained."
Not only had we all been apologizing for meaningless relationships, but we'd been expecting it of one another. I decided at that point I was over apologizing. I didn't even know what I was apologizing for and I surely didn't like the thought of it.

My friends are my friends. I'm not naive about race and what that means for every day interaction. I meet white folks all the time who get on my last nerve and I've surely gotten to know some white people very well only to then realize they were too ignorant for my life. But I've also met some white people who I'm glad to call friend and who, when compared to some black folks I know, proved to be better friends. There really is a reason these people are friends of mine. There's a reason all my friends are my friends and I don't apologize to any of them for it just like I don't apologize to any strangers for it.

Don't apologize for your old friends to your new friends. If the new friends are really your friends, then all that doesn't matter anyway.

Tomorrow: Never apologize for ordering dessert or more than one dessert.

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