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I Asked 5 White Women What They've Learned From Having Friendships With Black Women

Can white women and black women really be friends in today's climate?

Human Interest

Racial tensions in America are unquestionably tense at this moment. It's literally a matter of cut off—a point where we are forced to make the decision to dismantle friendships for simply not agreeing with political party. But even during this clear societal line-in-the-sand era, I knew there had to be friendships that have stood the test of time, so I went on a hunt.

How many genuine black/white women friendships are there? And are those friendships ones that have sustained a true connection?

Well, to answer, you'd be surprised how difficult it was to find authentic black/white woman friendships based on the criteria set for this article. And with this criteria, my search became that much more difficult (feel free to email me if you want to know what the criteria was). Just know, we have a long way to go.

Eventually, I found some queens willing to discuss their journeys as they sat down with us and got candid about all things friendship. This is what I learned:

Charliegh DiMaggio

Charliegh (L) and Rachel (R)

Location: Chino, CA

Length of Friendship: 6 years

I met my best friend, Rachel, while in nursing school in Florida. We needed to carpool with someone and it took both of us a couple of weeks to start because we were both hesitant. But from the first ride, we've been soul sisters. Years of drinking wine, eating doughnuts, and being foodies together blossomed from these moments.

Rachel is literally one of the best people I know. She is kind and generous; would do anything for her family and friends. No matter the situation, she always has a smile on her face and makes everyone around her laugh. She's pushed me through some really tough times. We call ourselves Grey and Yang from Grey's Anatomy. No matter what, they're always there for each other and understand and respect each other’s differences.

My favorite thing about our friendship is just seeing Rachel grow so much. She's learned to love herself more. Pushed herself out of her comfort zone; exploring the unknown. I hope I have played a part in that.

I admittedly grew up in a racist household, so Rachel and I have definitely had many discussions on racism in the world today. Mostly about the different experiences she has had and some of the things that I have seen. It can really be tough at times to talk about, but necessary. The biggest lesson that I have learned is that we have to stand up for one another. Educate people who may be ignorant, show people how the world can be if we had less hate. Stand up for the people that we love and to cherish and respect those friendships that are true, and support other women in all situations.

Click to follow Charliegh and Rachel on Instagram!

Courtney Riley

Phoenix (L) and Courtney (R)

Location: Fort Collins, CO

Length of Friendship: 2 years

Phoenix and I met at an event for the non-profit organization, Big Green Foundation (co-founded by Kimbal Musk, Elon Musk's brother). We were immediately drawn to each other's personalities.

Phoenix is very open and honest, more than most people I know. We have a frankness and comfort with each other, which magnifies our friendship when it comes to advice and/or those times when either of us could use emotional support. We are both each other's cheerleaders. And, of course, we love to get together and go out for a glass of wine (she always dresses better than me).

I was really successful when I was in my 20's and early 30's. I'm at a period in my life where I feel I'm getting a bit burnt out now, but Phoenix—(laughs)—Phoenix is on the other end of the spectrum. She is highly-driven and successful, and it reminds me of when I was in her position. It inspires me to be better and to continue striving.

What have I learned most about my friendship with a limitless black woman? It doesn't matter what I say to her, nothing seems to bother her. She is unfazed, resilient, and just keeps going. She has a different perspective on race issues and has educated and made me more aware. It wasn't until recently that I noticed that she is more honest with me than anyone else I know—which makes me more aware of how much I lack that element in my other interactions with women.

Phoenix has raised the standards for what I look for in friendships with other women. Even the most successful women have ups and downs. This friendship has taught me to keep getting up even when you are knocked down.

Click to follow Courtney and Phoenix on Instagram!

Jessica Lovett

Raynita (L) and Jessica (R)

Location: Dallas, TX

Length of Friendship: 15 years

In high school, a mutual friend of ours asked me if I would give her friend a ride home. That friend was Raynita. One ride home for a stranger turned into a lifelong friendship.

Ray is my soul sister. She is outgoing, beautiful, smart and extremely loyal. Her confidence and positivity are electrifying but she is still one of the most humble people you will meet. She is the one person who I can completely be myself with. She understands how much I struggle with a positive self-reflection and she reminds me that we all have our insecurities but we can't let them define us.

We have lived in different states for 14 years (yes, we only lived in the same state for one year). I left California after graduating high school and Raynita stayed. Our entire friendship has been built around communicating and making time to see each other. We talk every day and are somehow always in sync, even though we are hundreds of miles apart.

I have witnessed my best friend go through life facing judgment from others just because she's a black woman. She talks openly with me about the racism she encounters. Something as simple as why she prefers going to a black doctor over a white doctor and how important it is to love the skin you're in; white people don't often have to think about these things. I see how strong the black community is and how different black families are from your "typical white family".

The most significant thing this friendship has taught me is that no matter how much I love and rely on my husband, that there is no one that can take the place of my experiences with her.

Keep up with Jessica & Raynita's adventures on Instagram @bestietalks!

Lucy Bishop

Lulu (L) and Lucy (R)​

Location: New York City but I'm Australian

Length of Friendship: 1 year

My LuLu is an absolute powerhouse. She is so smart, so kind, so beautiful. An incredibly hard worker, but also an excellent dance buddy—we both love The Queen, Beyoncé!

Anyway, Lulu and I really balance one another out and we have a lot in common, particularly the fact that we have both lived all over the world—both in our youth and as adults. We met at University. I was chatting with the director of our course and Lulu popped in to talk about a podcast. I mentioned how much I loved podcasts and the extensive listening schedule I have, and we have been friends ever since. It has been really great having a friend in NYC who thinks so similarly to you, especially as an international student in America. I think what I like most about her is how much she cares and takes an interest in everything. Lulu is always up for an adventure.

I learn things about the black community every day, but I try to find ways to educate myself so I'm not burdening my friends with questions. I listen to many black culture podcasts, like The Read and The Nod, and I read often.

Lulu is Zambian so I have been learning about Southern African culture. She is so open with discussing the differences of navigating life as a black woman in Namibia, vs Australia (she lived in Melbourne for a while), vs the U.S. We also discuss cultural appropriation, as I am well-aware that black culture is often stolen and commodified. So I always make it a point to check myself on all things that could potentially offend, and I want my friends to check me on it too.

Click to follow Lucy and LuLu on Instagram!

Kelly Henzlik

Kelly (L) and Shawna (R)

Location: Woodland Hills, CA

Length of Friendship: 9 years

Shawna and I met through my ex-boyfriend. She was the most dedicated, goal-oriented, Disney-loving, red velvet-obsessed, kindest, most honest, fun-having person that I had come across. We would shop for bathing suits, eat junk food together, go to Disneyland, dance the night away, and be with our family together. I was taught to push my other girlfriends to do the best they can, and continually lift them up when they are down. Just always be there for them like Shawna is for me.

As we got older, I had to learn to shift my perspective on how I interacted and learned from the Black community. What I learned from my friendship is that they often stand by each other, through thick and thin. Her and her friends and family are so admirably loyal to each other. She is teaching me to understand that institutionalized racism exists. And that is so easy to overlook because it's institutionalized. She wakes up every day with the mind state that she has to give 110%; no matter what she does because as a black woman, she knows society is already judging her. I've learned that she has to be conscious of her every move and that it has to be calculated to ensure that she defies preconceived stereotypes.

Ultimately, I know that this woman can do ANYTHING she puts her mind to. She has proven that to me over and over again throughout the years. There's no limit to her success in every aspect of her life. She is phenomenal.

Click to follow Kelly and Shawna on Instagram!

Featured image by Shutterstock.

Originally published November 5, 2019

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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