Some of my best friends: Writings on Interracial Friendships (Emily Bernard, Ed.)

Bi-bim-bap—Jee Kim

—...it's not about being as white as possible.
—Ah-goo, Jee-Yong, always the white thing. So much hate.
—Not hate, love. Love of who we are, my friends, our neighborhood. And hate of how this country tells us to hate ourselves, being Korean, each other. So we can be more white. 31

Battlefields—Luis Rodriguez

This was, as Malcolm X stated, "the hate that hate produced."

But while hate can awaken you, keep you alive, and prevent you from succumbing to a crushingly numb silence, it can also fuck you up.

Years later, I recall a group of African Americans and Chicanos hitting hard on some white people during a conference. But their rage was largely cerebral. I got up and said, "You hate white people so much—you don't know what hate is. If I could get a gun and kill every white person, I would. If I could find a way to obliterate their conquests, their colonial domination, the imposed authority and lies—I would. There just ain't enough bullets in the world to deal with my rage."

It's a rage that I had to turn into something else or be poisoned by it for the rest of my life, which didn't mean I was turning to superficial love and tolerance—until my dying breath I will never tolerate racism, poverty, injustice, and the Euro-centered capitalist, material-based value system we live under. It meant looking at the roots and foundations of racism and learning how to eradicate that vs. just hating people. 76-77

When we were friends: A geography lesson — Bill Ayers

We shared an apartment with other organizers, all of us young, idealistic, and filled with the spirit of the civil rights movement in full eruption—when we were friends, I took miracles to be my birthright. Those were the days of wonder, the years of hope. Justice was in reach, I thought, and racism would soon be swept away—a revolution in consciousness, if not in fact, was just beyond the horizon. I felt blessed—sanctified—to be living in this time, of all times, to be present at the awakening: That year I became a volunteer that would take on the American monster, end the American nightmare, and at long last heal the American wound. 97

I thought about the ways defying racism—in the world, in relationships—can in a weird way become just another instance of patronization, exotic tourism, self-justification. I thought about all the uninterrogated superiority and smugness that is the baggage and birthright of liberal whites.

But then, as I began to remember Alex, anecdotes and examples of a momentary intimacy, I felt it might be possible that with hard work and a little luck, these some-of-my-best-friends stories might add—implicitly or explicitly—something more: a bit of the history that informs—or deforms—even the most intimate details of our personal lives in America; the power of race as it flows through the prism of the everyday; the complicated dance of individual choice with socially determined structure; the problem of being free and fated, fated and free. What happens when the inescapable indictment of being black in America collides with the easy justification of whiteness? How does one walled existence break through to a part of another, and shake hands? How could friendship develop against that brick wall of reality, or why wouldn't it? 99

In my heart is a darkness -- Michelle Cliff

I have not failed to be disappointed (with very few exceptions) in my relationships with white people—American and European. Very few of my best friends are white. I learned at an early age to protect myself. 119

For me, friendship is the most precious bond between two individuals. The basis of this bond is trust. Nothing can destroy the trust I place in another human being more than my realization that the racism he or she has imbibed through his or her place in society as a white citizen is very much alive and well; with this, trust is irrevocably breached. This has happened in my life too many times to recount, and so I approach friendship with a white person with more than a dash of skepticism. 124-125

Gringo reservations — Sandra Guzman

People of color often pretend that the assumptions white people make do not sting; we ignore them or reign invincibility. It is our way of pushing the pain away and moving forward: It is our way of surviving. But the wounds of these assumptions and obvious slights fester and hurt. 174-175

I am a descendant of slaves; I am a survivor of colonization. In my private and most vulnerable spaces, I will protect myself from those who have hurt me. Is it fair to label all white people the same? To ask the descendants of colonizers and slaveholders to pay for atrocities they played no part in? To hold strangers accountable for the racist childhood and teenage experiences I endured? Absolutely not. Truth is, deep down, I am open. I am, like the great philosopher Cornel West, a prisoner of hope in matters of race. My heart is not closed to having a gringo friend. However, as my mother would say, these friendships will happen only under certain conditions. I must be met halfway. I am willing to acknowledge my biases and help destroy them. My potential gringo or gringa friends must be willing to recognize theirs, as well. They will have to drop the superiority complex, recognize me as an equal, understand how white privilege and power have wreaked havoc in the world generally, and have given them a skewed sense of reality, specifically. This Americana or Americano will have to be willing to challenge myths, tear down walls, and then, side by side with me, build sturdy, honest bonds. The kind of gringo friend that I am open to has to be willing to see the world as I see it, with Afro- and Latinogenic eyes. Until then, I am perfectly happy that my inner circle is a tight rainbow of glorious blacks, beiges, and browns. 176-177

Maya del Valle

The color of my skin still marks me as an alien in the country of my birth.

Paisley Rekdal

In this Julie is right---if there weren't easily recognizable rules for being Asian, Trecia and I would invent them as we went along. Because being Asian in America is a fact that does and does not exist. It disappears from view when scrutinized directly, like certain stars or planets at night, only to resurface in unexplainable tastes or angers or prejudices that roll in on tidal shifts, the irregular tug of the moon. We need stories, unquestionable paradigms for behavior and history when everything else about us---our appearance, our language, our preferences---is in question. It is our own kind of defense. Growing up, we have always been aware of an audience that is prepared to define us. We know how these imposed definitions can cover us up, obliterate us. Like my mother's story or the Tasaday hoax, Trecia's draconian racial definitions, I understand, are at least hers. 176