How to Talk to Your Black Friends, Family, and Coworkers
Updated: Jul 13, 2020
by Nick Bridwell, Co-Founder
Maybe the first step in learning how to be a better ally to the Black community is understanding how to talk to and about your African American friends, neighbors, and family. There are some things you should say and do, and some things shouldn't. In our first episode of Uncomfortable Conversations, "Black & White", So Sique and I go over the basics.
Nick: Some white people have never asked the questions, "How do I talk to and/or about Black people?" What's the answer to that?
Sique: If you're friends with a Black person talking about other Black people, "Black" is fine. African American is appropriate in more formal settings. POC is a term that is inclusive for social media.
Nick: What are some things you never call a Black person?
Sique: The "n word" is the obvious one. Never say that. Just don't.
Nick: What do you say to people who argue, "Black people say the "n word" to one another and in hip hop, film, and other pop culture all of the time. Why can't we say the word?"
Sique: Just don't. It's ours. That word was used to explain Black people when they hanged them in trees and lynched them. We've taken back the word. It's ours now.
Nick: What else should a white person never call a Black person?
Sique: We hate all of the Jim Crow era terms. Like, "Boy". Don't ever call anyone boy. You call someone the "n word" or "boy" and you'll get punched in the mouth or killed in certain places.
Nick: What do white people do that is offensive to Black people?
Sique: Don't call us "brotha". If you're friends, you can call a Black guy "brother", but not "brotha". That's ours, too. Another thing is trying to do a secret handshake every time you see a Black person. Just shake their hand like normal.
These are some basics about what to do and what not do do when interacting with your Black neighbors. To do a real deep dive, you need to sometimes start with the obvious basics.
Even if you're singing your favorite hip hop song, don't use the "n word". And don't pretend every Black person you meet is your BFF. No funky hand shakes or calling them "brotha".
We hope this helps.