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“I can’t be racist, I have a ______ friend.”

Earlier this week Love Isn’t Enough featured a post titled, “It does still matter if you’re black (or white) by a blogger named Jennifer (the post was originally published at Mixed Race America.)

Jennifer writes,

“A friend recently told me that many white students will say that they have an African American friend but most African American college students don’t claim to have any white friends (or friends of any other racial group). The disparity, a researcher noted, was that the white college students were counting, as friends, black students who sat next to them in the classroom or who lived in the dorm–people they chatted with and were friendly with. But the African American students counted as friendly only people they had significant ties to–whom they socialized with outside of a classroom or dorm environment.”

I did a little research into this, and found a WSJ article by Jonathan Kaufman from 2008, that I think was the genesis for the quote above. In this article, Kaufman writes,

Following a recent discussion in one of his classes about the campaign, in which most students expressed support for Sen. Obama, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, a Duke sociologist, asked his white students how many had a black friend on campus. All the white students raised their hands.

He then asked the black students how many of them had a white friend on campus. None of them raised their hands.

The more he probed, Mr. Bonilla-Silva says, the more he realized that the definition of friendship was different. The white students considered a black a “friend” if they played basketball with him or shared a class. “It was more of an acquaintance,” recalls Mr. Bonilla-Silva.

Black students, by contrast, defined a friend as someone they would invite to their home for dinner. By that measure, none of the students had friends from the opposite race. Mr. Bonilla-Silva says when white college students were asked in series of 1998 surveys about the five people with whom they interacted most on a daily basis, about 68% said none of them were black. When asked if they had invited a black person to lunch or dinner recently, about 68% said “no.” He says his own research and more recent studies show similar results.”

When people say racist crap, like recently when my local radio station KDWB played a song stereotyping Hmong people (Minnesota is home to one of the largest populations of Hmong in the U.S.) to the tune of “Tears in Heaven,” their response, when we complained to the station, was that “some of our Hmong listeners thought it was funny.”

The same old tired regurgitated twist on “I can’t be racist, my _______ friend thought it was okay.”

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