I’m leading a group discussion circle on “Me and White Supremacy” by Layla F. Saad. I’m taking the journaling challenge daily throughout February even though I’m not white. If you happen to be white, why not take the challenge? If I can do it, you can do it too.
Day 24 Questions (from the text):
1. How have you responded when you have witnessed racist words and actions from [your friends]?
2. How have you stayed silent or made excuses for them in your mind?
3. How have you thought it was not worth the hassle because of the discomfort of rocking the boat? Or how have you seen it as your responsibility to address it with them since you have more influence over them because of your friendship?
4. Are there certain people you feel more comfortable speaking up to than others? Why is that?
5. Are there certain people you continue to stay in friendship with even though they are problematic and refuse to change?
6. How have you risked these relationships by calling in/out racist behavior, even if nobody was going to thank you for it?
7. How do you feel about your friends who are not doing their own personal antiracism work?
8. What efforts have you made to invite your friends into doing antiracism work with you?
9. How have you allowed your friends to influence you not to engage in antiracism work?
In the final week, it would seem the author is giving us a bit of a reprieve. Perhaps that’s because we did a lot of the heavier lifting early on. If the first three weeks were about going deep, this one is about spreading wide what we’ve learned, and making sure our impact in our anti-racism journey resonates as far as possible.
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Did anyone else have a friend back in childhood, adolescence, high school, or maybe even beyond, that you look back and wonder what you were thinking? Perhaps finding yourself asking why you stayed friends with this person for as long as you did?
It just so happens that I was talking with my best friend earlier today about the guy who first introduced us back in high school — a former mutual friend with whom neither of us wanted to be around all that much. He wasn’t a completely rotten character — a bit of a jerk at times to each of us (and to others), an inflated sense of entitlement. We tolerated him, and if I’m being totally honest it was in large part because he had a car and rich parents that were out of town a lot. In childhood the reasons you keep friendships certainly can be superficial. We each would discover later that we both continued to hang around this guy long after we wanted to stop doing so mostly so that we could hang out with one another. Neither of us stayed in touch with him long after we ‘cut out the middleman’ as it were.
Who knew I would have similar experiences in middle age?
I’ve noticed a sentiment in myself and in many others I encounter who are living their authentic lives out loud and that is — once you lose a friend or two for doing so, realize you’re really in it — you’re really placing your values above superficial relationships you thought were so important. It’s almost like a rite of passage. The author asks us how we feel about our friends who are not doing their own personal antiracism work — and I’m here trying to remember whether I have any of those left.
Saying this to say, if your friends walk or balk once you start living your truth, then simply get new friends.
If you’re waiting for me to say that’s not as easy as it sounds, I won’t, because it very much is. At least in my experience.
In fact, if you are really living your values, your true friends will find you, you’ll like them better anyway, and like yourself better when you are around them. The article talks about proximity. Proximity to our friends is one of the greatest opportunities to model and reinforce actions that counter white supremacy. I never miss an opportunity to mention how that affected the life of Derek Black. If you haven’t read his story yet, you should stop reading me and read that right now.
You have an enormous amount of influence on your friends, as they do on you. We often advise our children not to give into peer pressure, while we fall into the same traps when it comes to permitting questionable behavior from our friends in general, and specifically the potential for white silence when it comes to matters of race. So go ahead — lose some “friends” in the name of doing what you know is right.
It’s better than ok. I shuddered to think what would happen in high school when I stopped hanging out with rich kid with the car. But what actually happened was I met my best friend of 30 years and counting.