Group Chat is In The Know’s weekly advice column, where our editors respond to your questions about dating, friendships, family, social media and beyond. Have a question for the chat? Submit it here anonymously and we’ll do our best to reply.
Hi, Group Chat,
I am a person of color. I have a friend of the same race/ethnic background as me, who I’ve known for years. We met freshman year in high school, and although we’re not best friends, we’ve had a continuous, unbroken friendship that has weathered the ups and downs of life. We know each other’s families and husbands.
Recently, as the protests for George Floyd’s murder mobilized across the country, my friend’s husband (who is also a POC and rarely uses his social media account) started posting racist statements about the protests, and the people who attend protests. I happen to be a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and have attended several protests myself. I don’t expect every person to support or agree with BLM, but I draw the line when their disagreement becomes explicitly racist.
I tried debating my friend’s husband on social media, but it went nowhere fast — my friend’s husband does not believe he is being racist. Meanwhile, despite seeing and acknowledging my heated exchange with her husband online, my friend was sending a steady stream of sunny texts with random pleasantries as if her husband hadn’t just posted a racist meme.
Shocked by her husband’s stance, I stopped replying to my friend, and was struggling with whether I should confront her about her husband’s posts, or if I should just ignore them both. Not wanting to ghost a friendship, and not wanting to give racist views a free pass, I decided to tackle the problem head-on and sent her a long reply that tried to give her husband an out (“maybe he was unaware that his post was racist…?”). There was silence for about a week, and then my friend responded that she was offended and insulted by my text, and that her husband “is not racist.”
As we all know, there is a massive difference between being “not racist,” and anti-racist. My friend and I have not been in contact ever since. Did I do the right thing to confront her? Was it not my place to call out her husband’s racist post, since I am technically her friend, not his?
Sincerely, Facebook Fighter
Jamé Jackson, a proud Black woman who has had to side-eye many people this year for this particular reason, says… I will try to keep the many thoughts that circulated around my head condensed for the purposes of this column: You absolutely did the right thing. There has come a point (publicly) in America where we realize that there is only right and wrong when it comes to the preservation of human rights for all.
There is no conversation to be had about the legitimacy of if Black lives matter. When the phrase is used during this time, it is to bring awareness to the fact that there are still groups of people who try to, in one way or another, assert that Black life is not worth the same as its white counterpart. Unfortunately, those who try to assert that the BLM movement is anti-police, anti-white or anti-unison truly have not done their research.
Your friend’s husband’s ignorance is not one that can be swept under the rug, like a disagreement on condiments or office politics. It has the potential to spew hateful rhetoric and push others to do the same, as harmless as it wants to appear. If anything else, you made the right decision simply for your mental health and sanity. Continue to walk with conviction and to call out things that matter to you and that you see are not right. There are more than enough people on your side in this who are also fighting for real change.
Amissa Pitter, who often puts it bluntly, says… You weren’t wrong for confronting your friend and letting her know how you felt regarding her husband’s posts about the racial justice and police brutality protests. Her husband may not be your friend, but you’re still mutuals, and no one wants to despise their friend’s partner. I understand his posts have sparked tensions between you two, but you had to get how you felt off your chest. Sometimes, that’s the price we pay for speaking our minds.
Your friend may have been taken aback by the long reply. Maybe she would have preferred a phone call or a face-to-face conversation. Who knows, there could have been others reaching out to her that made her feel like she and her husband were being attacked, and she took it out on you. Her week-long silence is very telling on where she stands, though I can still imagine how difficult it may be when someone is ridiculing your partner and you have no control over their actions.
I say if the way the conversation left off is troubling you, and you want to clarify or peace it up, try suggesting a face-to-face discussion, whether in person or over FaceTime.
Kelsey Weekman, who is learning to live in a constant state of discomfort online, says… One of the most effective ways to combat racism is to confront the people in your own circles, which can suck because it’s super uncomfortable! Like so many other uncomfortable things, though, it is necessary. You did exactly the right thing, and unfortunately, the only action item I have for you is to let any hostility roll off of you. You are correct, and anyone who is being racist or defending racist behavior is fundamentally wrong.
It sucks to lose a friend, but the perpetuation of racist ideas is even worse. Plain and simple. It’s thoughtful of you to give your friend and her husband the benefit of the doubt, but when you gently reach out to them both publicly and privately and they aren’t willing to hear you, you have done all that you can do. Plus, in my opinion, you don’t need a friend who takes a full week to respond to your texts, anyway.
Justin Chan, who has zero tolerance for racist behavior, says… Short answer: Yes, you did do the right thing. There’s a big difference between not being racist and being anti-racist. Someone who claims to simply not be racist refuses to acknowledge the implicit biases they might have. Furthermore, they’re complicit with the overt racism that takes place around them. And all of that is a huge problem.
Now, more than ever, people need to be particularly mindful of how their biases can affect their interactions with others. Moreover, they need to work toward removing those prejudices. In other words, they need to be proactive in the fight against racism. It seems to me that you did exactly just that. Good for you. Hopefully, your friend and her husband will change for the better too.
TL;DR… One person is clearly in the wrong here, and it sure isn’t you. In this day and age, it is incredibly important to be vigilant about ignorance and nip it in the bud when you see it. Racism is truly an insidious disease and it will not be solved overnight or by one person. But, by calling it out when it manifests through those close to you (as opposed to, say, strangers on Twitter), you have an actual chance at being heard and at changing someone’s heart. And, if you damage the friendship along the way, then so be it — silence can no longer be afforded.
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