Why You Don't Have Any Black or Latino Friends

Say What!? 46

friendsDear readers, can I make just the mildest, most polite suggestion? You may want to consider widening your social circle a wee bit. I just found out that 40 percent of white Americans have no friends of color. Not a one. We are that segregated. But it's not really that surprising, when you think about it, sadly.

So I admit, my first response to this news went something along the lines of: Whaddaya mean you don't have any non-white friends?!? That's pathetic! Do you live under a rock? Go outside your house and find some damn people of color. Jesus, it's not that hard -- we're all over the place. But hold on, I know it's more complicated than that.

First of all, I think this explains why we were so divided over the Trayvon Martin case. Just as knowing a homosexual personally changes our opinions on same-sex marriage and other rights, I think having friends of a different race or ethnicity helps you empathize and see life through a different person's perspective. If you're missing out on that experience, it's going to be that much harder for you to imagine what life really is like for a person of color. And it may not ever occur to you that anyone can have different take on reality than your own.

Okay, so fine. You get it. We all benefit from having friends of other backgrounds. The thing is, it's not just our social circles that are segregated. It's often our communities. I take diversity for granted because I live in New York City. But wow, when I visit my family in Utah, one of the first things I notice is the relative lack of diversity. A lot of Americans really are living in our own little cultural pods.

More from The Stir: The Ultimate Best Friendship Test: Would Your BFF Do THIS for You?

And then there's the fear that if you do try to befriend a person of color, you'll look like some doofus engaging in token friendships. You know, "Hey, look at me and my one black friend -- I'm so cool now!" It takes social courage -- but it also takes a genuine curiosity. You make friends with people because you think they're interesting, so show that by asking about their day, their weekend plans, their hopes and dreams, and then listen.

Meanwhile, we people of color could stand to expand our social circles as well. The same study shows that 25 percent of non-white Americans spend all our time with people of our same race or ethnicity. Of course, institutional racism could have a lot to do with that -- believe it or not, we are still feeling the effects of legally-enforced segregation. But still, that openness goes both ways.

Things are changing around us. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, white non-Hispanic babies were in the minority for the first time in the census's history. (Obviously this was not the case in the year 1492.) About half of married or partnered Latinos are in a relationship with a non-Latino. Maybe, someday, none of this will matter at all. But in the meantime, it sounds like a lot of us could stand to do a little social stretching.

How diverse is your circle of friends?


Image via Scarleth White/Flickr



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nonmember avatar Rach

Living in Arizona, this is not an issue. I grew up with latino and Native American friends. I'm even married to a Hispanic. We are not segregated here. My kids' school is a myriad of races (black, middle eastern, hispanic, and white) and we live in a middle class, to upper middle class, neighborhood.

amand... amandajoy21

I live and work in a big city so I have friends from all ethnicities and backgrounds, but I don't know if it really helped me understand what it is like to be that ethnicity. I like my friends because we have similar interests and enjoy good conversations, not because they help me be more like them.

nonmember avatar Vic

i cant speak for anyone else, but i am white, my best friend is Asian, and growing up most of my friends were not white because the white girls picked on me. i didnt have a single white friend that i made on my own (meaning, not the son/daughter of one of my parent's friends) until i was around 14. I still have a wide variety of races as my friends.

nonmember avatar Casey

It has a lot to do with where you live in the country. While my sister is half-black, I don't have any close black friends because I live in Kansas. Our population is largely white and Hispanic. It's like like I'm avoiding black people, it's just a large minority where I live in Kansas. Before my sister moved to LA, she didn't have black friends either.

BeccaLS BeccaLS

Well, where I live there aren't a lot of black people. I was pretty friendly with three of the only black kids I've ever known, but that was in middle school. We weren't "friends" though - they were jocks (and guys) and I'm a nerdy girl. Just not a good match, personality wise.

As for Hispanics, I was best friends with one for years in elementary/middle school. I was pretty close with her sister too for a while. But eventually we grew apart as we got older - again, personality differences.

It really doesn't help the almost all the Hispanics I've known segregated themselves. They would hang out in groups and only speak spanish - refusing to speak english and let any non-hispanic people join them.

Of course, I'm only 18, been homeschooled for all of highschool and currently do university online. I don't exactly have a lot of chances to get out and meet new people of any race.

I really don't think it matters though. The color of your skin is just a matter of where your ancestors evolved.

Taisie Taisie

I agree with Rach, and to the Author, I have to say, why do so many of your articles seem to be about you being "latino", who cares what nationality or color anyone is? I don't surround myself with people based on those two things.. what a waste of time!

Coles... Coles_mom

In my case, it's simply where I live. I live in what's termed a "white flight" town. I can't say I've seen any minorities where I live. My neighborhood, church, schools - it's all white. If there were people of any color, I'd friend them or not based on our personalities meshing - same as I do with anyone. It's not about walking outside our door and making friends. It's about what we're surrounded with. I live in a small town suburb and my friends are my friends. It's not about being racist. I'm not racist. 

eupeptic eupeptic

A couple things I've found to be quite interesting are these posts (part one, part two) on the OkCupid blog about race, religion, and discrimination.

Another interesting thing are these charts (linked) that show how the different races are spread about geographically (red = white people, orange = Latinos, blue = black people, green = Asians). A question this brings up is how much of the segregation is due to people being forced to live in communities with others like themselves (certainly income plays a significant part, which raises the question of how much of the discrepancy in the social classes is due to discrimination, lack of opportunity, and limited support [e.g., financial and motivational] from their family, and how much of  it is due to one's own level of motivation to do what they need to do to get a better paying job?), and how much of it is due to people choosing to live among people who are like themselves?

Jespren Jespren

Sorry, I thought this was 21st century America, I'm not racist enough to classify my friends and family by the color of their skin anymore than I'm ignorant enough to classify them by hair color. I do have (or have had in the past): rich friends, poor friends, unmarried friends, married friends, parent friends, non-parent friends, liberal friends, conservative friends, Christian, Wiccan, Catholic, Pagan, Athiest, and Mormon friends, homosexual friends, ex-criminal friends, ex-drug dealer friends, teacher friends, police friends, military friends, even politician friends. As well as family who is/was: Christian, Athiest, Wiccan, Catholic, Agnostic, rich, poor, liberal, conservative, political, apolitical, military, homosexual, teachers, police, ex-criminals, ex-drug users, models, professional singers, college graduates, and even high school drop outs. They all have a variety of shades of skin tones, hair tones, and eye tones. None of them are anything but part of the human race, although a few have ties to subcultures within America and even cultures other than American.

wamom223 wamom223

I find this so hard to believe.  I live in what most would call a small city and was raised in a small town and I don't know any white people that DON'T have any non-white friends.  Seems to me these problems seem to be more in the nations largest cities and they should stop putting their BS on the rest of us.  Maybe like Coles_Mom you don't live some where that have any minorities but its the large cities that seem to have black, white, and hispanic neighborhoods.  Just living on my street alone we have black, white, hispanic, gay, disabled and elderly living on one street three blocks long.  Funny we all get along and help each other out with no problem at all!

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