Monday, September 8, 2008

Repost: Glamour wants to know if you have friends of other races

This is on point and simply interesting for me since I'm in my hometown of L.A. right now. I'm staying a friend's house. Her parents immigrated to the US from Mexico and she was my college roommate. Now she is a doctor as is her husband. I'll be staying at another friends house later in the week who is a black American. I'll also be touching base with quite a few Caucasian and Asian friends of mine while I'm here. So I pretty much laugh when someone asks me if I have friends of another race. Of course, I do.

I'm not naive and I know this is a question that still needs to be discussed. It's just I'm so past it. I went to integrated schools and have had friends of all races since elementary school.

However, while I'mat ease on this point, many aren't.

Maybe by posting and linking this discussion there will eventually be more people who one day will be at ease discussing race.

I'll post and link the discussion here because maybe it can help a few people realize that someone being another race is pretty much irrelevant to friendship.

Glamour wants to know if you have friends of other races

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

The October issue of Glamour magazine, on newsstands now, has a feature story on race and friendship among women. Read the PDF here.

It’s the second in a series of conversations the magazine has been hosting about race, at least partially in response to the controversy last November surrounding a beauty editor’s alleged remarks about black hair styles being “political.” The first installment was about race and beauty, and we gave it a luke-warm review here on Racialicious.

This article is a rehash of a discussion panel I participated in back in May at the Conde Nast headquarters. The audience was made up of Glamour staff, as well as an ethnically diverse group of media, fashion, semi-socialitey types.

Sidenote: I have newfound respect for fashion models after doing the shoot for this article. See that photo where the three of us seem oh so relaxed and casual? Um… in reality we were each perched on a narrow wooden crate, and I was literally straddling Aisha Tyler. Seriously, my crotch was like, all up on her hip, my boob on her arm, and my face on her shoulder. Sooooo… awkward. Especially considering I had met her just an hour earlier.

Anyway, back to the article.

I walked away from the discussion panel in May pleasantly surprised. The discussion was really substantive, and people were not at all shy about exploring topics one wouldn’t ordinarily associate with Glamour magazine. I mean, we talked about white privilege and white supremacy (yes, in those words), about feeling like the token, about being asked to represent your entire race, about feeling used, about feelings of rejection, etc. Not only were the panelists refreshingly forthright, but some of the greatest nuggets actually came from the audience members.

Does the article reflect the depth of that conversation? Unfortunately, no. But I guess that’s what happens when you’re forced to boil down what would have been 20-30 pages worth of text into just a few.

Still, I’m impressed that Glamour is hosting these conversations on race, and doing it in an intelligent manner that does not talk down to the reader. Let’s not forget how mass this magazine is — they’re Cosmo’s no. 1 competitor, with a circulation of over 2 million. That’s a hell of a platform, and I hope it will spark some authentic conversations about race among their readers.

Interestingly enough, the question we kept coming back to during the panel was this: How do you define friendship? Who’s a friend and who’s just an acquaintance? I’m the type who only considers a handful of people in my life to be genuine friends, but other folks have much looser definitions of friendship.

What about you? Do you have friends (real, genuine friends) of other races? If you do, what are some of the challenges to interracial friendship? What are some of the rewards? If you don’t have friends of other races, why not?

Also, since I posted about that daff Glamour editor's comments and this is part of their response to that. I'm all being fair and showing them when they're good as well as bad. This is good.

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  1. I have 4 friends that I consider good friends. 2 Japanese, 1 black, and one white. I'm black.

    When I was studying abroad in Japan for a year, I made quite a few Japanese friends. I became good friends with two of them. One of my friends told me some things troubling her that she wouldn't even tell her parents or other Japanese friends. She felt that since I wasn't Japanese, that I could bring a different perspective to her issues. I also have another Japanese friend who I consider one of my best friends. We hanged out almost everyday.

    One challenge I've had(well with one friend) is that they feel that it's okay for them to vent about how bad some black people can be because I'm "not like them" so it's okay to do that. That can be kind of annoying. Maybe with my friends whose first language isn't English...there can be a slight language barrier at times. Other than that, I cannot think of anything that is a big challenge.

    As for the this pertains specifically to Japan. I know when I went back to Japan last summer, I didn't have to pay a dime for accommodation and then some. Maybe that's more monetary than personal hahaha. I guess another benefit that having an interracial friendship is an exchange in language in culture. I at least know that my Japanese improved a lot along with my understandings of Japanese culture due to my Japanese friends. I'm in Korea now and I can say the same is happening with my Korean friends.

  2. You're probably better than me in some respects, meaning most of my non-black friends are friends I made back home in the States. I actually have more of a problem than not with a lot of the white teachers I've met here in Korea (usually culturally intolerant, having a lofty sense of entitlement and leaning more towards racist than not.) Only when I started grad school here in Seoul did I open myself up to Korean friends.

    That's not to say that I was above being friends with Koreans before. My situation and locations meant I was meeting Koreans who only wanted to be "friends" for the purpose of learning English, so I always felt like I was being used. School brings in a completely different dynamic and that made me more comfortable.

    However, people of other races telling me how much they don't "like" black people would set me on edge a bit. I don't get it much probably because I get the feeling I'm a bit older than you, as are most of my friends.

    Like all races, we've got the good and the bad. The problem is media and our society, which sends its images and beliefs worldwide, tends to show blacks at our worst more often than we're shown at our best. I stress that I'm no exception. I know tons of great, friendly, nice, accomplished, educated, intelligent, well-spoken, law abiding, etc. black men and women who are great people. I'm not the only black American at this point in history whose life runs counter to those negative stereotypes and who has had the chance to go to college or university. So I point out that they're tapping into a stereotype. Why not discuss all the bad people because blacks don't have a higher percentage. What we have is more blacks facing the negative results and challenges that racism brings to their lives.

  3. I've had my fair share of clashes with quite a few of white teachers/exchange students too. A few months ago I replied on one of your previous posts(under another name since I didn't have a blog yet) about one white colleague who was going over the line not only verbally but physically.

    I have encountered my fair share of people who wanted an "English Tool Friend." I even had the misfortune of staying with a homestay family who just wanted me for English practice! Not only did I not get to speak Japanese, but they barely fed me as well. Ever since that homestay experience, I have tended to stray away from people who are like that.

    What I find annoying is when people tap into a stereotype that they know is a stereotype just for the point of trying to be funny. I think that is the case for my friends who "vent." I know quite a few people who have friends that are also like this. They need to leave that kind of humor to stand-up comedians, SNL, and MADTV because it is POORLY executed.

  4. I completely agree that racial humor should stay in the hands of pros (or those who are amazingly good communicators).


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