Close friend making ignorant comments. How to deal?
September 17, 2017 6:40 AM   Subscribe

She's white, I'm not. It's stressing me out and worrying me.

My friend Becky and I have been friends since we were 12. We went to the same small school in the South, we went to college together, and we have stayed in close touch today in our mid twenties.

She's a fiercely loyal and dependable friend and will drive three states over to help you out. I didn't really understand why her comments before when I was younger bothered me, but just knew they bothered me. I.e. "My parents would kill me if I dated a black guy." Or "Look, I'm just as tan as you!"

We went to college, were roommates, and here is where I discovered that being in a white majority high school and town skewed my perspective. I branched out, found more strength in my identity, opened my eyes to what was happening with race, and changed my perspective on my heavy Christian surroundings.

In the midst of this, I remained friends with Becky because we had been old friends. We shared a lot of personal things together, and we made each other laugh. She made me promise I would be her maid of honor in her wedding and vice versa. She's a pushy friend but I'm pretty ok at dealing with it.

Fast forward to now, post college and grad school. My perspective has changed and formed A LOT. I do not want to tolerate racism or intolerance in my close circle. I had come to ignore Becky's view and just learn not to ask or tiptoe around her, especially because we live states away and only catch up on the phone (and we stick to lighter topics or talk about her fiancé.)

However, she came to visit me this weekend and the topic of the confederate statues popped up (as my city removed them) and she went into a tirade about how the civil war was not fought for slavery, racism does not exist today, and people are trying to erase southern heritage (again, she is from the South.) For lack of a better word, I was shook. I had an inkling that's how she would feel, but convinced myself that my friend who I have told about the instances I was called the n-word or told my parent's name was from a vase breaking (idk about that, I'm also half Asian) or how LAST YEAR my parents mailbox was smashed and n*gger was scratched into it, would probably not harbor that point of view.

Becky is also much more religious than I am and used to be and it has come out that she does not approve of the church I attend, which is LGBT friendly. She made comments this weekend that indicate she isn't very tolerant of queer people (and I sadly wasn't surprised at this) but I'm still disappointed, especially since I don't identify as straight. She does not know this though.

I call her a close friend because that's what she was but I'm not sure if I want her to be anymore. She is still a good friend, in that she is loyal and dependable and has stuck with me through thick and thin. But I literally get this knot in my stomach and tear up when I realize my friend may never believe me when I say racism is real and I've experienced it. I don't know how to talk to her about it either without feeling completely exhausted. We can't discuss these important to me and my existence topics. I have friends I disagree with, but Becky is a strong willed person and when she thinks youre incorrect, you're incorrect, full stop. I learned to just change subjects or have her storm off.

I feel terrible for considering stopping our friendship because I feel I must educate her and explain. However, I talked to my POC friends about this and their response was "Sis, there's no need for it to be your responsibility to be her educator. She has Google like the rest of us."

I also don't think she will be able to fathom not calling me her best friend anymore. We have been friends for so long and she is a...possessive friend. I know she's lost other friendships which has made her insecure and made her hold even closely to our friendship. At one point in college, she did not like me hanging out with other friends too often because she was afraid I would leave her. She expects me to be in her wedding, for her to be in my future one (though I'm not planning on one any time soon), for me to *truly* name a child after her, and so on. When I imagine ending a friendship with her, I really am afraid of the turmoil afterwards and I honestly don't want to hurt her. I love her as a friend, but I'm also hurt as well.

I don't know what to do. Please help me, I feel hurt and confused and guilty. Is it wrong for me to want to end a friendship over this? How does one kindly end one, or can I move her to not-as-close-friend instead of best? How do I even address being her maid of honor? I would still be there for her and would try to support her in any way I can, I just don't know if I can exhaust so much energy into a close relationship. Lastly, should I have a deeper talk on race and racism with her again? Try to educate and explain why racism is real? Thanks in advance.
posted by buttonedup to Human Relations (52 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
a tirade about how the civil war was not fought for slavery, racism does not exist today, and people are trying to erase southern heritage... I feel terrible for considering stopping our friendship because I feel I must educate her and explain

Your POC friends are right: it is not your job to educate her. Your very nice friend who you like is a racist. That is a 100% legit reason to stop being friends with her.

I honestly don't want to hurt her.

Why are her feelings more important than yours? She's said awful things and hurt you.

I am not in your position, but the two options I see are bait or cut fish. Either bail on this friendship, or knowing you are willing to bail on this friendship, you can send her links to like, Yes, Racism Exists Today 101 and Dude, The Civil War Was Totally About Slavery No Matter What Trump Says.

But you have to be 100% willing to bail, with all the tears and regret and breakup pain, because this woman is thinking, saying and advocating things that are not okay and you get to choose to not just let someone sprinkle their toxic shit on you.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:48 AM on September 17, 2017 [57 favorites]


She has NOT stuck with you through thick and thin if she is unwilling to listen and learn from experiences she damn well knows you had/still have.

If she is unwilling to learn from a supposed close friend then I don't know who she'd actually hear on the matter.

Walk away from her.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:51 AM on September 17, 2017 [16 favorites]


Also, her turmoil and feelings aren't on you. Do NOT take up the responsibility of her feelings. Kick her to the curb and deal with your own feelings.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:56 AM on September 17, 2017 [5 favorites]


One option in between ending the friendship completely and putting up with her nonsense is setting boundaries. "I don't agree with you about racism being over and I will not spend time with you if you say things like that." She'll push back; you stand firm. If she keeps arguing then leave. She'll either get angry with you and won't want to be friends anymore or she will start to recognize that she needs to keep some of her opinions to herself. That is actually a step in the right direction. If she knows that some of her views are repulsive she may start to question them.

But you do not owe her anything. Not friendship, not Racism 101, nothing. It's okay to DTMFA.
posted by chaiminda at 6:59 AM on September 17, 2017 [54 favorites]


You should absolutely be willing to walk away—the friendship as it stands is doing you more harm than good—but in honor of your (former) close friendship and your feelings about it, you might consider telling her openly and fully what you have told us here, and letting her know that it's her choice: she can be friends with you or she can continue being an ignorant racist. She can't have both. Don't worry about saying it in a nice way that tries to not make her feel bad, because this is push-comes-to-shove time, and there's no way to not make her feel bad. (Why shouldn't she? She's been making you feel bad for years.) If you do that and she pushes back and doubles down on her racism, then just walk away knowing you gave it your best shot.
posted by languagehat at 7:05 AM on September 17, 2017 [38 favorites]


Oh, man, that's got to be awful for you. I'm white, so my advice is of very limited value here, but this sounds like the same sort of tactics that people suggest for dealing with difficult family might be appropriate.

(And everyone who says it's not your job to educate her is right, you don't have to. This is only if you value the relationship enough that doing something to bring her along is a benefit to you, not just to her. Dropping her like a hot rock would also be completely justified.)

Anyway, being a broken-record at her on race issues? Every time she says something disturbing about race, say something that you've come up with and rehearsed ahead of time, along the lines of "That's a terribly racist thing to have said, and it shows that you don't know much about how race works in America, and that you haven't thought seriously about it. I can't talk about this with you, but you should know that what you said hurt and offended me." And then refuse to engage if she's anything other than meaningfully apologetic and genuinely looking to learn what she did wrong.

I seriously doubt this would do any good -- my best bet from how you've described her is that she'll perceive it as unwarranted aggression and blow up, and the friendship will end anyway. But if there's anything worth salvaging about her, and you value having her around enough to be worth trying for your own sake rather than hers, making the issue with her behavior that simple and clear might possibly? maybe? there's a tiny chance? shake some sense and decency into her.

But I'm so sorry you have to deal with this from an old friend.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:10 AM on September 17, 2017 [7 favorites]


I'm a POC and my oldest besties are white and NOT racist; such people do exist! If Becky (ha!), on the other hand, is this awful, willfully ignorant (I'm sorry, even if you come from the South to be a reasonably educated adult is to realize that the Civil War and the Southern economy and identity were, in fact, all about slavery), and intolerant, then she has never really been your true friend. You deserve friends--best friends--who are not ignorant and intolerant racists. Go find you true friends.
posted by TwoStride at 7:37 AM on September 17, 2017 [13 favorites]


As a white women who grew up in the south in a fundamentalist Christian home let me say that she has eyes and ears and she is purposefully ignoring racism, which means she is not the friend you thought she was.

I'm sorry.

There is nothing the you can or should do for her.

Right now, she isn't bringing anything you would want a friend to bring into your life. She is bringing you confusion, hurt, minimalization, and turmoil. Why would you spend time with her?
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:48 AM on September 17, 2017 [10 favorites]


Oh man, I feel for you, because nearly the *exact* same thing happened to me a few months ago. The details are slightly different in terms of what was said to me (in my case, my voicing of concerns about Trump being elected were met with a kind of disbelief that I could actually be afraid, dismissive comments about the gravity of the situation, and jokes about how I could hide in her basement when "they" came for me), but nearly everything else is the same - old childhood friend, I'm black she's white, etc.

As much as it hurts, I've decided to essentially cut this person loose. I did it by letter, because it was too painful for me to have a direct conversation. I really *really* need people to have my back right now, and I've come to the conclusion that as much as I wished this friend were, she really isn't. I've had other white friends literally call me to make sure I'm okay, who have supported me, and who have made an effort to let me know that I am loved and that they have my back no matter what. These are the types of friends I want in my life.

I guess my question for you is, if you think there was a way to mend it, would you really feel comfortable being around this friend in the future? Sharing who you are with them? Racism is such a part of our lived experience - it's woven into the fabric of who we are (unfortunately), our thought process, our behaviors, etc. Why have a person in your life who is literally denying part of who you are?

I'm so so sorry this happened to you. It's incredibly painful and, yes, I felt (and continue to feel) guilty as well. However, even though it's cliche, I really do believe that whole "friendships for a reason and season" thing. You aren't the same person you were as a child. Maybe it's time to move forward with people who accept and love the whole, entire you that you've grown into, with all the depth and nuance that makes you who you are today.
posted by Fiorentina97 at 7:50 AM on September 17, 2017 [7 favorites]


I think a good part of your problem is the Sunk Cost Fallacy --- that's where because someone has already spent a great deal of time, money and/or effort on x (a friendship, a job, a hobby or project, whatever), that they therefore have to continue with it, or else all the time/money/effort they've already put into it will be wasted.

You don't seem to actually like Becky anymore, and it sounds like you have been continuing the friendship mainly because of your past history with her. (And honestly, she sounds like a major pill: you are required to be in her wedding, have her in yours, name your future kid after her(!), and put up with her massive prejudices about race/religion/sexual orientation, forsaking all other friends and cleaving only unto her, all while politely keeping your mouth shut and agreeing with every golden word she utters...... meanwhile, what good do you get out of this deal?)

Oh lucky you: you get to be in the racist dingbat's wedding.... I strongly suspect that if she's this bad, her family, fiancé, and his family all probably contain multitudes who totally agree with her, and merely attending that wedding (never mind actually being in the wedding party) will be an exercise in listening to them all tell you the same prejudiced things Becky herself has already been spouting. I really, really suggest you bow out now.

There is, unfortunately, not a damn thing you can do or say to educate her. She won't listen --- as you say, she is convinced that she is completely right, and nothing you can do will change her mind. The Sunk Cost Fallacy would have you continue the friendship, simply because you've been friends for years and years now; reality says that all you can do is deal with what is now not what is past: and what is now is, Becky isn't bringing you anything good, and the best thing you can do is to drop her like a rock.

(Want an example of how biased she truly is? As a thought exercise, imagine her reaction if you --- black/Asian/Christian, right? --- considered proposing SSM marriage to, say, an Afghani Muslim. Would Becky 1) accept whoever you chose as your spouse with the same grace you've accepted Becky's own choice, or 2) would Becky go completely ballistic about 'race mixing' and "all Muslims are terrorists" and similar trash?)
posted by easily confused at 7:53 AM on September 17, 2017 [9 favorites]


Old friends are irreplaceable, so I think you should try to stay friends on some level. But backing off on the intensity of the relationship is a good idea.
posted by mortaddams at 8:21 AM on September 17, 2017 [11 favorites]


It's not your responsibility to educate her. I like languagehat's suggestion that you tell her what you've told us. I don't think you have to take an educational approach, you could just say "It's really painful to me when you say things like x/y."

If she is open to having a respectful and honest conversation about it, that tells you this might be a friendship worth maintaining. If not ... that tells you something too.
posted by bunderful at 8:34 AM on September 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


If you want to save the friendship and old friends are valuable then you don't need go educate her but you do owe it to her go tell her how you feel. Will it change her overnight? No. But she owes it to you to listen and to think on what you have said. And not say things like this anymore, hopefully stop thinking that way too.

Friendships evolve and change over time and people do too. I bet you anything what you are hearing now is an insecure young woman parroting her fiance's words back at you. Many young women do that, especially if he's speaking in her ear constantly and no one else is. If she's in your life you have a right to be heard too.

And telling someone to Google something is kind of saying "it's not worth my time to talk to you about this". It might not be, and that's fine. But your other friends are being rude and dismissive of your problem here. They also owe it to you to hear what you're saying, in all its complexity and think about it. Make your own decisions here.
posted by fshgrl at 8:54 AM on September 17, 2017 [8 favorites]


I mean, I'd probably ditch the close friendship but I'd tell her why and give her an honest chance to make a change first I think.
posted by fshgrl at 9:02 AM on September 17, 2017 [7 favorites]


I'm sorry you're going through this. I would encourage you to move on from this friendship. She might even be using your continued friendship to justify holding on to her racist ideas. "I'm not racist, my best friend is not white!"
posted by ewok_academy at 9:17 AM on September 17, 2017 [6 favorites]


I have a couple of old friends (and family) like this. I had one white friend that was personally offended when I asked her to stop using the n-word. This is what entrenched privilege looks like; not having to consider or care how you affect the people around you who you supposedly love, and them feeling unable to safely confront it. (I first felt empowered to speak up when I heard a girl I know who grew up in a diverse area straight up, unapologetically say "that's racist" when someone said something racist to her. Growing up as the only POC in my community and having additional childhood trauma embedded "keep your mouth shut" pretty deeply into my psyche)

These people are challenging to navigate and it can feel like a perpetual minefield but, I believe that people I have loved and who have loved me for a long time are entitled to one shot. If you want to fight for this relationship, as I see it, you have two options:

1)next time she says something shitty, call her on it. "That's bullshit", "that's racist", "I don't want to talk about this", "don't talk like that around me", "I don't care what you think of my church, it is between me and God", or even "how dare you say that to me when you know what I have been through!". You are allowed to be angry at her, you are allowed to push back, and if the friendship is on its last legs over this issue anyways you aren't actually risking anything by starting a fight.

2) send The Letter.

"Becky. You have been my friend for years and after all these years it kills me that you don't believe me when I tell you that racism is a real problem that still exists, and has personally and directly affected me, even when I have told you about horrible and violent racial hate crimes that I have experienced. It makes me feel like you don't really care about what happens to me.

I don't want to lose you as a friend. But I cannot stand to hear you talk about things like how racism doesn't exist or the civil war not being about slavery. These are things that other people say so that they don't have to feel bad when they treat people like me in scary, hateful, and violent ways. You may not be racist, but these are things that racists say.

You have to follow your truth, whatever that may be, but so do I, and I absolutely cannot tolerate those kinds of conversations if we continue to be friends. Unless you can respect this, I can't talk to you any more, for my own well being.

With love,
Etc"

I personally think the first is the better option. We teach people how to treat us in the moment, and people get more into a stew long term about letters (which seem cold and seem to come out of nowhere) than they do about immediate pushback, though immediate pushback can cause more explosive responses.

I find especially that pushy people are more likely to take offense to a letter and respect you standing up for yourself in the moment.

Avoid getting into debates about these topics or trying to prove you are right; it is like trying to mudwrestle a pig. Just stick to it being about how she communicates with you. I'd be careful about focusing too much on stuff being hurtful lest the "liberal snowflake" rhetoric come out. It's important she know she is hurting you but it's probably better to focus on "this is my boundary, please respect it. I am not interested in arguing about these subjects, I am telling you how I want to be treated."

I also find "you may not be racist, but those are things racist people say" to be a useful line. These people can get very personally offended if they are accused of being racist and it can even empower the narrative of being persecuted.

Ultimately, you aren't going to be able to change her mind. But you may be able to change how she talks around you. That's the best you can hope for.
posted by windykites at 9:25 AM on September 17, 2017 [28 favorites]


1. Becky does not deserve your friendship. She treats you like a pet, not a human being worthy of respect.

2. I promise you that Becky has, on more than one occasion, used you as her "But I have a black friend!"

3. It is perfectly ok to jettison old friends. As people get older, we change and grow. In some cases, we outgrow old friends. We also find new friends whose growth is more in line with ours. This is normal, and not something to be ashamed about. Unquestioned loyalty is not a quality to be admired; as an example, look at how many Republicans stand by Trump no matter what he does.

As for how to end it, I would just do a slow fade.

You deserve better. DTMFA.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:28 AM on September 17, 2017 [12 favorites]


And honestly, she sounds like a major pill: you are required to be in her wedding, have her in yours, name your future kid after her(!), and put up with her massive prejudices about race/religion/sexual orientation, forsaking all other friends and cleaving only unto her, all while politely keeping your mouth shut and agreeing with every golden word she utters...... meanwhile, what good do you get out of this deal?

Here on AskMe we often get questions in the vein of, "My friend/partner/family member is a great person who treats me well in most respects but keeps punching me in the face. Can I get this person to stop punching me in the face or should I end the relationship?" And the answer to that is, if the person's demonstrating a lack of care and respect by punching you in the face, or anything equivalent to punching you in the face, such as lying or cheating or stealing or making abusive and/or bigoted comments, they aren't a great person and inevitably there is a larger pattern of lack of care and respect in the relationship that the poster isn't quite seeing.

From your description, besides being wilfully ignorant and bigoted, Becky is seriously controlling and demanding. She's way out of line to be trying to control how much time you spend with your other friends so she can feel like your most important friend, or to be blowing up at you because you disagree with her. As for her expecting that you to be in your wedding or that you'll name a child of yours after her, those are your decisions to make, and they should be made on the basis of what you really want, not out of a sense of obligation or fear that she'll be upset. She's treating you like a lesser being who owes it to her to toe whatever line she draws in the sand, and no amount of good behaviour in other regards excuses her treating you like a minion.

I'd cut her loose, and tell her why. Maybe if enough of her friends do so, she'll start to clue in. I think when you get some distance from her you'll start to realize just how intolerable and abusive her behaviour is in a way that isn't possible for you now, when you're emotionally tied to the situation and you're trying to cope with it by focusing on her good points.
posted by orange swan at 9:45 AM on September 17, 2017 [13 favorites]


I want to echo what mortaddams wrote. Old friends are important, assuming she truly is your friend as you say.

One of my lifelong friends from around first grade (and I'm over 40) became a born again Christian after his first child was born, and this included his political views shifting to the extreme right. He's also many states away so we mainly communicate through email and occasions when I visit my hometown, and we've gone through periods of intense arguments about politics. One thing in particular that's infuriating is he has extremely strong and strict views on sexuality: birth control is evil, premarital sex is evil, masturbation is evil, pornography is evil, fairly extreme stances on abortion, etc. Stances he holds while completely ignoring that his romping around as a teenager and in his 20's as an atheist with a healthy sex life contributed to becoming a well-adjusted adult. Something he's trying to deny his home schooled children. (Boy, are they going to rebel!)

The solution was to avoid discussing politics. We still argue every once in a while, but what's more important is as an old friend he has stood by me and been a great support for things I wouldn't even discuss with my family. He similarly confides in me.

You two are both going through changes because of your diverging life experiences. Some of the change on her part may be exacerbated by the "Trump effect", and you admit that with college and grad school your perspective has changed. Try figuring out how to make the best out of the relationship, even if it means avoiding some topics or occasionally being uncomfortable. Things might be a lot different if she were local and constantly in your life.
posted by GoldenShackles at 9:48 AM on September 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


Oh, man, please offload Becky. No, no, that shit is too much. Change the locks and quit calling her back. She's not besties with you, she's besties with some "tan" person she invented, and it cannot be your job to try to wake her up out of her privilege dream. Anyway, it might be an un-doable job.

Somebody I loved dearly was stuck in a racist fever dream from which I figured he just had to wake up at some point because he wasn't stupid, and besides, I'd known him since 1991. I stuck it out and argued with him for years with zero results, through him defending George Zimmerman and believing that every single cop shooting with no video went down just like the cop said it did. Finally in 2015 I called a halt. Since November 2016 I have thanked providence daily that I did. My relief that I didn't have to deal with Foghorn Leghorn through the election and everything that's happened since is constant and enormous. Existence is already far, far too hard right now, even with violently pruned social media and all reasonable friends. Please, for your sanity, for the love of all that is decent, dump Becky.

If she wants to know why, she can wake up and think about it for ten minutes. You can't wake up for her. You can't think for her.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:56 AM on September 17, 2017 [8 favorites]


To start with, I'm white and 62. I recognize that I grew up with racism and some of it is embedded. I try hard to combat racism. You have choices. It isn't your job to educate her, but you can choose to. Are you fb friends? Start posting stuff that will educate her. Tag her in posts if you want. You could write to her about her comments and provide her with some truths. Maybe she'll remain your friend, maybe not. Most of all, don't edit yourself, as you may have been doing, as you may have had to do for much of your life. I'm so sorry you have to go through this, it's always painful to lose a friend, and having racism at the core is especially so. Your job is to be true to yourself; how she responds is on her.
posted by theora55 at 10:07 AM on September 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


Becky is a strong willed person and when she thinks youre incorrect, you're incorrect, full stop. I learned to just change subjects or have her storm off.

I recommend adopting a policy of not changing the subject, and if she storms off, well, she storms off. Sucks to be her right then, all angry and upset and shit, but you didn't force her to hold onto all her racist bullshit; she's doing that all by herself.

I feel terrible for considering stopping our friendship because I feel I must educate her and explain. However, I talked to my POC friends about this and their response was "Sis, there's no need for it to be your responsibility to be her educator. She has Google like the rest of us."

They're right. It's absolutely not your responsibility to educate and explain. However, it's also not your responsibility not to educate and explain as some kind of expression of solidarity with other people who have already had more than enough of doing that.

If you genuinely value your friendship with this woman, and are genuinely not already sick and tired of having her completely blow off the true things you tell her about your own experience, you go right ahead and keep telling her. But I do recommend not backing off when she starts wheeling out the white fragility shit.

I also don't think she will be able to fathom not calling me her best friend anymore.

If you can see yourself being open to being besties with a version of Becky who is not infested with maga brain worms, and if you have the strength and patience to keep on trying to help her clear hers out, and it's she who storms off whenever you attempt to do that, then what she can or cannot fathom is not even your doing, much less your problem.
posted by flabdablet at 10:16 AM on September 17, 2017 [5 favorites]


What an AMAZING opportunity you have in Becky. It's a gift.

I'm going to suggest that before you confront Becky or try reaching out to her that you educate yourself on how to successfully have these types of conversations. Becky loves you, she is reachable -or- worth reaching out to and being honest with at least once. She doesn't know any better. She has no clue. But she loves you. Please please show her compassion before drop kicking her out of your life.

You might google up "Quaker Mediation" - there's a hand book, and there may be mediation professionals in your area that can help you start a dialogue.

Of course the Civil War was fought over slavery. Slaves were the single most valuable asset in the United States at the time, mote valuable than land, natural resources, or any manufacturing output. Becky has been lied to, be kind before you cut her off forever. I hope it doesn't come to that.

It's OK for you to move on into adult relationships that are much deeper and more meaningful. This will happen, regardless, because like-minded people are easier to trust and get a long with. The ability to embrace others where they are at is a gift you have been given, it's a blessing. You can have more than one type of friend. I hope this helps.
posted by jbenben at 10:25 AM on September 17, 2017 [4 favorites]



I feel terrible for considering stopping our friendship because I feel I must educate her


this is a rare occasion when you don't have to choose one or the other. She sounds like a person that may only be educable through the experience of losing a longtime close friend. If you are able to speak or write directly instead of fading (just if you can, not that you have to), tell her that for the sake of loyalty and affection you have tried to tolerate the intolerable, but you can go no further, and you must protect yourself by removing yourself.

it won't "work" as in instantly, shocks take a while to sink in. but someone who is vehement as well as wrong may require a shock that severe to realize anything is really wrong. meanwhile, you can be away from her to avoid any angry response she might give and not have to be involved in an argument about it or exposed to her, forever or for as long as you want.

(I mean, of course your other friends are right. take care of yourself. but if you do exactly what is best for you and tell her why, it will be an educational experience for her whether you design it as one or not. maybe more educational because it will be about your needs, not hers.)
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:59 AM on September 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


The middle ground is for you to talk to her about this. I think it's worth it to you. It's not "right" or "wrong" to be friends with her, it's about the utility you get out of it. So I think if you can tell her about your hurt feelings and see if she can repair them, that would be good for you. I wouldn't put a ton of emotional labor into it, I'd just say "hey you hurt my feelings, did you forget I've experienced racism or what? were you even listening?" and then let her fix it (or not).
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:11 AM on September 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


But of course if you want to cut things off then you should do that. It just doesn't sound like that is your first choice.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:13 AM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


I don't have any words of wisdom, beyond what's been said above, but I want to add that it's OK to mourn the loss of the friendship you had with Becky. It sounds like you were very close as teenagers, and teenage female friendships can be intense in a way that we don't often recognize. You characterize Becky as loyal and dependable, so I'm going to take you at your word on that. But it sounds like in addition to being loyal and dependable, she is controlling, self-centered, and racist. It's ok for that to be a deal-breaker.

In terms of how to pull back from the friendship, ordinarily I'd advise the slow fade, but given that she's actively wedding planning, I would tell her ASAP that you can't be the maid of honor, if for no other reason than that she will need to find another MOH. If she asks why (she probably will), I think you do have to tie it to her comments/behavior and how personally hurtful they were to you. I doubt she would respond to statistics or longform essays you send her (like your other friend says, she has Google like the rest of us), but if she hears and understands that her behavior affects her relationship with people she presumably considers close as well, she may be open to change.
posted by basalganglia at 11:19 AM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


If you do want to continue being friends with Becky and you think she has the ability and will to change I would recommend that when you address race in conversations, you work hard to help her separate the ideas she holds from her sense of identity. "I'm sure you didn't mean it this way Becky, but that came out as awfully racist/transphobic/etc"

Asking clarifying and quantifying questions can also help with people who are making broad statements. "When you say people who want to get rid of confederate statues are trying to erase southern heritage, do you mean 100% of people, 50% of people, or some other percent?" or "Do you think it's possible that some people might feel bothered by statues of people who treated their great grandparents horribly?"

That said, you are under no obligation to educate her and if you are literally getting a knot in your stomach thinking about hanging out with her it probably is time to end the friendship.
posted by donut_princess at 11:29 AM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oh this is really hard to admit publicly.... In college my best friend/roommate was black (I am white). We were super close for almost ten years, despite my ignorance and, I'm am sure, more than a few instances of ignorant racism (I'm not sure how to phrase that correctly. I was not a hateful racist, but I did stupid shit like asking to touch her hair (ugh!) and other things probably worse, that I don't remember because I didn't think anything of them at the time). It wasn't until I married someone of a different race that she dropped me as a friend. I have no idea why, but having learned a great deal more about issues of race and racism, I'm fairly certain that she just got sick of my ignorant, thoughtless comments and opinions.

I regret losing the friendship to this day, but I completely understand why she quit, and I don't blame her a bit. I eventually found my way to a better, more enlightened place, probably partially because of losing her as a best friend. It was in no way her job/responsibility to inform me why she left, nor is it your responsibility to inform your friend if you choose not to. What I want to say though, is that I loved my friend, and if she had informed me of why she was going, it would have made a big impression on me, and it might have led me to a better, more informed place, sooner. Possibly, even sparing my husband some of my ignorance as well. I want to reiterate though, that I do not think it was her responsibility to do this, and I can't say for sure that it would even have had the effect I think it would have had.

If you are ready to leave the friendship, and you feel up to it, I think a letter detailing what you have said here has the potential to affect her deeply. But, again, you owe her nothing, and you should feel good about any choice you make.

I'm sorry you are going through this deeply painful thing. I wish you peace and strength in its resolution.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:41 AM on September 17, 2017 [30 favorites]


I am a white lady and I've had the same non-white best friend for almost 40 years. We met when we were about 14, so we've been through a whole lot together. Over all that time, of course, we've had more cases of individual wrongheadednesses and folie a deux than I can count, but we've also worked a ton of things out together better than either of us could have done alone.

Here is the thing that makes all this work: We are besties and we can talk to each other about anything. We've discussed race on different parts of the clue spectrum over the past forty years, of course, and our perceptions and understandings have evolved together over all that time. We've also been discussing it a lot more in the past 6+ months for The Reason You Think. We come up with ideas and strategies and things together and we sort of made a pact to do the things we agreed on. Things like not tolerating or ignoring little micro-racisms and things like that, so we do hard things sometimes because it's a promise we made to each other.

We don't agree on everything, of course, but I can't imagine either of us not taking the other's opinions and experiences into account or straight up not believing each other. I mean, if she tells me something that conflicts with my personal biases and my perception of the world, my default is that I adjust those biases and perceptions, not doubt or dismiss her. She could probably get me on board with Sasquatches if she wanted.

The other thing that makes it work is that we listen to each other and we've been through enough together that I think we're both pretty confident that one little disagreement or slipup wouldn't be a deal breaker.

BUT she's much better at making friends than I am, and has a larger, closer family than I do, so I sometimes get these pangs of insecurity and jealousy when she is spending a lot of time with someone else. I can't imagine my life without her. I am crazy about my husband and I love him dearly, but I can much more easily accept the idea of him leaving me than her. SO, when I got this little pang of jealousy about another friend of hers, 1) I knew it was silly, and 2) I told her about it because she's my best friend and you can tell your best friend about the silly and irrational things you feel that you know you shouldn't. I would never want to take her other friends away from her, though, because I care about her. I can weather the occasional pang of silly jealousy and we can laugh about it because it really is kind of funny.

I'm not saying this is the only kind of friend worth having or that my BFF is the measure by which all BFFs should be measured (although I do think it a little, I'm not saying it).

I'm saying two things, with different potential outcomes:

1. Friends are important. Way more important than I think most of us realize, especially when we're younger. I think that the older you get, the more important real, established, secure friendships become. They are absolutely worth maintaining, and that takes work sometimes, like any relationship does. It is not something to let go of lightly.

2. Friends respect and care about each other, though. They don't dismiss each others' experiences and perceptions. The idea of her shutting you down because she thinks you're wrong is lopsided and not friend-like behavior.

I guess what I'd do if I were you is take the recommendation of writing a letter expressing your concerns. If she's truly been a friend to you, I think yeah, a little bit you "owe" an explanation. Not really owe, but more like I think that's the role friends play, educating and helping each other evolve their ideas. I also recommend it because at least for me, if I don't air my grievances, I sometimes end up festering about them for way too long. You have a well reasoned grievance, and you deserve to have it heard without interruptions. I'd suggest an email or even a hand written letter if you'd like to do that. Hell, it's not that you "owe" her an explanation, but she owes it to you to hear what you're saying.

And I think there's a small chance, if she truly values your friendship and respects you as a person, that laying this out might work. She might just listen to you because she values your friendship, making her a better person and a better friend to you.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:05 PM on September 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


You've put a lot of work into writing this question. There may be reasons not to show it to her, but if not, you could show it to her. Send her a link.

And, if you're seriously considering dropping her anyway, why not make an ultimatum? Tell her it's too painful for you to talk to her knowing she believes X or Y. Tell her that you can't be friends with someone who blames Y for Z, or however you want to put it. If you're feeling generous, tell her what to Google (because, really, Dunning-Kruger tells us that she likely doesn't even _know_ what she doesn't know), or recommend a book, or something. Whatever you want to do, it's up to you. But you have no reason to shy away from making an ultimatum in this case. Ask for whatever you want.
posted by amtho at 12:25 PM on September 17, 2017


"She doesn't know any better. She has no clue. But she loves you."

Why are we acting like buttonedup is Becky's only hope of redemption? Why are we acting like Becky is a helpless naif? Becky is not Kimmy Schmidt. She didn't grow up in a Ku Klux Kult; she wasn't homeschooled by quiverfuls; she and buttonedup went to the same college.

Becky is not Rip Van Winkle. Becky is not a baby giraffe. Becky is a grown person who knows better. She has hurt her friend and said monstrous things that have killed the friendship. Becky needs to figure this out for herself because the thought of trying to help Becky with it makes buttonedup feel sick and start to cry.

WalkerWestridge offers brave, honest proof that the white best friends of POCs can survive the loss of those POC friends and learn to be better people and better friends to POCs from those very losses. They can do that all on their own, without POCs having to work hard and thanklessly and at the expense of their own peace of mind and well being to help them.

"She doesn't know any better."
She knows better: buttonedup told her about the mailbox incident, so she knows better than to say racism no longer exists. She is willfully trying to force the two of them back to happy highschool cluelessness because she doesn't want the relationship to change and become equitable because she wants to dictate the color of the bridesmaids' dresses and blah blah blah etc. for all the rest of their days.

"She has no clue."
She has clues: she's just not employing them at the moment.

"But she loves you."
There is no evidence Becky loves buttonedup, at least not in the way adult humans love one another; there is ample evidence Becky loves controlling buttonedup. Becky is abusing buttonedup's kindness and subjecting her to harm. Buttonedup, cut your losses. Becky has some growing up to do before she can be a good friend, it sounds like to anybody, but especially to you.
posted by Don Pepino at 12:55 PM on September 17, 2017 [34 favorites]


So there are two things going on here:

1. The racism. I think there's plenty of good advice for you already in terms of how to address this if you want to, but also that it's fine if you don't.

2. The fact that she's narcissistic and controlling. Even if she wasn't irredeemably racist, she's pretty toxic as a friend, and the guilt you're feeling is a result of her toxicity. The possessiveness would be disturbing in a primary romantic partner, much less a friend.
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:13 PM on September 17, 2017 [3 favorites]


When I say some of my white friends are "a little racist", what I mean is that the people I'm still willing to be close with, like, one of them thinks PewDiePie's various racist/antisemitic/homophobic/etc remarks are terrible but still watches him because he does very good videos on a game she enjoys. I strenuously disagree with that--but I'm not going to stop being friends with her over it. When I say some of my friends are "a little transphobic", they still think guy-in-a-dress jokes are funny. Sometimes I think they're funny. It's something I'm working on. I'm trying to be better. I'm not always better, but I'm always trying. And my white friends, the actual friends, they are trying.

This chick is not trying. She is doing the opposite of trying: She is digging her heels in and then looking to you to legitimize her inflexibility.

There is no being friends with a person who doesn't want to be a better person. There is maybe being acquaintances and occasionally gritting your teeth to try to be a good influence, but it is easier to do that with someone you were never that close to. My own mother stopped trying, and I stopped associating with her. And that sounds horrible, but you know what? I grieve the person she never was, not the person she is, and I feel better for not making myself personally responsible for fixing her. You can't help people who don't want help, and you deserve to have space in your life to make better friends than this.
posted by Sequence at 1:42 PM on September 17, 2017 [5 favorites]


We all have friends that we disagree with on some issues but still want to be friends with. But as far as I'm concerned, "racism doesn't exist" on top of everything else is pretty far beyond this point. Not only are you not responsible for educating her, but also-- if she's heard your experiences of racism and still thinks it isn't real, I'm not sure how receptive she's gonna be. No judgment if you want to salvage this relationship but personally I'd phase this girl out.
posted by noxperpetua at 1:53 PM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


I am a POC with many white friends.

I try to live with friends above politics. Old, deep friendships are rare and impossible to replace fully.

I work for causes. But I've learned to keep a certain separation between the personal and the political. We fight for everyone else's causes with other people's money. Excessive self-sacrifice serves no one, and cutting off friendships with less than perfect politics is a sacrifice of your personal life for a cause that won't love you in the same way.

You may never agree on race, but you'll always love each other. And I'd take deep friends that don't agree with me that still look out for me personally over ideologically congruent allies that have the cause over my life in mind.

You'll never convince her, so don't talk about it unless she wants to. Changing hearts and minds might well take years or decades. But it will take much shorter than replacing a friendship as deep as that.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 1:56 PM on September 17, 2017 [7 favorites]


It is possible to love someone you don't respect, or whom you don't like. It hurts like hell to realize it, because your heart is already there, and you want to like them. But whatever good stuff she has brought to your life, sometimes it's more important to keep the bad stuff out.

You'd be justified writing her off, but if you want to stay friends at arm's length, or if you want to stay friends only when you're honest about your own opinions on her opinions, then you have to let go of the idea that your goal is not to make her feel bad. Your goal isn't actively TO hurt her, but it should be to tell the truth of how you see those moments.

It's so hard to have that divide between who she's been in your life and who she is as a person. That is a huge thing to confront. But don't protect her feelings at any cost to your own.
posted by gideonfrog at 2:05 PM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


"I don't know what to do. Please help me, I feel hurt and confused and guilty. Is it wrong for me to want to end a friendship over this? How does one kindly end one, or can I move her to not-as-close-friend instead of best? How do I even address being her maid of honor? I would still be there for her and would try to support her in any way I can, I just don't know if I can exhaust so much energy into a close relationship. Lastly, should I have a deeper talk on race and racism with her again? Try to educate and explain why racism is real? Thanks in advance."

In some ways I think these are the wrong questions. There's no single right answer: It's okay to end a friendship over this, but it's also okay to not end it. It's okay to try to educate her, it's okay not to.

I would encourage you to decide what course of action will leave you feeling that you acted with integrity, and allow you to be at peace with your actions. Knowing that you can't control how Becky will react (maybe she'll see the light, maybe she'll be furious, maybe she'll blow you off) or what the outcome will be, and knowing that there isn't one "right" answer or "best" answer or "moral" answer here -- there are many options because humans are complicated, this situation is fraught and painful, and there are many competing moral claims. So instead of agonizing over how to do this "right" -- and it's agonizing for you because there isn't one right answer! -- spend some time thinking about what action will allow you to feel you acted with integrity, true to your deepest self and deepest values, whether that's someone who's loyal and never gives up on a friend, or whether that's someone who won't tolerate racism, or some combination, or something else entirely. Knowing that you can't control Becky and you can't control the outcome, what actions will leave you with a sense of calm because you acted with deep personal integrity?

Whatever you do, this may still be a painful shitshow. But if you choose your actions with your personal, individual, unique integrity in mind -- rather than trying to control the outcome, or trying to abide by someone else's opinion of what's best or right -- even if it is a shitshow, you will be able to come to terms with whatever happens, and to look back on it and say, "It didn't work out the way I hoped it would, but I tried my hardest to do what was right, and I feel good about how I acted." Painful and lasting regret/shame, I think, comes when we don't act with integrity and, in shaping our actions to aim for the best outcome, fall short of our ideals for ourselves -- and of course you can't control the outcome, so frequently it doesn't work anyway, and then you're left with a bad outcome where you feel ashamed of your actions or wish you could go back and try something else. If you act with integrity, with your truest, deepest heart, you may still be sorrowful at the outcome, but you won't be ashamed of your actions, and it's a lot easier to come to terms with sorrow than with regret or shame.

For me, when I have to do this, I turn it over in my mind for several days (it's not an easy or quick thing to figure out), and I have to consciously remind myself to focus only on MY actions -- not on the outcome, which I can't control, or on other people's perceptions of me -- and what is right FOR ME and what expresses my deepest moral beliefs. When I find it, I usually feel a sense of peace and wholeness about what I intend to do, even if I still feel sick to my stomach about the situation as a whole. If it ends badly, it will still be painful and upsetting. But you'll be able to know that you were your best, truest you, true to your deepest values, and that counts for a lot.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:07 PM on September 17, 2017 [14 favorites]


Your PoC friends are right. This question is very challenging to garner advice from white people about, because they leap at the opportunity to treat it as a self-insert roleplay exercise on what they would be doing if they were the PoC and had the opportunity to confront injustice and change minds. I've been through this cycle a lot, and the advice never works - white people just don't know how to deal with racism as well as PoC do, and especially not in the shoes of PoC. Still, I get guilted into exposing myself to toxic scenarios because: they can't help growing up as racists, it's probably not their fault, don't we have a community obligation to address racism, but they're your friend/family, they have no other resources, etc.

I'm seeing this dynamic in your question too. Just because white culture has a certain vision of how racism ought to be addressed, doesn't mean that you have to throw yourself at an impossible problem to satisfy the savior fantasies of white people. Believe your PoC friends here, believe your discomfort, and push back the guilt because it sure is not coming from a place that wants to help PoC. You don't need to make this kind, you don't need to make this constructive, you don't need to make this helpful for her: do what gives you the best closure, and leave it at that.
posted by Conspire at 5:13 PM on September 17, 2017 [22 favorites]


Which is to say: white people emphasize more with Becky than they do with you. That's why they want Becky to be given the benefit of the doubt, education, kindness, and closure, because that's how they'd want to be treated if they were in her situation - but she does not deserve any of those things, based upon the egregious ways she's acted towards you. On a systematic level, the whole system is set up to give white people the benefit of the doubt, kindness, education, and closure, and that's why PoC are pressured, by default, into feeling pressured into having to do that. Never believe that white people are not given enough benefit of the doubt, kindness, education, or closure on racism and that you deserve to give them more, because I guarantee you that over a lifetime, they have been given way more than they should have and that's what got them into their scenario of being racists in the first place. Just because she's used to people keeping silent and nice on her racism, babying her through it, and making excuses for her, does not it's suddenly unfair if you don't keep up that trend.
posted by Conspire at 5:32 PM on September 17, 2017 [23 favorites]


However, I talked to my POC friends about this and their response was "Sis, there's no need for it to be your responsibility to be her educator. She has Google like the rest of us."

This is true, but the flip side to this is while you don't have to, you can try to educate her if you want to. If you feel like it's worth a try, and this friendship is valuable enough to you, then go for it.

But you need to be prepared to fail, because from your description your friend sounds like a straight up bigot who is not given to introspection.

If you're going to try, make it personal. Make it about you, not about abstract, big-picture societal issues. Tell her about how her behaviour affects you, how it makes you feel, why you're upset. You don't have to make it a confrontation - you can write a letter or an email so you don't get flustered and so she can't storm off. If she doesn't read it, well, at least you tried.

I also don't think she will be able to fathom not calling me her best friend anymore.


That really isn't your problem. You have apparently been bending over backwards for her for years, and now you're at a breaking point. If she wants to keep you as a friend, it's her behaviour that needs to change.

Is it wrong for me to want to end a friendship over this?

It is not wrong at all. You've been incredibly patient and forgiving already. Your friend is behaving appallingly. You have cut her a tremendous amount of slack because she's an old friend, but that only goes so far. The world is a big place, and you can make new friends who aren't racist homophobes and who, critically, don't make you feel like shit for just existing.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:34 PM on September 17, 2017 [3 favorites]


Two additional thoughts: "Length" of friendship does not always equal "Depth" of friendship. Sometimes habit and time create a false narrative. Also, it is normal and ok to feel conflicted when someone brings both "good" and "bad" elements into your life at the same time. Those two elements can exist at once, even if they are opposites.

(Not my place to choose, but if you are taking random votes from the internet, I'm voting for backing out of the wedding and being clear on why. But be prepared for a drama queen to drama...)
posted by Vaike at 6:37 PM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


Is it wrong for me to want to end a friendship over this?

Others may and will disagree with me, but there is no friendship to end, because this person is not a friend of yours. You are a friend of hers, but she is not a friend of yours. Imagine if a stranger said any of these things to you, what your reaction would be.

Try to picture being in her wedding. Why would you do that to yourself?

Time and distance will help you see it.
posted by tzikeh at 6:48 PM on September 17, 2017 [6 favorites]


You've been more than kind to this woman who does not deserve your kindness. For all of those saying to give Becky one more chance, for the OP to sit down and have a final heart-to-heart: unlearning racism is brutal, unceasing, grueling work. It is reading and listening and unpacking and confronting and changing in huge ways and then doing all of those things again and again every day for the rest of your life. It is not a one-time, lightbulb moment. Becky doesn't want to do the work. For Becky to claim racism "isn't real today" is like jumping into a pool and saying you're not wet. Becky's not ready for Racism 101. She's not even enrolled. She's protesting outside the school.
Your PoC friends are right. Becky doesn't deserve one minute more of your time. Racism is claiming a friendship away from you, a friendship that, in a just world, you would have been able to keep.
posted by missmary6 at 8:13 PM on September 17, 2017 [8 favorites]


I agree with what some others have pointed out, she thinks of you as "her black friend", and definitely thinks of you as "one of the good ones", a "credit to your kind".

The other things things she says to you? I have no doubt she's editing herself. Which means that she knows some of the things she's saying are not... classy.

I'm another one of those PoC for whom the majority of my friend group skews white. I'd wager to say that some of my best friends are white. It sucks to know that no matter how much they say they'll be by your side, you can never be 100% certain. They literally don't have skin in the game. Even the ones that say the right things, believe the right things... who knows with them? I trust them, sure, but I also don't. Especially when so many white strangers are perfectly willing to say horrid things when they think I'm not one of x, because I'm one of the "good ones"...

Personally, on my end, I think the best, most compassionate thing you could do is to dropkick this entire notion of being the Maid of Honor. If you feel up to it, sure, confront her about her latest racism and bigotry. Or just flat out lie to her using plausible deniability. You're states away (true), you're having a difficult time (with her), and out of consideration to her you think it's better if she asked someone who could be better at this. Then subtly keep posting things/leaving things about fighting racism and bigotry where she can see it, but just keep backing away. Miss a few phone calls here and there. Don't call back. Let the friendship wither on the vine, if she doesn't pick up the hints you leave behind.

If she can't take the hint, if she doesn't care to listen, she doesn't deserve the gift of your presence.
posted by anem0ne at 10:03 PM on September 17, 2017 [6 favorites]


Do you have a white mutual friend who would want to take Becky aside for the kind of educating that's exhausting to you? An ally, in the specific sense that they'll speak in support of what you've said, respond in the moment when Becky says crap, and be first in line to listen and respond to the poison Becky may have to excise even in the best case scenario where she comes around and wants to do better. ... or whatever else you ask of them.

Even a white person who is not super antiracist, but who is sympathetic, might take this on if you invite them. But it's important they truly desire to do it and put the work in to learn to do it well without burdening you.

This might help you let go or get space, since you can refer Becky to this person. "They can Google it" is true. Googling is not as effective as a person-to-person connection. It sounds like you care about Becky and want to honor the friendship.

If you don't have friends like this, there are groups online dedicated to doing this education, which you could connect her with.

Maybe try a trial separation where you ask her to read or engage in these ideas, then try reconnecting at s set date.

I don't think you have to do any of this. You can also end the friendship (I agree it'd be helpful to let her know the reason).
posted by ramenopres at 7:15 AM on September 18, 2017


"it'd be helpful to let her know the reason"
Becky already knows the reason; that's why she went on her "agree with me that this problem doesn't exist" tirade in the first place. She sees it's a problem and she doesn't see how the friendship can endure in the face of it, and she's scared. She doesn't know how to talk about race, a problem she's managed successfully so far by pretending it doesn't exist ("look! we're tan twinsies!") You'd think she'd run away from a discussion of Jefferson Davis statues, but this is not Becky's way. Becky wants to control everything and argue every threat out of existence so that she keeps her friend.

I feel for Becky. I've Becky'd friends at least once or twice, though fortunately not with the racism component being a factor. In my 20s I lost a friend because I could see that the friend was growing away from me and I was growing away from the friend and I couldn't see how the friendship could change and still hold us both, and it was terrible, so I tried to keep it from happening. Nope. Not possible. Trying to make your friend stay 22 forever does not work. Now that we no longer live out our entire lives in the small towns we were born in, some friendships necessarily become less intensely close. It is simply the natural course of events, but you don't realize that in your twenties: you tend to think it's the end of the world, especially if making friends is not that easy for you. Losing a friend is terrible, so you try to stop it from happening and you sometimes end up pushing the person away.

In my youth I've both Becky'd and been Becky'd. It hasn't happened in quite a while, because the good news is that as people mature, they learn how to manage this stuff better and stop destroying fragile, changing friendships and instead let them change to new forms. Then you get the friends that you see every year on visits, and you still have your close, intimate friends because it is absolutely not true that you can't make deep, longlasting friendships later in life. And. The Becky'd can come back. The friend I drove off in my 20s has recently reached out and we're in touch again. Dropping Becky now does not mean forever. It doesn't mean you never speak to her again. It probably means a long, long time, though. It took my friend 20 years, and there was no racist tirade in our history.

If I could talk to Becky, I would say:

This friendship is just not currently possible, Becky. I don't need to tell you that; you know it already, hence your recent panicked sprayed-roach frenzies directed against your too-patient friend. I mean, look at it logically, Becky, even without the whole race component. I have one friend from high school that's still a friend, but not the way we were friends in high school. In high school my friend and I read VC Andrews novels. Are we going to do that, today? She's a lawyer. I'm an English teacher. We have put away childish things. The relationship had to change to survive. No, we weren't in each other's weddings because we grew up. She got married at the courthouse like an adult. So now we're sometimes activists together. Sometimes we watch Rachel Maddow and yell at the TV. Or sometimes we drink cocktails and listen to her 7th grade daughter play the saxophone.

The basis of a childhood friendship must change as the people in it change. If one friend changes to be better able to see evil and fight against it and the other friend changes from being unaware of evil to being willfully blind to evil, the friendship will fail because the friends have different goals; it's inevitable, Becky. Even if both friends are white and thus not directly targeted by the evil in question, as in my case with my friendship with Foghorn Leghorn, who featured in an earlier too-long comment I wrote that I advise you to examine, Becky, the long-term success of the friendship is unlikely, because a friend who wants to talk about how Nathan Bedford Forrest wasn't all that bad and the early Klan was somehow actually supposed to be an organization formed to help black people because mammermammermamer-oops!LookslikeIstoppedlisteningbecauseIwasgoingtothrowup is just not tolerable longterm to a friend who thinks the confederacy was a foul treasonous horror. Friends don't make friends have to excuse themselves to go puke every ten minutes, Becky.

And Becky, friendship failure is inevitable if the evil we're talking about is racism and it is targeting one of the friends and not the other, and that other is you and you are loudly arguing that the evil doesn't even exist. Becky, this is scary to realize, but you must realize it: you have made a multitude of serious missteps, the whole course of this relationship. You didn't do it on purpose and it doesn't make you an irredeemable person, but if you don't make amends, it will mean the end of this friendship is going to be a forever end. You can recover, but it's going to take work, and that work must be done by you. Tell your friend you're sorry and put this friendship on hold for the next at least five years while you figure all this out. Maybe you need to go back to school and take some classes. Maybe you just need to read extensively. You definitely need to talk to some new people. When you can stop pushing away the difference between the two of you and see and listen to and understand buttonedup so that you can legitimately be a real friend to buttonedup, drop her an e-mail. Meanwhile, find another maid of honor--or just go to the courthouse like a grown person.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:54 AM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


Just sharing my anecdata: I'm a mixed-race woman who has taken a break from my white woman friend of ~10 years. She's the closest I've had to a best friend for that period of my life. She has been a wonderful friend to me, really helped me through a dark period, but... particularly after the Trump election, we cannot have a real conversation about racism in Canada. We just cannot.

In fact, if she and I were reading this thread together, she would not notice how this observation:

white people emphasize more with Becky than they do with you. That's why they want Becky to be given the benefit of the doubt, education, kindness, and closure, because that's how they'd want to be treated if they were in her situation

... might have something to do with the fact that no one in this thread made mention of the gross racial inequality that:

She expects me to be in her wedding, for her to be in my future one (though I'm not planning on one any time soon), for me to *truly* name a child after her , and so on. (Why is it so abundantly obvious that there is no expectation whatsoever that she will similarly name her firstborn after you?)

Seriously, am I the only one who noticed that this grown-ass adult white woman expects her "best friend who is black" to name her firstborn child after her???? WTF?!?!?!? This totally triggers for me that a major reason I've taken a break from my "best" white woman friend is that she's been expecting me to put her name on the proposal for a project I've put 100% of the work into (she knows I'm not planning on having kids). Even though I've tried to talk to her about what a proper contributing role would look like (e.g. editing or something), she hasn't ever delivered on any of it. After over a year of me working on it and her being too busy, I asked her to take a step back from the project she hasn't actually contributed anything to... and she refused. Ummm, WTF? She insisted on having her name on the project, even though it's not her project that she's done any work on, and quite frankly, if I get this project off the ground during this year while we are on break, it will be for the best. It's not her project. I don't owe her my future success in payment for her friendship. If she feels that I owe her something in return for being my white best friend, that needs to be openly discussed -- not covertly collected. This is what exercising white privilege looks like in North American practice.

But back to your situation: you don't owe Becky a friendship that isn't working for you. You don't need to keep being her PoC friend through which she gains her education of racism in the world -- especially if it's having a toll on you. Practice your words for saying kindly that you need to step back from this friendship, and plan ahead the boundaries you will use for managing the repercussions (i.e. the potential turmoil you fear she will raise, which honestly, is a form of emotional abuse). Bite the bullet in letting her know sooner than later that you can't be her maid of honor; it can probably be the icebreaker for "I need to step back from this friendship, and I need you to respect that" (if there's an iota of a true friend in Becky, on some level she will respond to this kind of truth). I would be honest with her that racism is a real part of the stress you deal with, and you don't find her friendship to be supportive of you in that regard (if she's a remotely good person, she will hear the ring of truth in that, in light of her recent tirade to you). If the turmoil starts, casually ask what she plans on naming her firstborn child (don't be too surprised if her response settles any doubts you have in the value of following through on this) and then calmly re-affirm your boundary with confidence.

White people who don't want to believe that racism is real aren't much different than men who don't want to believe that sexism is real; their denial reveals they have more invested in the ongoing targeted violence than they do in stopping it. And white people aren't disabled from recognizing when their behavior is hurting PoC any more than men are disabled from recognizing when their behavior is hurting women. The reality is my Canadian white friend and your American white friend are more comfortable accessing what they gain through their denial of racism than what nominal ego-wounding they risk in acknowledging it. They aren't disabled or unable to recognize it; it's simply in their best interests not to. I did grieve and have some terrible guilt about taking a break from my white friend; however, the relief I felt after letting her go was undeniable, and I don't know if that will change by the time we are due to reconnect. YMMV. Good luck however you handle it!
posted by human ecologist at 9:56 PM on September 18, 2017 [9 favorites]


More evidence for the "No matter how 'good' they are to you, they're still gonna be privately racist" files.

Ditch this friend. She's probably saying much more horrid shit when you're not around. You cannot, plain and simply, trust them if they've even shown a whiff of bigotry.
posted by anem0ne at 10:33 AM on September 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Leaving aside, for a moment, the question of whether Becky is teachable or redeemable:

A friend is supposed to be a source of joy and warmth, but I don't get the sense that Becky is bringing much of that into your life these days. Rather, it sounds like at this point, she is mostly a source of stress and feelings of obligation. Even if unrepentant racism weren't part of the equation, that would be justification enough for walking away from this relationship.

So when you add in the racism, and the controlling behavior, and her refusal to hear and believe your account of your own experience of life, well-- honestly, it doesn't sound like there's a whole lot to salvage here. You and Becky have a shared history, and that's something that can be very important, but when it's the main thing holding an otherwise toxic relationship together, then it's basically just a sunk cost.

If you want to walk away, walk away, and walk with your head held high. The fact that she feels free to demand your time and energy does not mean that you owe them to her. Your first duty is to yourself and to your own truth, always.

Take care. I know this stuff is miserably hard.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:34 AM on September 22, 2017


However, I talked to my POC friends about this and their response was "Sis, there's no need for it to be your responsibility to be her educator. She has Google like the rest of us."

A): it's true you are not required to educate your friend, and should not undertake such a venture unless you really, truly want to take on that work, which will be frustrating and difficult sometimes.
B): She already uses Google. Google isn't going to help anyone who doesn't already know what to Google. To put it another way, there's nothing to prevent her from Googling stuff about race and clicking on a racist's website about race. The whole idea that someone who holds racist beliefs or opinions might, without any assistance, Google or otherwise conduct research and magically stumble upon, say, Ta-Nahisi Coates or James Baldwin is kind of strange. Imagine using that reasoning about any other topic where people strongly disagree with one another - say: whether vaccinations cause autism or humans cause climate change. Googling only helps is you have some means of filtering out the misinformation. Self-education is part of what brought us what Dave Chappelle calls "the tiki torch whites." Those guys self-educate.

If Becky is going to change, someone will have to educate her, but of course, there's no reason why it needs to be you.
posted by eustacescrubb at 12:49 PM on September 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


You feel terrible stopping your friendship (but want to) and feel like you should educate her (more). She may drive three states to help you out, but she won't listen when you tell her something is important. I get wanting to educate, but you have already bent over backwards trying and she isn't even willing to see racism that has been directed at your own family. Absolutely back out of being in her wedding party, and back off from being friends with her at all, unless you can get to a distant friendship where you both get something out of it and you don't have to tie yourself up in knots being with her. Not to mention having to hide who you really are from her. Life's too short to pretend to be straight.
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:19 PM on September 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


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