One of the side effects of this Obamamania phenomenon, is that all of a sudden everyone wants to have a black friend, or to at least be able to say, --- that other than a co-worker-- they know a black person. Forget those fake ass cheesy commercials, where you always see the token black friend or black couple, now it seems like white folks want the real deal.
Consider the plight of poor Devin Friedman. Friedman is GQ Magazine's senior correspondent, and he wrote an article about his search for a black friend which he actually posted on Craigslist, and which was featured in November's issue of GQ. Friedman's ad. in Craigslist went something like this:
I'm a 36 year old white guy. I grew up in a diverse neighborhood and have always gone to diverse schools. I've always had a decent number of black friends. That's changed over time. I work in the publishing industry, which is super white, and I've realized that my group of friends is getting whiter and whiter. He actually had some takers for his posting (I am trying to figure out who is more pathetic, Devin, or the black people who responded to him). And the article spends a great deal of time exploring Devin's encounters with friends from the dark side. So this lack of black friends is troubling to Devin, and his article chronicles his quest to change the racial makeup of his friends by any means necessary. "It's amazing to me that almost everyone I know has either black friends or white friends, but not both. We could have a black president but not a mixed country." Poor Devin, he is unwilling to accept the reality of self segregation. Or as the article called it: "Amicable racial estrangement". I like that phrase. I think there is a lot of "amicable racial estrangement" going on in A-merry-ca.
The article was funny in a rather pathetic kind of way. Still, I read it. I had to find out how Friedman went about pulling off "Operation Black Friend." Friedman talked about pitching the idea to his editors, and being amazed when they thought the idea was meant to be satirical. (Isn't it always when it comes to race?)But he was serious, and he seemed surprised to know that his fellow white people would view his sincere quest in such a way. "Everyone got quiet. Like: Um, I'm not really qualified to say if that's an awful idea. That's been pretty much the reaction of all white people who here about it. They stop talking. My feeling is: Fuck them." But he even had questions about his own quest for an Obama like friend. " Even if my intentions were noble, though, I have to admit that there was something about putting up an advertisement on Craigslist that didn't feel quite right." (Gee, ya think?). Then he found the satirical website, Rent A Negro, and he received another revelation. "It's satirical. You can log on and fill out a form to rent a black person--part of the joke is that black people get used all the time, anyway, so they might as well get paid for it. On the homepage it said: 'What can you give a person who has everything? Give them a new black friend!' Give them a new black friend!' Sitting in my office, clicking through this Web site, my blood went cold. It was like it had been invented to make fun of me, personally. One of the weirder aspects of racism is that no one is ever sure whether he’s racist or not, except for those few people who are totally okay with being racist. The rest of us, having internalized the knotty racial logic of this country, the contradictions about how you need to be color-blind and not color-blind, keep a wary eye on ourselves to see whether or not what we just said or did or thought was racist. And this project started to feel like the worst kind of tokenism—e-mail me here! I don’t care who you are as long as you’re black! I remembered what a friend of mine said about the ad I’d taken out: Why don’t you just get a lawn jockey and carry it around with you to parties?" Well, I wouldn't go quite that far. But Devin's friend had a point. I mean the reason a site like Rent A Negro can exist is because people like poor Devin exists. And the irony of it all isn't lost on me. Like he said; here he is really really trying not to be a racist, yet with the real racist, this as not such an issue, because he knows who he is, and is comfortable with it. But still, the whole Craigslist bit seems a little extreme, and it had me wondering if this was a stunt on Devin Friedman's part. I mean reading his account of his black interactions and contacts, I got the feeling that they were also full of racial stereotypes. Devin wasn't much better than the people he was trying not to become "..I can’t remember being at a party where people sang anything other than Happy Birthday.' Now I know why I wanted to go to a black party, I thought. Because they’re fun. Because white people really are uptight. We have a lot of good points, too. But Jesus it was nice to be at a party where not a single person asked me what I did for a living." "BLACK PARTY"? News flash Devin, there are a lot of parties where only black folks attend, and where the first thing they ask you is what you do for a living. And not all parties that black people go to are "fun". "I stood up and we shook. He bro-hugged me, in a more artful, more nuanced way than I do it. My shit hadn’t been updated since the ’90s, really. To be honest, I was just going by what I saw on TV." "BRO-HUGGED"? See, this is why I have issues with poor Devin. Even though I admire his effort, he still doesn't seem to get it. The fact that he thinks that there is a "bro hug" and there is this "artful nuanced" way of carrying it out, speaks volumes about how clueless he really is.
Here is the thing Devin: Us black folks are like any other group. We are not monolithic, and we have very diverse opinions, taste, ideologies, and yes; even ways to have fun. So there is no such thing as a black board of directors to give black people their cues on how to act and what not to like and like. I know I joke about shit like that all the time, but believe me, it's really not the case.
And please forget this insane pursuit to find a black friend. Just relax, be yourself, and eventually some black person might just find you and like you for who you are. If not, it's not a big deal. Trust me. There are plenty black folks without white friends. It's not the end of the world. We can all live in this amicable state of self segregation, as long as we show mutual respect for each other and afford each other the dignity that we each deserve as human beings.
"You can try out all kinds of personalities and styles when you’re a kid, when you’re a teenager. But when you get older, you become either black or white, you become a honky or a brother or an Oreo or a wigger. Those seem to be the choices. Wigger is a word I don’t use and would never speak aloud, the underpinnings of which I have fundamental beef with. But if I have to use it, then I kind of always wanted to be a wigger. I just never had the balls to do it. It always seemed somehow disrespectful. But it has nothing to do with wanting to be black, per se. I wish people understood that. What music you like is as much a choice for white people as it is for black people. And how it is you want to speak. And what it is you want your pants to say about you. It seems like life comes down to am I going to wear these Nike Air Force 1s or those Bass Weejuns. All other decisions about racial identity cascade from that. When I see white boys in long white T-shirts and baseball caps, black-culture-identiﬁed is how I say it, I feel a sense of recognition. Like I could have gone that way. A few different decisions and I’d at least know how to roll a blunt. But that’s fantasy..."
Oh boy.... Devin, why don't you just vote for Obama and leave it at that?
Read the GQ article here.