The statement “I have a friend who’s Black” or a similar statement is the verbal equivalent of your pre-pubescent crush punching you in the stomach to show her affection. When this statement is said by a white person, they are trying to show that they know about black culture and are not a racist. When this statement is heard by a black person, it lets them know that the white person who said it has no clue about black culture and likely has some prejudice.
I don’t want to insult anyone, but I felt like this might be an opportunity to explain to white people why black people feel this way about this statement and encourage black people in how to respond when this occurs.
For my white folks out there, the reason black people respond the way they do is because it sounds like you are trying to affirm your understanding of black culture or prove that you are not prejudice. However, white people who understand black culture and are familiar with it would never make that statement; they are already so comfortable being around black people that they fit in without effort and the black people know very quickly that they understand and are welcome.
Consider this, very rarely, if ever, have you heard a black person proclaim that they have a friend who is white. This is because they are already so comfortable being around white people and understand the culture so well that they just fit in. And the things that they don’t understand about white culture they can fake or avoid without their white friends even knowing.
I think you get the point, so I’ll move on…
For my black people out there, especially those of us who are followers of Christ, we need to change our response to white people who use the “black friend” proclamation. I know that I have been guilty of marking that person off as prejudice and refusing to have much more to do with them. I now know my response is exactly opposite of what I should have done and what I want to ask you to not do in the future. Instead, we should see that person as someone who is trying to build a bridge with black people and because of their lack of relationships with black people simply don’t know how. I believe that in most cases they want black friends and want to be accepted but have not had anyone really accept their, albeit awkward, olive branch.
Just like that 6 year old girl who beats up the boy she likes, this individual wants a relationship but doesn’t know how to show it. So, I’m asking you, black people, to respond by being their black friend. The first act of friendship can be telling them, “don’t ever say ‘you have a black friend’ again,” and then growing a heart level relationship with them so that they feel comfortable around you and your black friends. Truly help them understand your life, the things that concern you and how you feel about situations concerning race. That relationship is one that will produce fruit in more ways than we can imagine in the world and for the church.
Heart-level black and white friendships, especially in the body of Christ, will transform the church for the glory of God and bring more people into a relationship with Christ.