Dear Dr. Michelle:
I am a white woman who has several black female friends. Since the George Floyd murder and police brutality towards black and brown people, I’m feeling more and more alienated from my black friends and fear the divide is only growing. I am not sure if this is because I am white, or because I’m not doing something I should be? Or, maybe it’s all in my head. Whatever it is, I am very sad about it. What I can do to keep my friendships strong? I miss our connections and they mean a lot to me.
I commend you for asking a tough question and being willing to engage in some difficult conversations. If you have not already done so, start with a one-on-one conversation with each friend and share how you feel about the changes in your friendship. Be honest about your fears that race may be playing a part in the divide. Express that you are sad and that your desire is to maintain a close and strong friendship.
To repair the divide, go into the conversations with the understanding that your inquiry is about you changing, not them. Be prepared that your friends may not feel the same way you do.
Express Your True Feelings
Talk about your sensitivity to being white and your concerns that you may be doing something to push them away. Discuss with them if this is the case and be willing to listen to what they may say.
If your friends comment on certain actions you have taken, own your mistakes. We all have blind spots about color and race, and one of the best ways we can be supportive is by being aware, making the unconscious conscious, and making different decisions.
Once you express your true feelings the next step is to make your conversation about your friends’ feelings and needs and not about your feelings and needs.
Prioritize Your Friends' Feelings and Needs
Recognize there will be some experiences or issues they might not be comfortable sharing and avoid putting undo pressure on them to open-up. This does not mean you cannot have a meaningful and genuine relationship, just know there may be limits in what they are comfortable talking about, and there may be parts of your friends' lives that they won’t share with you. You need to respect their decision.
This is about you supporting your friends differently not about them showing up differently for you or trying to make you feel better.
In summary, talk openly and frank with your friends about your concerns, feelings, and hopes and be willing to engage in what could be difficult conversations. A true friend asks the right questions and listens to the answer and then takes appropriate action. Listen, listen, listen, and invite conversation.
Dear Dr. Michelle blog posts are informational in nature. The posts are not meant to take the place of consulting your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health providers regarding your well-being or the well-being of others. Submitting a question does not establish a client/therapist relationship.
Submit Your Question on mental health and/or family relations to Dr. Michelle K. Murray.