Saturday, May 4, 2013

Anonymous Asked: How Do I Deal With This Racist White Friend?

So some of you readers have discovered my Tumblr Ask Box is available for Anonymous questions. I don't respond to every single one if they don't ask a question specifically, but I do try to answer questions as much as possible. 

Today I got this question:
Hi, I hope I'm not bothering, but I need advice, in regards to writing and race, and I hope it's alright to ask! My white friend and I are trying to write a steampunk novel and she's failing so bad at race issues. She's the white liberal - racism is bad people doing bad things (but always redeemable once they ~understand~!), racism is caused by stupid people, always look forward never address the past grievances, interracial marriage solves everything! It's so frustrating. 
I’m afraid of correcting her because I don’t want to hurt her feelings, and afraid that she’ll see be as ‘one of those poc’ and hate me. I’ve tried to get her to read your steampunk blog (which I love and thank for its existence!), but she…weird about it. I know that at this point our friendship is suspect, but she is someone I love dearly and I can’t help it. And I’ve put so much effort into this project, I don’t want to give up now. Is it at the point where I should let her be, or is there something I can do to approach this topic? Thank you so much, sorry for the length. Have a good day!
It is an unfortunate state of affairs when you have to ask people on the Internet for advice on how to deal with racists on such an intimate basis.  We all know people like this. Hell, I've been that colorblind liberal! How does one deal with that kind of person? I don't have all the answers, not having all the details, so here's my general tack on the situation:

Firstly, you have my deepest sympathies. This is where it’s clear that it’s the people closest to you who cannot be trusted sometimes.
Secondly, you need to ask yourself if you really need her input on this novel, or if there is someone else you can collaborate with without so many issues.
Thirdly, if the answer is, yes you need her, you need to ask yourself what your boundaries are: what can you continue to tolerate from her? What WILL you continue to tolerate from her?
Then lay out your boundaries. Sit down with her and have a firm talk about it. Tell her to read my blog and stop being weird about it, or else it will damage your trust level and raise your anxieties about this project.
Because as much as you are afraid of hurting your feelings? It’s also really clear that she’s continuously hurting yours. If you keep letting this continue, it will irrevocably destroy your friendship because you will feel constantly fatigued at having to deal with her racism.
You need to be honest with her about the fact that her racism, which is getting to the point where it’s just flagrant ignorance and dismissal of POC perspectives and no longer microaggressive, is hurting you, and you don’t want this friendship to die.
You don’t have to give up on this project; in fact, it sounds to me that the final result will be a lot stronger and more powerful without her racism tainting its process.
If she flounces, you will know where you ever stood in her esteem.
Good luck! There are other folk out there willing to help you along if you need it.
If you were one of those colorblind liberals in recent times, what made you think differently about POC's struggle? If you're a POC who has one of these friends, what did you do, or would have done differently?