The Curse of the Black Friend

Image by hourglassthorne via deviantart

Being someone who has spent (and still spends) much of her teen-aged life hanging out with people of other races, I have often been subject to the ever ominous title of the black friend. Now don’t get me wrong, the black friend isn’t always the only one in the “My Ethnic Friend Cabinet.” You have the Asian friend the Hispanic friend, even the white friend depending on what race makes up the majority of the friend group.

I will admit, I like being the odd one out but not because of my race. I don’t want people using my race to overshadow my unique qualities. Sure don’t want to be called “different” from other black people, or “more white,” But I also don’t the media’s bastardization of black culture to overshadow my unique qualities either. The black friend title seems to plague me. Haunt me. So much so that I start to forget who I am and really want to be.

As the token black friend, I apparently supposed to follow a certain set of social rules.

Just as you might observe on television, the black friend is expected to know all of the latest trendy rap and hip hop songs so that when their non-black friends suddenly start chanting the slurred lyrics of some sex laden rap song, they can nod and encourage them, give them the good ol’ pat on the back and gold sticker and ultimately dub them practically black in the most non-sarcastic way possible.

The black friend is also supposed to be able to flawlessly perform the latest dances. Twerk like the founding member of the Twerk Team, twerk on walls, twerk upside down, twerk on a wall while upside down, and twerk like their grandmother came up with the dance years ago and passed it down like some biological superpower.

The black friend—specifically the black female friend— should be extremely tough-skinned. When she is upset, her friends will  console her by assuring that she is indeed a strong black woman who don’t need no man and then she is supposed to instantly feel better and live the rest of their lives bitter, sassy, celibate, and emotionally repressed. Holla~~

The poor grammar also makes that form of comfort a bit offensive.

When the black female friend stands up for herself in an argument, her retorts earn her the infamous angry label and her non-black friends will continue to use to describe her as such even in her totally human moments of frailty and neediness.

I’m not saying that this is the case for all black girls who have a predominately white friend group, but it has certainly been the case for me at times. From my experience, once the black girl falls into the black friend trap, it is difficult to escape the stigma because she is treated with so much endearment when she is what they expect her to be, so she is scared of disappointing her friends by being herself. She trades her individuality in favor of becoming a novelty.

My name is Lauren and although that name is considered “a white name” (whatever that means),  a non-black acquaintance insisted on calling me Shaniqua the entire week we spent on a trip around France and all for the sake of “friendly humor” or fun or some other third thing.

And even though these instances, jokes, and expectations usually spawn from a harmless place,  it doesn’t make it okay for these instances to be pushed on a girl because of the color of her skin.

What can we as a society do to wipe out this tendency?

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