White people are often confused about how to become (and stay) friends with black people. This is a particular problem if you haven’t grown up around black people, and your impression of them comes mostly from music videos, sports programming and network news.
As a quick starter, it is important to understand that your potential black friend a) doesn’t want to be a rapper b) didn’t only get into college because he/she played basketball, and c) probably doesn’t have a criminal record.
Once you rid yourself of these three assumptions, becoming friends with black people really isn’t that hard at all. Black people are in fact, just like you, but with different skin color given their ancestors proximity to the equator (where darker skin blocked out much of the suns harmful rays). When you understand that genetically speaking, those of European ancestry have more in common with west Africans than west Africans have with east Africans, it really is quite easy to view skin color as a completely meaningless distinction.
However, there are things you must bear in mind when conversing with your new black friend given the very bizarre history of white people believing in their inherent superiority because of their vulnerability to the sun:
1. Not all black people are African American.
Many black people in the U.S. are actually from Africa (around 1.6 million according to the American Immigration Council). There are huge cultural differences between the different African countries, and between Africans and African Americans. You will look stupid if you don’t know this.
2. Do not assume that your friend comes from a broken home/has an absent father/mother was on crack.
This comes from movies, not real life.
3. When black people dress up, don’t think they are showing off.
Much of the time, this is to avoid being arrested/tased/shot by the police.
4. You don’t have to talk only about basketball and Dave Chappelle.
Black people have a vast array of interests including politics, philosophy, cuisine, the arts, culture, and random stuff like being Star Wars nerds.
5. Do not assume black people all like the same music.
Saying things like ‘I just LOVE Marvin Gaye’ isn’t massively offensive, but it is probably quite annoying.
6. Black people aren’t all good at sports.
Of course people from different regions of the world are better adapted to certain athletic endeavors – those of west African descent tend to have a greater proportion of fast twitch muscle fibre, making them better at sprinting, while people from northern Europe tend to be stronger and dominate events like weight lifting and wrestling – but for the most part, black people are neither good or bad at sports. Just like everyone else, it’s a mixed bag.
7. You don’t have to have a black friend!
This is the most important thing to remember. If you live in an area where there aren’t any black people, don’t worry – it’s not your fault! Seeking out the only black person in your area to become friends with is, well, a bit weird. Most black people (like other people) want to be friends with people who like them for being them. So just chill out!
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.