As of this Thursday, Black History Month is over — but Trump still exists, and your white friend is still trying very hard to prove to you she isn't racist. For much of Black History Month, folks in the black community have been forced to deal with the fragility of the white persona, managing white emotions, and the burden that comes along with all of it. We're exhausted from seeing our “allies” show out, flooding Instagram with posts paying homage to Martin Luther King Jr. or "trendy" black activists.
We know that, more often than not, the dialogue starts and ends there.
Every now and then, I vent about this on Instagram — most recently, about the white women who don't show up for me in real life, but pretend they do on social media.
After my latest Instagram post about the topic, a friend of mine asked: "What can I do to be a better white girl?"
Normally, in a situation like this, I would've responded with something like: “You've had 25-plus years to figure this out. You're asking me now?” But this time, I was inspired to tell her how she could be a better white friend to me.
This is what I told her:
Acknowledge Your Privilege
This may be the most important. You are privileged in almost every aspect of your life compared to mine. That's just a fact.
"The last thing I need in this political and racial climate is to hear how bad you feel, or how bad you feel for me."
Whether it's going to a job interview, being stopped for a traffic violation, or walking through security at the airport, I have a different experience than you.
Realize this: As my friend, though you hold me close, the majority of people do not.
Your Women’s March Is Not My March
Though it may seem as though we share a similar struggle when it comes to womanhood, there is a huge difference between your white feminism and my fight for equality. Until the tens of thousands of women who showed up to the Women's March vow to rally just as hard for black women like Sandra Bland and Tanisha Anderson, I cannot be a part of the "movement."
To me, there is privilege in every nook and cranny of white feminist constructs such as the Women’s March. In my opinion, the March blatantly disregards issues facing black women, and only acknowledges "universal" concerns such as abortion rights and sexual harassment for the sake of calling it a “Women’s March.”
Do Not Burden Me With Your Emotions
The last thing I need in this political and racial climate is to hear how bad you feel, or how bad you feel for me. I know it sucks. I’m living it.
"I am not a spokesperson for the black community. Just because I'm your only black friend doesn't mean I'm your trophy."
Instead of relying on me as your only educational source regarding race, try doing some research. Your questions exhaust me. I am not your teacher.
There are literally thousands of resources available to you. It would mean more to me if you educated yourself and answered your questions.
Friendship Is Not One Size Fits All
I really don’t want to be your only black friend. Please have more than one.
You will never get a black seal of approval on anything, because it does not exist. The same way my black opinion isn’t the only opinion.
I am not a spokesperson for the black community. Just because I'm your only black friend doesn't mean I'm your trophy.
Listen Before You Speak
We all remember the think pieces on Beyoncé’s Lemonade. I, for one, did not want to hear the dissection and criticism from white men and women, on a project created by and for black women.
Some experiences are unique to us, and deserve to be free of your opinions. Taking a backseat in the discussion is generally a good idea. Or maybe, ask if I'm interested in your thoughts? Don't just shove them down my throat.
"This friendship will be hard. It’s complex, deep and forever changing, but it can be as simple as asking your girl how she is feeling about your friendship."
That said, asking how I’m doing is totally fine. There’s a difference between expressing concern and projecting.
You Need To Give Back
This does not mean you should take a trip to Africa or adopt a black child. Instead, provide a black girl with an opportunity — like a job opening she couldn’t access otherwise. Why not give your girl a reference?
Introduce her to people in places otherwise inaccessible to her.
Check Yourself And Apologize
Acknowledge that most of the time you will get it wrong. Instead of getting defensive, use it as a learning experience: Own up to your mistakes and apologize for them. Diversify your research and consumption of information so that you have a better chance of getting it right next time.
Ignorance is no longer an excuse, but apologizing is better than not.
Do not use terms or arguments like “I have black friends” or “I grew up in a predominantly black community.” If anything, this only makes you look worse — you've been around black people this long and still don’t know how to act?
Don’t tell me you only like to date black guys. Don’t put me in a situation where you know I’ll be the only black girl in the room. Don’t use the word “ghetto” around me or the N-word — even in a song. And lastly, to quote the great Solange, "Don’t touch my hair," ever.
Don't Take It Personally
You will not be invited to some things. You will not have a seat at some tables. You will not be a part of some conversations. Don't take it personally.
If any of this sounds aggressive or intense, remember what I was talking about earlier about burdening me with your emotions?
Like any relationship, a friendship needs communication and work. Ours needs extra attention. I’ve learned that one of the best ways to achieve this is to set expectations, and these are some of mine. (This is my unique experience, and in no way is this a universal guide.)
Our friendship will be hard. It’s complex, deep and forever changing, but it can be as simple as asking your girl how she is feeling about your friendship. You don’t need to be the most "woke" person out there. You don't need to change the world. You can make a difference by just learning how to treat your black girl friend better.
This op-ed solely reflects the views of the author, and is part of a larger, feminist discourse.