August 8, 2013

Of Any Stripe or Hue

You ever read a headline even though you know the news is going to be bad? I did. The headline was “Many Americans Have No Friends Outside Their Race” based on results from an online poll administered in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version: non-white people have a low percentage of close friends who are white, and white people have an even lower percentage of close friends who are non-white. The west coast is a little better in this regard than the rest of the country and the southern part of the country is worse. DUH.

I think the knee-jerk reaction to this is for people to mentally shuffle through their racial rolodex and start ticking off friends who don’t look like them. Heck, I did until I remembered that I’m married to a white guy. (he’s my husband so I guess he counts as a friend, right?)

But throw race out of the equation entirely, and you end up with a much bigger question:

Of the people we consider friends, do we consider any to be true, trusted close friends?
Even just one?

I’m talking about the kind of friend you don’t feel pressured to make the house “presentable for company” when she visits because you know she won’t think twice or get judgy around the dusty furniture and errant laundry.

Or the kind of friend who doesn't take offense when you find guffaw-inducing laughter in the foot injury that landed her in urgent care.

The friend with whom you can be truthful about the bleeping numbers the bleeping scale reads out when you step on it. You cry with her when she’s sad because her sadness is your sadness. She “remembers” long-gone loved ones to you; and when you don’t talk for a while because of the busyness of life, there’s no weirdness or petty-ness between the two of you. She’s the person you can just sit with without talking at all because when you’re with each other, it feels like home (and also because you both appreciate silence after all the talking that your kids and husbands do).

Her only expectation of you is to be you – not mom, wife, daughter or employee – just you. And that’s who you are with her.
That kind of friend.

Throughout the thirty-nine years we've known each other, I can’t remember a time when either of us has thought of the other as “my white friend” or “my black friend.” We just know that we’re friends and we can’t imagine going through this life without the other’s presence. 

Do I wish more people would diversify their friends? Yes. Do I regret reading the post behind today’s headline? Not really, because it got me thinking and reminded me that having true and close friends of any stripe or hue is a rarity and a blessing.


  1. Only one thing to say to this - *write more often!* We need your voice, Rochelle - now.

    1. Not at all - just trying to do that which is set before me, which is to encourage my family. You've a good voice, and a great sense of humor. You aren't afraid of talking about hard - nay, painful - issues, and you have a unique perspective that needs to be heard more often. I love what you write - I just want to see a higher output level. Engage me in this conversation, pull me onto the dance floor of ideas and turn up the music - but by all means, write more!! :D

    2. Thanks for the encouragement, Rick! Hope to pull you out the floor soon!

  2. I had a close black friend where I worked. With her I could share and not be afraid she would be offended. One day a white boy came into our office, and she said to me, "Do you remember him?" I told her, "No, because all those white boys look alike." I don't have a lot of "Friends," a few at dhurch, and a black lady who is more of a friend than the white ladies. My husband is my closest friend, and after that my children.

    1. Great to have a mix of friends, and even better when they're tried and true. You sound like you're a very blessed lady, Hazel.