Growing Up And Growing Apart: Did Your White Friends Fall By The Wayside As You Got Older?

October 16, 2012  |  

Source: iStock

Except for children brought up in extremely bigoted households, most kids aren’t keenly aware of or remotely concerned with the color of the other kids on the playground. As long as you don’t steal their toys or you can kick, catch, and throw a ball of some sort, the rest usually doesn’t matter. But then we get older.

It’s so funny to me now when I think about the fact that my best friends for the first 13 years of my life were white. My next door neighbor from about the age of 5-10 or so was a Polish girl who was a grade older than me, and whose house I frequented faithfully. If the sun was out, I was at Allison’s house. Eventually I got to know practically all of her family and when her cousins came to visit they might as well have been mine too. When we were little girls there was little that could separate us from spending time with one another.

Being in different grade schools though, naturally Allison and I developed other friendships. Mine was another white girl named Tanya. In my catholic school there weren’t a significant number of black girls but Tanya was a part of the group of transplants that came to my school in second grade when their school closed. Among them was a black girl who has eventually come to be one of my life-long friends, but back then you couldn’t tell me much about anyone but Tanya. We both played volleyball and basketball (well, I was mostly on the bench) and were at each other’s houses nearly every other week, along with a few other white girls from the team. But then high school came. She went in one direction and I went in the other and a Facebook post or two in our twenties has been all the contact we’ve had since.

Ironically, I ended up at the same high school as my old pre-teen best friend Allison and throughout the entire four years we were in school we never spoke to each other once. I can’t even recall sharing a smile of recognition. Every time we’d across each other I remember thinking, does she not recognize me, but in the same token I never took the step to go up to her and ask, “hey, remember me?” It was clear by our teens we were already developing our individual personalities and, naturally, gravitating toward what felt familiar — not people who we’d known all our lives but people whose skin color suggested they might know a little something about what it’s like to live our lives.

And so my progression toward befriending people who looked like me began.

Aside from a few exceptions, like the white people I hung out with from my after school job — one of which was another white girl who became my really good friend for several years — my close circle came to consist of only black people, some of whom I went to grade school with. Everyone else was in some sort of qualified category like my friend from class or my friends at work.

By college, forget it. With so many more people to choose from, and a decent percentage of them being black, that was the lot from which my friends came. It wasn’t as though when I was a kid I was only friends with some of the white kids because of their close proximity, but I’m certain that did play into it some. The common interests are just what made the friendships stick. As I got older, I didn’t make a conscious choice to not befriend white people or to only seek out black folks either. It was just as I came into myself and learned more about social constructs and institutional racism, and experienced some of these things myself, I came to value relationships with individuals who could identify with those things. It also helped if they shared my love for rache’ music, could recommend a salon for me to get my hair done, understood why I wanted to write about black women, and knew what I meant by the Divine Nine — and the icebreakers they threw on weekends (heeeey!). Those things came to define my college experience and people who didn’t know anything about that fell by the wayside, which mostly included white friends and associates.

From time to time I randomly think about the fact that I don’t really have any close white friends anymore and reminisce on the juxtaposition from the time when white girls like Dawn, Heather, Amy, and Allison defined my world to sometimes feeling like a white person trying to prove she’s diverse when I mentally scan through my Rolodex of brown-faced friends and think, oh, wait, I do have one Asian friend. Does that count? But in all honesty, my white BFF-less experience is not something I feel bad about. Like with anything in life, things change as you get older and sometimes when you grow up, you grow apart. Losing some white friends along the way has just been apart of that experience for me thus far.

Have some of the white friends you had growing up naturally fallen by the wayside or do you still have a diverse group of friends? Do you find it difficult to befriend white people now that you’re older?

Brande Victorian is the news and operations editor for Follow her on twitter @Be_Vic.


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  • Merichel

    I have a friend who is White that I met in college. We still keep in contact, but we personally have never had a serious “race talk”. To be completely honest, we grew close from our similarities more than our differences. We both have slight racist tendencies (as do all humans), but not enough to argue or disagree on. I’ve thought about talking to her about it, but I don’t want to push into it. For now, our connection in college and our love for Jesus is good enough

  • IllyPhilly

    YES 🙁 but in my defense most of us were Army brats and/or deployed together to Iraq then got honorably discharged from the Army. We connect through FB though.

  • Anastasia

    I think its less to do with race and more to do with culture. My old school was predominantly black but my friends were black, white, asian- everything. It was mainly made up of working class people but when I moved to my new school which is predominantly white and made up of middle- upper class families I found I don’t really fit in because the way they do things and the things they do are just not what I’m into and its the same with all races there.

  • For me it was different. Being raised in the hood. I had my father at home, i wasnt taught to be loud or combative, and i took my education seriously. So that put me at odds with 99% of my school. I mean my skin was black but I couldn’t really relate to anyone. I was sort of friends wth the one or two white kids. But i always felt too black to fit in with them, and too white to fit in with the black kids. At that age you don’t really value being different, I just wanted to be liked by someone. As I got older I learned to accept myself, my circle of friends grew to be mostly hispanic,african, and white. Funny thing is, the way i was taught as a child, i could never turn my back on black people, even though i never really fit in with them

  • Tamz

    I’ve had the same best friends since 3rd grade and the same white very close friends since kindergarten. It’s not about race, sometimes career, kids, moving, people grow apart. However, when we all see one another, it’s like no time has passed.

  • KamJos

    I had “white” friends in high school that I still keep in touch with. (“White” in quotes because they identified as mostly Italian.) I thought things were going to be great in college but the Whites in college were different from the working class Italians I grew up with. I didn’t have any white friends all through college and I don’t have much now. Most of my friends are either immigrants, children of immigrants or Native American. There is only one White woman that I’m friends with in grad school and she grew up partially in Haiti.

    It’s interesting though, that the author felt the need to write an article about it. My roommate’s Mom asked us the same thing in college, “Do you have any White friends?” I don’t think Whites are writing articles about how they lost contact with their Black friends, and I don’t think White mothers are anxiously asking their children “Do you have any Black friends?”.

    • monitorette

      And so what if white people don’t ask? How can you be sure about that?
      And why have you felt the need to wrote down your own experience in the first paragraph?
      The sense of Community is inherent to all human beings, that’s a cultural thing, that is why this feeling starts blossoming in our pre teens years.

  • Monica

    I grew up in predominantly white neighborhoods, and went to predominantly white schools. When I went to Jr. High there were only a couple of black girls really talked to me, the rest thought that I was trying to be white because my friends from elementary were white and we still hung out. That lasted all through high school. I didn’t really get a lot of black friends until I went to college. Now that I’m in my mid 30’s I have a pretty mixed group of friends. I love my black friends a little more though (does that sound bad?) because they can identify with a few things that my non black friends can’t.

  • lola289

    Not really…prolly cuz she’s my escape sometimes. I love being able to be geek w/ her. I may not see as much since she got married and moved to the burbs, but when we hang its always a BLAST 🙂

    • lola289

      *a geek…
      *her as much

  • htpnksuga

    Strangely 2 years prior to today I was uncomfortable around my own but now its reversed. I feel almost like I need become more familiar again with talking to people of other races.

  • htpnksuga

    Yes. I was raised in a middle class black family. I lived in an all white suburb and went to an all white private preschool, grade school, middle school, high school and now college.All of my friends were different ethnicities but majority of the groups I was in were white girls. My best friend of 10 years was white. My other bff when I was younger was the other black girl at my school but her father was white and belonged to a respected family in our town. Sadly, after graduating several years ago from high school I am no longer friends with all but one of my h.s. friends including my white bff. My friends now are all black/african women which is interesting because I never had that. While my white friend was previously competent and always seemed to be understanding of my race. the difference is I had a stronger bond with my white friend because she was an amazing friend but I have a connection built in only 1 1/2 years with my new friends. There is more commonalities and a deeper understand. I felt at home and understood which I realized I never truly felt before.

  • Ms_Sunshine9898

    kinda though i was the only one who had that experience. . .

  • WellShoot

    I don’t think it has to do with race all the time, I think sometimes kids just naturally go in different directions based on the crowd they fit into. As adults I think many people become more conscious of race and racial differences and prefer to stick with what’s familiar. I don’t condemn white people for that any more than I would black people. It is what it is.

  • Guest360

    I can relate to this story but for me it wasn’t based on race. I’ve had best friends from every part of the world. I had a few hispanic besties, a mixed friend, black friend, a few indians and quite a few white friends. I’ve come to realize it’s not skin color or the notion of wanting to hang with people who look like you. Sometimes you just drift apart. Especially when one friend goes so far left you no longer have anything in common. Doesn’t make it bad or wrong, it just happens. The saying is definitely true. Some people come in your life for a season and a reason and I can definitely attest to that. Lord only knows where I would be if one of these seasonal friends were still in my life today. I’d be messed up lol.

  • I grew up in a white neighborhood and went to white schools. I’ve always had white, black, Asian, Hispanic friends, but as an adult, most of my friends are white. I really don’t have any close black friends. I did when I lived in Indiana, but when I moved back to my hometown in Grand Rapids, Mich., I’ve found I am lacking even one close black female friend. While I miss that aspect of my life, I do find that my struggles and triumphs are the same as my white friends.

  • earthy

    I can relate to this too. I would love to make friends with black women, but sadly a lot of black women aren’t so friendly and receptive to me. I still have a few white friends from high school and my best friend is puerto rican. I love them dearly, but they can’t relate to my experience as a black woman. I really miss that connection you can only have with another black woman.

    • SunshineBlossom

      Very true, same thing for say, being best friends with a guy, you may have a bunch of laughs and have a general understanding, but when it boils down to specific experiences, that is where the divide begins.

  • Machelle Kwan

    I’ve grown apart from people but that it had nothing to do with race. People change drastically by the time high school arrives. By the time I reached highschool, my bff was headed down a dark road and I was headed down the church road. I was attending band practice and choir practice, and she was attending house parties and engaging in adult activities. It’s sad. But it’s life.

  • Alexa

    Growing up my BFF was a white girl who was adopted by a black woman. We lived in the same apartment building and we were super tight. Also we went to the same grade school, junior high school and high school together, BUT the change came after grade school. Our JHS was a predominately white school and long story short I was left in the dust! Lol I think she wanted to desperately be apart of the white circle in school. She started stuffing her bra, wearing tight jeans, dyeing her hair, drinking, etc. And well I don’t think I was cool enough for her young fast butt. I quickly made friends amongst the black crowd and I fit in just fine. I totally felt more at ease and I didn’t have to prove anything to anybody. I blossomed into a beautiful young woman at my own pace and I still have a relationship with most of my black peeps from school including the two BFF’s I’ve acquired since JH.

  • Jonetta

    I can totally relate. I went to a white high school and all my friends were white but right when I got to college, we grew distant but I think it had to do with me getting so much comfort by the Black crowd at my college. It just felt so much easier to be around them. My circle has gotten less diverse as I’ve gotten older.

    • SunshineBlossom

      The story of my life! When I first began college I went to a predominantly white school and they were my best friends (the typical rich wasps). Sophomore year came and I started hanging out with my best friend from jr high who was black, and we started attending black events, divine nine parties, etc. One by one they alienated me, and one day the one white girl who I first talked to at the school ignored me and scoffed when I said hello. That was a wake up call for me that not everything is colorblind. Brande hit it right on the head about institutional racism. Unfortunately we really do drift to what we are more familiar with.

    • Africanpride

      Exactly. It’s not a matter of racism, it’s a matter of maturity, comfortability and who you can relate to the most. As you get older, you become more aware, more incline to certain things and you go with who you feel the most acceptance from. I had some friends in high school, both black and white but as I got older, we just didn’t click/connect the way we used to. I got wiser, I wanted a different direction for my life and you go with people who support, encourage, scold you the right way and help you be a better person. I have friends from different ethnic groups, and sometimes a good friend is a good friend doesn’t matter if you have different skin color. Great friends are hard to find, but when you find one that is intelligent, positive, enlightened, strong woman and you share the same skin color, understanding, struggles/challenges, happiness it just flows naturally.