Black Friend Friday FAQ
Q: Why can’t white people say the N word if Black people say it all the time?
A: White people have used the N word to dehumanize Black people for hundreds of years. It's still, to this day used in a derogatory way when some white people get angry at a Black person. Racist white people let the word fly behind closed doors freely and aren't afraid to use it when speaking about or to a Black person. Hearing Black people use the word as a term of endearment is not the same coming from a white person, even if that's the way they use it. The history cannot be erased. The world seems to understand that women can call each other b*tch and slut, but it would be taken very differently if a man called a woman those words, but somehow fail to understand why white people can't say the N word. In reality, people know, they just pretend not to understand. But my question is always, why does a white person want to say it so bad? What purpose does it serve to you? What are you reclaiming by using the word, or is it just so you can use it without consequence?
Q: Can I compliment Black women on their hair?
A: Each Black person is different, but the most people in general no matter the race enjoy compliments. The key to complimenting Black women on their hair is to make sure you're not slipping in a micro aggression, which I like to call accidental racisms. Don't say things like "I love your hair, can I touch it?" Or "Your hair is beautiful, is it real?" Or my personal favorite (read sarcasm) "Your hair looks so soft. I didn't know Black people could have soft hair." These are not compliments. You're complimenting how closely their hair resembles the European beauty standard and how closely their hair relates to whiteness. The compliment should stop at "your hair is beautiful." If your compliment isn't received well, it's not always your fault, some Black women are tired of being on guard for the accidental racism that follows, or worse, the purposeful racism. Black people do not owe others niceness. It's been a long road for the Black population in America, and learning to not take things as a personal insult when a comment or compliment of something that was once discriminated against harshly (Black hair) isn't well received is important. Keep complimenting. Leave off the micro aggression. Don't take negative reactions personally.
Q: What does BIPOC stand for?
A: Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
Q: What are some books I can read to get started?
A: The University of Utah's Social Work department created a very thorough list here.
Q: Are there good Children’s books I can read to my kids to expose them to other cultures?
Q: How do I avoid being a white savior?
A: I think mostly it's about motive, so ask yourself why you're doing something and if your voice is needed in that situation or will it distract from the voices already in the conversation. Are you helping in order to receive a pat on the back or some other form of recognition? Is it so you feel like you're not a bad white person? Are you helping because you have a resource the other person does not, and you're actually needed in that situation? Are you asking before interfering? Avoiding being a savior is questioning and answering honestly about your intent with the help you're providing.
Q: Is getting braids cultural appropriation?
A: No. Putting regular braids in your hair, French braids, German braids, plaits so you can wake up with wavy hair, is not appropriation. Getting corn rows "boxer braids," Box Braids, Senegalese Twists, Bantu Knots etcetera IS appropriation. Not only will styles like this harm your hair by causing breakage, bald patches, and tension alopecia, these are styles that Black women have been discriminated against for wearing when they are necessary for protecting Black hair. When white people take these hairstyles, slap a different label on it, wear it for a weekend only to take it out before Monday because "it's not work appropriate" is appropriation. Taking something from another culture, not giving credit, and then being able to take it off as if you were wearing a costume or playing a character is problematic.
Q: My child is mixed but we don’t have contact with their Black side, how can I expose them to their culture?
A: Exposing them to their culture has to be intentional. Not only with books, television shows, movies, etc. Are you taking them to the barbershop where people look like them? Are you sending them to a dance studio where there are many shades of brown? Did you move them to an area where they are the only brown child, or close to being the only brown child? Are you othering them by emphasizing their white side or celebrating their white features? There are so many areas that have to be addressed when you're thinking about exposing your child to Black culture. Making sure you're addressing your own biases and language so when your child is in those spaces they're not repeating biases and internalizing these things, which will other them from the Black community. The short of it is to expose them to communities that look like their other side of the family through classes, hairdressers, barbershops, and educating them in a more diverse area.
Q: I live in a mostly white area, how can I be a good ally?
A: Black and brown people need you right where you are. Speaking up when we aren't around. Challenging views in your area, starting coalitions, fighting at school boards for more diverse education. You can also spend money at Black and brown businesses online.
Q: I live in a mostly white area, how can I expose myself and my children to other cultures appropriately?
A: Diversify your friend group when possible. Read diverse books, watch shows that include other cultures, challenge yourself to watch shows where white people are not the hero and the Black or brown people are not the bad guys, or doing less desirable jobs and sex work. Diversify your media. Diversify your children's toys and books.
Q: My white child and their friends say the N word to each other, how can I make them understand they don’t get to say it?
A: Have a very honest conversation about the word, where it came from, and why it's not appropriate. Give consequences for saying the word. Help them understand that while some Black people may not say anything, some will give them consequences that may be painful for them to receive. It's better they receive the consequences at home than from a stranger who will not be as kind.
** This is not an exhaustive list. I am not the spokesperson for all Black people. Black people are diverse. Please use this list as a tool, not as the gospel. Join us for BFF on Fridays here.