Blacktress is watching her favorite Sunday night TV shows, (all of which she hopes to appear on one day) when suddenly it hits her, that not one of these shows has ever featured a blacktress in a major or recurring role. I hate America, she thinks. Ordinarily she might call Nirvana to complain about this. But just that morning the girls agreed to begin The 21 day No Complaining Challenge, recommended by Oprah.com. So she calls Iyanla instead.
“What do you expect? We have a lack of black friends problem in this country. Most of the TV writers are white. They don’t have many black friends, so they don’t know how to write black characters,” Iyanla explains.
“That’s ridiculous. They don’t have to write black characters or Latin or Asian characters, they just have to write good characters, that they’re willing to let anybody audition for.”
“Doesn’t solve the black friend problem. Cause the white people in the middle of the country, who also don’t have enough black friends, won’t watch the shows with people they think they can’t relate to.
Iyanla takes a pause to swallow a bite of her peanut butter and apple slice then goes on.
“So if you want to get on television, you little Black Panther, you need to do your part in solving the black friend problem by becoming one. Stop pouting and get some white friends.”
Blacktress is offended by Iyanla’s implication that she’s some kind of segregationist. That night she peruses her social media pages, emails, and cell phone. She makes a list. Early the next morning she meets Iyanla and Nirvana for coffee. She plops down at the outside table.
“Um, I don’t know what you’re talking about Iyanla. I’m doing my part, I have plenty of white friends. Booyow!”
Blacktress reveals her list of names in dramatic fashion. Iyanla barely scans it.
“These aren’t your fucking friends. These are some white people you know. People you went to school with or used to work with or did a play with. And who the fuck is Mr. Montana?”
“My high school drama teacher. We were close.”
“Get the fuck out of here. You don’t let them in the way you let us in. These are associates.” Iyanla says flatly.
“Friends, associates, tomato, tomato. It’s all the same,” Blacktress insists.
Nirvana who up until now has been silently sipping her herb tea, jumps in.
“No a friend is someone with whom you show your vulnerability. Someone with whom you expose the completeness of your humanity and vice versa.”
“Not according to Facebook but whatever, give me back my list,” Blacktress brays.
She crosses off the names of “white friends” she hasn’t seen or spoken to in the last five years. Next to go are the ones with whom she would never under any circumstances consider spending time alone. She hands Iyanla back the list.
“Okay look, I still have white friends.”
Iyanla shamelessly tears off a piece of her 800 calorie chocolate croissant and flings it in her mouth.
“Sorry, these are all cool white people, hippies or wiggers.”
“What?!?” Blacktress says, eyeing the croissant but sticking firmly to her new vegan status.
Blacktress feigns confusion but just then an image of her best white friend from college pops into her mind: A girl who went by the name C-Dog.
“None of these are real white, white people,” Iyanla insists.
Blacktress holds her tongue. I have to agree, she thinks. Blacktress can’t deny that the majority of her white friends have significantly more street cred than she does, generally hold a dislike for white people themselves and have a non-white significant other.
Iyanla goes on.
“If anything is going to change, Black people like us, need to make real white friends.”
“Real white friends?” Nirvana asks. “What does that mean?”
“I’m talking about with the kind of white people who use the word “awesome” to describe every fucking thing. Who ask to touch our hair and who have never seen Love Jones or The Five Heartbeats. Who think Reagan was a good president. Liberal hipsters who think they get a pass to practice “ironic racism.” White people who think it’s okay to use the N word if they’re only repeating it. White people who adopt a silly, little, ghetto accent when they’re trying to harmlessly joke around with black people, even the ones who went to Harvard. People from Connecticut. Real. Fucking. White people.”
“Honestly, they don’t sound like very much fun.”
Iyanla dusts the last of her croissant, then leans into Blacktress.
“Maybe not but they write for network television shows and if they don’t get you, they can’t write characters like you into their scripts.”
With every second that passes, Blacktress feels Dr. King’s dream slipping away.
“But I don’t think I can relate to them,” Blacktress says sincerely. “They scare me.”
Iyanla rolls her eyes.
“Me too. But if we can’t relate to them and they can’t relate to us, we’re at a real impasse aren’t we?”
It’s quiet as Nirvana takes both girls by the hand.
“Of course we can all relate because we are all connected by the one power that created us all. You should go out there and make some white friends, Blacktress. We fully support you.”
Blacktress gulps. She imagines another decade of TV with marginalized and poorly defined black characters and she knows she has a social responsibility to fully share her personality across the color lines.
“Okay Nirvana, but I’m out from the no complaining thing. I’m on a mission much much harder. I’m giving myself 21 days to make a genuine soul connection with a really, really, really white friend. Preferably one who didn’t even vote for Obama.”
Iyanla laughs. “Only 21 days?”
Blacktress Tip of the Week: We all have our prejudices and we should all work on them.