With the raging pandemic, protests over policing in American cities and the presidential election, 2020 has been a year that has polarized the country. While clued to social media, I’ve seen many “reminders” that we shouldn’t unfriend someone because of their political views. But friendship means connecting with people who accept me and all of the identities I carry: Black, woman, middle-class, college student, etc. Therefore, I won’t be cultivating friendships with people who have views that invalidate my life experience.
There’s too much at stake to be friends with someone who thinks my life doesn’t matter.
Start with policing and uprisings that have occurred as a result of the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville as two examples. According to research collaborative mappingpoliceviolence.org, 897 people have been killed by the police this year, and Black people are three times as likely to be killed by police.
Given the details of innocent Black citizens who are now gone because of police overreach, befriending someone who can’t acknowledge that Black lives matter is not something I’m interested in.
Underrepresented people should not have to pretend to be friendly with someone politically aligned with white supremacist ideals. Yes, I mean President Donald J. Trump. It’s not like opposites are making friends anyway, according to a Pew Research study finds that 3% of Trump/Biden supporters have few friends who supported the opposite candidate.
How can you truly be friends with someone if you can’t empathize with them?
As an African American woman, I’m acutely aware of how generations of discrimination and the current polarization has a tremendous impact on people.
Many citizens have experienced racial trauma caused by encounters linked to racism. The publicized killings of many Black people this year took a toll on people’s mental health, even if they didn’t directly experience it. If a “friend” invalidates that trauma or refuses to believe in the effects of systemic racism, they are actively harming friends who are affected by systemic racism or oppression.
Friendship should be about compromise, but it seems like in the current environment, compromise is being placed on underrepresented people. It’s not the responsibility of a Black friend to compromise their existence for the comfort of their friend who is not Black. As it stands, when acts of racism occur, there’s often pressure on Black people to forgive the perpetrator.
Remember the 2015 Charleston Massacre when nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were gunned down by Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, while attending Bible study?
“The desire to see Black Americans show forgiveness is a desire to avoid fully reckoning with Black pain or the lingering effects of trauma that do not serve the public performance as cleanly,” said Hanif Abdurraqib, a poet writing at Pacific Standard in 2018.
If people always wait for their friends of color to forgive them when they are racist or to compromise when discussing their feelings, that can erode the relationship.
It might sound like I’m creating a bubble around myself, but when it’s my psychic and physical safety at risk, I will not budge. You can have friends or acquaintances with opposing views but not to the extreme of saying my life doesn’t matter, or I shouldn’t have human rights.
Friendships take effort, and I don't want to put effort into someone who doesn’t care about my well-being in the world. I’m not someone makes friends easily, so when I do, I know they are the right people for me.