If you, like me, were born with translucent skin and some Euro-mesh heritage, then you’ve probably inadvertently been a jerk to your non-white friends. Learn from my mistakes and together we can do better. Here are seven things we can all do to be better friends and better people.
Literally, stop talking for a while. Do you remember the adage “you have two ears and one mouth so that you can listen twice as much as you speak”? That should be your motto. Nobody cares what you think of the representation of intersectionality on Orange Is the New Black. Your opinion of Neymar doesn’t matter.Your white-girl story has already been told a million different times in a million different ways. Let someone else tell her story. And listen when she does. Maybe you’ll learn something.
Don’t Exotify Your Friend
Your friend isn’t a tropical bird. She’s a person. She isn’t the sum of the languages she speaks (or doesn’t speak), the food she eats, or the music or sports she enjoys. Don’t assume she likes Romeo Santos just because she’s Caribbean. Don’t talk about her hair. Don’t ask if she’s tried skin bleaching or electrolysis or anything like that. She’s “beautiful”, she’s not “exotic”. Also, it isn’t cute to call her “mami” or “habibi” or her name in an accent.
Don’t Say That You Are (Insert Ethnicity Here) By Association
You weren’t. You aren’t. You never will be. Even if you (like me) hate the implications of your light skin, you cannot change who you are. Referring to yourself as black, Latina, or anything other than white is downright disrespectful. You don’t walk the world as anything but white, so you can never completely understand the nuances of being anything other than white. Ethnicity isn’t something you can put on or take off. And if you’re still putting on blackface, you need to read a completely different list.
Don’t Ask Hundreds Of Questions
A question here and there shows that you are interested to learn about your friend’s life and experience. Asking hundreds of questions is obnoxious and defeats the purpose of your good intention. There’s a reason she doesn’t continuously ask you what it’s like to be white. She knows that she would be objectifying you by continuously bringing up your race. If your friend wants you to know about her culture she’ll tell you on her terms in her time. If she doesn’t, she doesn’t.
Don’t Talk About Skin Tone
Don’t talk about how light or dark she is in comparison to you or other people of her ethnicity. Saying she’s “lightskin” or a “whitetina” or “black as night” gives her the right to punch you in the face. Plus, you don’t even know the half of what those terms mean.
Don’t Try To Speak A Language You Don’t Speak
If you genuinely have a firm grasp of the language her family speaks (if her family speaks another language) then maybe that’s okay. But if you took one semester of college Mandarin don’t pretend you can speak to her grandma. You can’t.
Show Her Love
Because she’s your friend and you love her. With all of who you are for all of who she is.