Risha Talks: What do black people do that irritate white people? I got hundreds of responses to that question.

by | Oct 1, 2018 | Blog

“My white friend game is strong.”

That comment landed on my Facebook page after I created a post that said: “I need to hear from my white friends! What do black people do that irritate white people?”

It took almost two days to manage the 206 comments, shares, direct messages and personal texts I received.

The comments ranged from, “black people don’t use crosswalks appropriately and are too loud,” to the more serious issues of white privilege and inequality. Below are the most popular topics with the most likes and comments. The comments, in italics, are edited for clarity and length. My response follows each:

Work relationships: All black people tend to hang out together and don’t want to be friends with people of other races — in public, they make a beeline to the other black faces.

This is not exclusive to black people. All people tend to flock to what is familiar based on common demographics. Unfortunately, this behavior is a guarantee that we might forfeit building cool relationships. As a solution, be intentional. Try to meet someone outside of your normal group and see how it enriches your life.

Generalizing white people: Black people tend to see white people as monolithic. On social media, a lot of my activist black friends post comments like, “white people say …,” “white people think…,” “white people do …”

We all over-generalize about groups different from our own. The same color on the outside doesn’t make us the same character on the inside.

Organizations exclusively for black people: Black people say they want inclusion but then have organizations that only black people can join.

The unfortunate reality is that our society has only recently started to recognize “others.” Today, we are still celebrating the first black person to win this-award or the first gay person in that-position. Until diversity is better represented, the need for organizations that speak to the needs of those groups are necessary.

Poor grammar: Black people sound uneducated when they speak.

This complex issue revolves around education more than race. Many black people know how to speak “correctly” but we code switch in the presence of friends and those with whom we are comfortable.

This means we go fluently between black dialect and Standard American English (SAE). SAE was not our ancestors’ official language. And, since we were not allowed to read and write until years later, we had to develop an understanding of this “new language” without formal education, which is why the “code switching” happens between those we are familiar with and white people. Poor grammar is more closely associated with people in lower socio-economic levels.

White privilege: I don’t like it when black people bring up my ‘white privilege’ for the reason they aren’t as well off as they THINK I am. Please don’t dismiss our hard work to having what we’ve earned just because we’re white.

White privilege is a very touchy subject. Black people understand that no living white person is responsible for slavery or the atrocities that followed. But undeniably, white people have been afforded the privilege to move through the world without question.

Also, there is a difference between white privilege and privilege. Some people of color enjoy privilege.

One operates on a system of assumed superiority and the other works to rise from assumed inferiority. It is imperative that we use any privilege to lift the next person.

Educating white people about the black experience: Black people have a tremendous opportunity to help educate white people in a way that could be profound, but they won’t.

Some black people feel reluctant to be open about the black experience and inequalities because the conversation will not be pleasant.

Also, it is not every black person’s responsibility to school you; but most are willing to have a conversation if they find you genuine. It gets tiring for everyone in this position in other diverse groups.

Although, none of the responses surprised me (OK, maybe the one about the crosswalks), this experiment reminded me that we are all annoyed by the same stuff.

For instance, black people feel like white people always hang out together and don’t include us. Many times, black people just don’t get white people’s thought process. You think black people use poor grammar, we think white people sound country or corny.

Like my Facebook friend noted, “my white friend game is strong” because my white friends know they can talk to me without judgment, guilt or blame — nor are they going to offend me.

How about your game? Is your black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American friend game strong? If not, exercise that muscle to help you understand that regardless of how you identify, we are all a part of the human race.

Once we understand that, we will better understand each other; and with that comes grace, respect and total acceptance.


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