Dear Savvy Sister: Can I be friends with racist people?

Dear Savvy Sister,

I just returned from dinner with some friends. Somehow, the discussion turned from the latest news about our children to matters a bit more serious. My friends indicated that they are sick of the “race card” being played. They really seem to believe there is no racism in this country. “We have a black president,” they pointed out.” I objected to their generalizations and referred to a recent study showing that the resumes of people with ethnic sounding names were routinely passed over for job interviews. I got nowhere. One mom said she was pissed at paying full price for her daughter at Bucknell to subsidize the minority students. The other mom was upset that at her daughter’s fencing tournament, the black team claimed there was cheating when a teammate lost. I said that just sounds like poor sportsmanship.

Anyway, can I still be friends with these two women whose views I abhor? I want to be a tolerant person, but I don’t know if I can.



Dear #whitewomansdilemma,

Let’s start with some cold water to the face. Did you know that 45.8 percent of African American children under age 6 live in poverty? That means living on $22,314 or less for a family of four. Just to reiterate: nearly half of all young black children live in poverty. Abject poverty.

So. I have a friend who is very kind. If I called her right now and asked her to bring me a 10-week-old kitten by noon, she would be here by 11. I have introduced her to black people and she has been lovely and normal and fine. She knows my three brown children and seems to genuinely love them.

This friend also thinks President Obama is a closeted Muslim terrorist determined to impose Sharia law on America. Because ‘MURICA! Is it because she’s a racist? She would deny, under threat of losing a week’s worth of wine, that she’s a racist. And on a daily basis, she’s not a racist – she really is a kind person with lots to contribute to the community.

But she can’t see outside her bubble. As a result, her world views suck, and she’s a perfect example of how institutionalized racism has become, a fact not negated by having a black president. Remember, only slightly more than half of voters elected him. Much of the other half believes he was born in Kenya and therefore shouldn’t even legally be president. By contrast, Ted Cruz actually was born outside the U.S., and although many legal scholars believe he shouldn’t be eligible to run for president, nobody’s even talking about that. Because he’s not black. He’s Cuban, but he is a white Cuban, and people focus on the white part. Having a black president doesn’t disprove racism in the same way one set of sit-ups doesn’t develop your abs. Obama is just the first set of sit-ups. We have a long way to go if we want to build a six-pack.

Listen, I get your friend, or at least one of them. I’m not sure what the fencing tournament story was supposed to imply – all blacks are sore losers? Black people shouldn’t fence? You might have to break up with that woman in particular. But the other one – I’d hate writing that $63,000 check to Bucknell, too, especially if I knew other kids were being subsidized. No Donald Pliner shoes for your friend this season. And she probably ordered the house wine instead of the Mer De Soleil chardonnay, which would put me in a foul mood, too. But assuming you believe she’s, in general, a good person, I see some room here for fraternizing. You might even influence her perspectives, especially if you can maintain the courage of your convictions and refuse to be bullied into submission. You shouldn’t go on trips with her, nor should you attend events designed to support her antiquated point of view. Maybe she’ll be more of an acquaintance than a friend, someone with whom you occasionally share a laugh and a drink.

You are not the only one dealing with this dilemma. Have you heard of this guy Donald Trump? I know people who are voting for him, and it’s a testament to my extreme willpower that I haven’t killed them yet. Donald Trump is a mean, vile, narcissistic, asshole. Anyone who supports him is either also an asshole, or very ignorant. I choose to believe his supporters are mostly ignorant, albeit willfully ignorant and unwilling to face actual facts. Do I unfriend these people? (Not on Facebook; I mean in real life.) Some of them, yes. They will be relegated to receiving vapid pleasantries at Starbucks and school functions. Others will remain on my B list of friends – people with whom I talk about kids and carpools and the need for a speed bump on Oleander Road. And when they say inappropriate crap, I call them on it, educate them if they’re open to it, and if not, give them a courteous BYE, FELICIA, and rush home to watch Hardball with Chris Matthews.

Having said all that, you need to think about something. Since you have friends who have children in college, I assume you’re my age – a half-century old or so. Women like us need to hunker down and get serious about how we spend our time, and with whom we spend it; so you might need to cull your list of friends. Do you have a fair number of like-minded friends, women whose viewpoints are more progressive and tolerant? If so, hang out with them. And if not, obamaspend more time at home! Read! Volunteer! Be a mentor! I get the impression you’re wealthy, which isn’t a crime, unless you’re Kim Jong-un of North Korea. What a dick he is. Also, those Duck Dynasty people. But it would a waste of your intellect, resources, and good fortune if you didn’t use the fruits of your labor to improve your corner of the world, especially if eradicating racism is on your list of things to do. And I don’t mean doling out money – instead, give away your love, tolerance, perspective, and concern. Who knows? Maybe when your acquaintance stops writing checks to Bucknell, she’ll join you. And then you two can be friends again. Insert smiley face!!


the Savvy Sister

P.S. Don’t nobody bring me a kitten. I don’t want a kitten, y’all.




12 responses to Dear Savvy Sister: Can I be friends with racist people?

    • tricia says:

      Takes brilliance to know brilliance, Roxanne. WINK WINK!! And heart.

  1. Caroline says:

    Dear Savvy,
    Thank you for your thoughtful response, not to mention your brilliant writing. I will now set aside my tattered copy of “Dear Sugar” and wait for your next post.

    • tricia says:

      Caroline, I am FLABBERGASTED to be in your mind at the same time as the inimitable Cheryl Strayed. Thanks for making my day, dear woman!

  2. Robert says:

    What about all of the rich white kids who are also being subsidized in college? I’m not hearing complaints about them.
    Sadly, there are an enormous number of people who couldn’t tell you what a newspaper feels like, or what channel or time the news comes on TV. They are ignorant, and prefer to remain ignorant. They listen to what suits them. They only care about guns and bigotry. They couldn’t care less about abortion issues.
    Then we have the politicians who spout bullshit because it suits their purpose. I doubt that Trump is a true racist. Trump only cares about what’s good for Trump. He will hire anyone, regardless of race, religion or color, just so long as they help grow his bank account and increase his name recognition. But his vile-spewing feeds the aforementioned idiots, so he will continue to contribute to their ignorance.
    And yes, it’s infuriating to have a friend who, while generally a good, kind person, bases decisions on their discreet, denied bigotry.

    • tricia says:

      Yes. Purposeful ignorance can be infuriating. But with patience, we can lead by example. I’m counting on you, Robert!

  3. Eudora says:

    So….I just gotta ask, is snubbing intolerant people being intolerant?
    Yes, many many people are in the “low information” category and vote however someone tells them to vote. Lemmings….
    So, I’m assuming your views are more liberal and tolerant and that makes you better than the uber conservative saps who complain about the cost of a ridiculously expensive college? Or because, really now, aren’t all conservatives closet racists?
    If someone has different beliefs, politics or opinions from me, and I deem them lost in their bubble, am I being intolerant?
    HRC has her own share of completely flabbergasting lies. I cannot understand how so many can’t see her manipulations.
    BTW I can’t stand Trump either and agree with everything you said about him!

    • tricia says:

      Dear Eudora, I strongly suspect I will need to write a follow-up blog on this matter. No, I don’t believe all conservatives are racists. I purposely left out any mention of policy and politics, because of course I believe it’s possible to have conservative opinions and still be a good, moral person. But you absolutely cannot equate Hillary Clinton – who, despite what you may think of her points of view, has been a lifelong public servant and is a decent human being – with Donald Trump, who essentially has no points of view. He is a bad, bad, man. He just is. So don’t get your hackles up. I’m not better because I’m liberal. I’m not better, period. But I do take the time to educate myself on facts and history so I can make educated choices. And I bet you do, too. <3.

  4. Thomas Booker says:

    It is not easy. Not easy at all. Aside from Facebook, where I view postings from otherwise well educated people, and people from a very respectable skilled labor background, all of a post-literate mentality I hear or read the qualifier “…if that makes me a racist…”. That sort of does, but that expressed qualifier seems to excuse the subsequent torrent of inanity to precede or follow.

    Trying to counter the rabid political and social backlash against a black president, or a potential woman president, or an unapologetic socialist candidate is a near impossible task. How do you convince people to accept facts they do not want to hear, or history they do not want to read, or personal experience they do not want to accept. Fox news and The Blaze Channel are so much an easier source of comfortable delusion.

    Watching someone embrace a Trump candidacy is appalling, and paralyzing. But what does one do? What can one do? Organize “salons” where one-on-one exchanges of informed points of view can be exchanged in a cordial setting?

    • tricia says:

      All good questions. Sometimes, the best we can do is be kind, and hope it rubs off.

  5. Carol L Harris says:

    Thank you Tricia and Thomas,

    I appreciate your thoughtful responses. I think for me, living in Maryland, I have a better chance at encountering more liberal-minded people. I think, having lived in Florida for a number of years, that it is much harder there. It is difficult to feel comfortable expressing your views when you know stone walls & deaf ears are there. I agree being kind and hoping it rubs off is probably the best that can be done HopefullyTricia, you get the right kind of feedback from your Blog and the media. I believe one can get The Sunday New Your Times Editorial Page as well as The Washington Post Editorial Page online on Sundays. (Also watching MSNBC) I think you would find that encouraging and supportive. Best Wishes, Carol

    • tricia says:

      Good advice, Carol….you’re a Savvy Sister, too! Thanks for writing. xoxo

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