“I’m not racist, I have a black friend.” This is the excuse that people often turn to when called out for racist commentary. They arm themselves with this statement as if a black friend automatically absolves them of their racist behavior. I see the correlation between this and the campaign practices of many politicians, particularly those of the liberal left. When liberals need black votes, they will often enlist their “black friend” with influence and power to drive their campaign forward. Once the individual serves their purpose, the liberal left often will discard the individual and will forget the promises made to our community.
This proved itself problematic when politically conservative commentator, Candice Owens, and very popular female rap artist, Cardi B, were engaged in a political debate on social media. Cardi B is no stranger to criticism and once she started speaking outwardly in support of the Democratic party, she received criticism from Democrats and Republicans, alike. Candace went on the record saying: “If Black Americans aren’t insulted by the fact that Joe Biden, who has been hiding in his basement for the entire year, made an appearance and came out because he was going to do an interview with Cardi B, do we have nothing better to offer?” While I do not often agree with Candace Owens, I cannot argue that there was merit to her words. Cardi B has a genuine interest in politics that is longstanding. However, politics isn’t her wheelhouse. Cardi B wasn’t knowledgeable enough on politics to refute many of the incomplete data points that Candice presented and ultimately lost the debate. Joe Biden’s inability to come forward in Cardi’s defense and give more context as to why he chose to sit down with her was a prime example of using Cardi (his black friend) when it was convenient but discarding her when she served her purpose.
By no way am I dismissing Republicans from receiving political criticism. Republicans have become increasingly guilty of the same actions. However, I use this example to say that the statement, “I’m not racist, I have a black friend” is a deeply flawed argument. It doesn’t get to the root of what it means to be racist or anti-racist. Slave owners had house slaves that they held very dear to them. Although enslaved, these individuals were still considered “friends” to their “masters”. Throughout my time delving into this idea, I’ve accepted that I may have unintentionally been the black friend that many of my white friends could cite when questioned about racist behavior. By refusing to discuss race with my nonblack friends or giving any push back when placed in spaces where black people are not welcome, I may have unintentionally played a part in this cycle.
I’ve recently made a promise to make it just a tad bit uncomfortable for someone to call me their black friend with no merit. This means holding my white friends accountable for problematic behavior regardless of the consequences. Until people of color recognize the power in our vote and the responsibility we have to share our truth’s in our friendships, we will continue to fall into the trap that Malcolm X so rightfully warned us about: being “irrelevant jokes at the expense of our own social, economic and political liberation”.