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Navigating Interracial Friendships through Racial Conflict


Friendships can be tricky business, even when the individuals involved come from similar backgrounds and have congruent interests. Add to that the tension that can arise when an issue of race rears its head in the middle of an interracial friendship, and if not handled properly, you could have the end of a bond on your hands.

 Whether you’re debating about President Obama and The Tea Party or talking about the behaviors of other cultures, issues of race are bound to come up in interracial friendships. How you handle (or avoid) this particular brand of conflict could make or break your friendship. Here are some tips to help soothe your relationship without losing a dear friend.

Be Honest

When it comes to racial tension in a friendship, silence is not golden. It’s your worst enemy.  While working out with my close non black friend and our personal trainer who happens to be black, my friend hinted that she was uncomfortable with the way we discussed race during our training sessions. So I asked her for an example of a time when we discussed race and the way we spoke made her uncomfortable. She said it was not anything specific that was said but race was a constant topic.

Her willingness to disclose her feelings about our interactions led to a very lengthy and insightful discussion about race and the impact it has in the lives of people of color. For me, I learned that I needed to be more sensitive to her feelings. She learned that for people of color, race is an issue that can’t be ignored and must be discussed.

 Be Open

Friends who come from a different background can bring with them values, experiences, and insights that are different from your own. Even though the cultural differences can bring tension at times, they also provide the opportunity to learn and share novel ideas and experiences. But the only way to reap the unique benefits of interracial friendships is to be open to situations and dialogue that may make you uncomfortable.

Be Tactful

When it comes to race it’s easy to give into the temptation to start seeing red and fly off the handle. But a difference of opinion, whether small or glaring, is not a excuse to lose all decorum, unload your thoughts and feelings on your friend and let the chips fall where they may. Despite how your inner child may feel, you still need to be respectful and potentially willing to agree to disagree.

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