You Don’t Have Black Friends. You Barely Have Black Acquaintances.

M.B.
7 min readJun 28, 2020

“I’m against racism. Heck, I have black friends.”

She proceeds to list four or five names before including me at the end. The argument inevitably ends this way. They tack me on at the end of their list and dare me to take back whatever I’ve lobbed their way as if it will ruin our non-existent relationship. It would be funny if it wasn’t so common, but as it stands, even my morbid humor can’t find the punchline.

“I’m not your friend.”

My sentence hits her in slow motion as her face scrunches up and her eyes water. Trying to get her point across by making it personal. We’re sitting in the front office, and everyone else has gone to lunch.

“Well, I thought we were friends.”

“What do we talk about?”

The wind is whipping in my chest, heart pounding in my ears, but I’m calm on the surface. I wasn’t having it. She studies me warily for a moment.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, what have we talked about in the past few months that wasn’t a work project?”

She wipes at her eyes, juts her chin out a bit, and her face darkens a tad.

“I don’t know, Miyah. We talk about cats, our weekends, music, a lot of things.”

Giving a small, soft smile, I prod. “So, small talk?”

She sighs, “Yes, small talk and other things.” She pauses for a moment then adds “like friends do.”

I study her face. She genuinely thought we were friends, and I was suddenly too tired to let her keep pretending. I was tired of talking in circles. Tired of being used to shield criticism. Tired.

Leaning forward a bit, I say “Can I talk with you honestly for a moment?”

When she nods, I continue “I hate small talk. I do it because I have to, but it’s really not my favorite. I like intense, challenging conversations. Like scraping your soul conversations. If we were friends, it’d be safe for me to have those types of talks with you. I would be able to tell you hard things, but we’re not.” I lean back in my chair. “So, I don’t.”

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