Losing My White Friends

May 5, 2011  |  

Up until third grade I went to a dream school. Sure, making friends presented a challenge the first couple of weeks; but eventually, I made my first friend, Dawn Washington.  Even though Dawn moved away later that year, it was smooth sailing from then on. Despite my introversion, by the time I was a third-grader I had friends of various races, was a Brownie in Troop 266 and of course excelled academically. Then at the beginning of my fourth grade year, my parents told my sister and I we would be transferring to another school.


I was already borderline socially awkward and the thought of having to start over at an entirely new school was not ok…to say the least. To add insult to injury we started this new school a week later than everybody else because my family was on vacation. I tried to put on the brave, cool girl front and in retrospect I realize my new classmates really did welcome me.

Only one thing was awry.

While I had a variety of friends at my old school, here the black girls and I just didn’t… gel. While I was dipping my feet into the creek and trying honeysuckle for the first time with the white girls; the black girls were on the black top singing TLC’s “Red Light Special”.  I’m not going to lie, “Red Light Special” was my jam too but I was not trying to spend my entire recess harmonizing to those raunchy lyrics. It’s just not what I was about as a fourth grader.

So I hung with the people I could relate to; and they were white girls. When we chose partners in class I was always with one of my white friends, when we had sleepovers I was the only black girl there, during Christmas we exchanged Beanie Babies and Bath and Body Work lotions. They were my friends.

Then I graduated into sixth grade.

New school but the same people I’d spent the last two years with, plus a few hundred new students from other schools in the township.  I remember thinking I was too grown because I had a locker now. I was excited about the thought of making the transition from being looked at as a child to being considered an adolescent.  I was so wrapped up in the thought of being grown I never considered that my friend circle would change… drastically.

It seemed like the second we crossed the threshold into that new building my white friends and I had nothing in common. Certain things and certain people were quickly labeled “ghetto” and the new friends I’d made didn’t mesh too well with my old ones. Increasingly our conversations got shorter, there was no more hanging out after school and our relationship was reduced to waving to each other in the hallway, if that.

Not that I was lonely. I had new friends to fill the void. Black friends… all black friends. I’ll always cherish the relationships I formed in middle school. I met two of my best friends in middle school; but I did notice the shift, and it bothered me.

For years I harbored resentment toward white people, even if I wasn’t fully aware of it.  During my freshman year of high school, it was my best friend that told me about myself. Turns out she didn’t have white people issues like I did; in fact, she was cool with white people. One of her friends, Shelley, ate lunch with us our freshman year. While I should have seen her willingness to eat with us as a testament to her coolness, I didn’t. All I saw was that she was white. Meaning I was fundamentally different from her and we could talk but we’d never be friends. After all, that’s what I’d learned from middle school.

I thought I was keeping my anti-Anglo sentiments to myself but my friend called me all the way out. She said I was constantly making “all white people do this” type of statements that were not only stereotypical and rude, they hurt Shelley’s feelings. And my friend’s words hurt me. It was one thing to [secretly] dislike white people but it was an entirely different thing to be rude. That was not who I was raised to be and it took me a minute before I realized she was telling the truth, that was who I had become.

I can’t say that I changed overnight but I did change. I saw it my senior year. I worked as an editor for my high school’s paper and I spent long hours with the newspaper kids. We were a mixture of black and white kids and we talked about everything under the sun. By the end of the year I realized these people had become my friends. We spoke to each other in the hallways, we made each other laugh and the true distinction between friend and associate…we hung out after school.

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  • 1991

    I will never forget the day my Hispanic friend, Lisa DeLeon, said to me, "If I didn't go to this school, I would hate all white people." It was a mostly white school and I was white. I had been friends with Lisa for YEARS and I never felt or thought about her the same way after that.

  • Matt

    As a white male who grew up in a small town in western North Carolina, I saw this happen also! Mostly with the females though. When we got to junior high there was basically 1 black girl who hung out with all the white kids/girls in our grade and the black girls didnt accept here and the black girls had their own lunch table during our lunch break and 2 white girls would sit with them b/c they dated black guys all through school. They were the only 2 white girls that the group of black girls accepeted and they would always shun anyone else who wasnt black and be very racist towards white people or the other black girl, it was crazy because I remember we were all friends in elementry school and then they just wanted nothing to do with anyone anymore who wasnt black.

  • Ava

    Although there are black girls and white girls that are true friends, they are friends as long as the white girl has the upper hand. Look at Khloe and her friend Malika. I am sure Khloe loves Malika but dont think that she actually likes black people or actually thinks black girls are on her level.

  • Shana

    I can kind of relate but from the other side. In elementary school I had a whole host of friends of different races. Somehow, when we all went to Jr High… everything started to reassort somehow. Nothing was ever intentionally done, but somehow the friendships drifted apart, and new friend groups that were much less mixed-race were put together. I don't know if anyone harboured resentment over it. I didn't, but I was sad to have lost some friends over what was apparently a difference in race that suddenly seemed to matter. But we stayed acquaintences, and life goes on, I suppose. So maybe the poster's old white friends feel the same way – sad that they lost her friendship! : )

  • WOW

    I can relate but on the flip side. AA kids teased me and called me all kinds of names cause I was Nigerian. Only the white kids were nice to me and asked about my heritage. I remember my 6th grade AA Language Arts comforting me when I was crying after a particular bad recess . She said something that has stuck with me even now "Don't worry about them, they are only mad cause they are not special, ask anyone of them for their history beyond their parents and they can't tell you." I was shocked because I felt she was talking about "her own" til this day (12 years later) I don't get it but it sure made me stop crying.

  • Beanie Baby

    She should have disliked her ridiculously irresponsible parents who had her start one week late at a new school.

  • Guestation


  • babydeejordan

    I think in life after leaving middle school we start to pick those that best relate to ourselves. For whatever the reason the races start to group up. Blacks have a tendency to unite as many play sports, etc. whereby whites move more towards academics…not all but some. It's kinda like the men and womwn in prison…on'ce they go in they pick sides mostly based on race because they want to make sure someone like them has their back. In high school kids can be cruel and if you seem to go against the grain if you hang with others not like you they start to tease, pick fights whatever. Now if you go to a predominately white school or predominately black school who you hang out with is already pretty much decided. I am black with a few white friends but more blacks friends because we have more in common. I enjoy my white friends but sometimes they can get kinda corny or like the writer I become the token black. I get sick of being the token black but I don't think white people feel comfortable being around too many blacks but blacks must become comfortable with whites because we are so outnumbered!

  • Blkqwny

    Thanks for keeping real Sylence I'm loving it!

  • Blkqwny

    Victoria I can definitely respect your perspectives and opinion, but some of us as children kind of just hang out with whom we mesh with and ones culture isn't an issue. Kids come innocent, and society began to teach them the sins of the world. I hear Ms. Wells, the author of this article stating that she just got along with children whom happened to be White. Another thing it is time that many Blacks own up to their own hatred of people who are not like them and stop keeping our own mess hidden under the carpet while we scream about injustices of others. Now that's just keeping it real.

  • Blkqwn7

    Ms. Wells I like the article and appreciate your honesty, that I can tell. I grew up kind of backwards from you. I was raised by parents who smile in white folks faces and to this day have "White people issues." I listened to my father say things like, 'there is no good white man, but a dead one.' My mother would have problems on the jobs, due to lack of education, and not adapting to the changes that required an education and she blamed White people for her own problems. I also grew up around White people all the time, starting with daycare, but I attended all Black schools, that is up until the 6th grade and then the public school sector started the busing system. I had a mix of experiences. Being a well behaved child we just could not fight and we didn't. However, for the first time I was teased and picked on by little White girls. Oddly, it wasn't racially connotated but had to do with girl stuff. I had little White boys that fell in love with me, but then I didn't know it because I wasn't into boys at all, I just knew we got along and I liked them. Just like you though today I have issues and I question where they all come from.

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  • Brittanii

    I absolutely love this. I was born and raised in southern california and I went through the same thing. The only difference is that I had more resentment towards other black students in school for not accepting me. My white, and hispanic friends could care less what i wore or how much money I had, but the black students did for some reason. Now that I am an adult, I have friends of all races whom I love very dearly, and count all my high school trials as experience. Thank you for this article, I really enjoyed it.

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  • ItsJust4Decoration

    Yes the message is clear. The ending is a little foggy like it seems like there was more to say. But I definitely get it. It wasn't that you ditched your white friends or they ditched you, they were just lost when you went to middle school for various reasons. I liked the comment of the one girl that said she could relate and also the one who's comment ended in "you live and you learn". You don't hate white people but you just saw the dynamic drastically change. You could have talked about how most children are color blind and don't notice some of the subtle differences, but then you become older and you become more knowledgeable. You start to notice the differences, some you can get over and some you can't. This is real life…

  • Dare to Dream

    I think what the author left out (accidentally or purposefully) is that her white friends ditched her. It makes no sense otherwise. It seems that she wanted to remain friends with the friends she made in fourth grade, but they didn't want to remain friends with her. So she was hurt and became resentful. That is what happens when people you care about unexpectedly hurt your feelings. Life. The problem was she probably just missed the signs that those "friends" weren't very good friends. Good friends, regardless of race or when you meet in life, would never ditch you. The good part is that the author finally realized that, despite what her "friends" did, all white people aren't the same. People are people – some are good and some are not so good. You live and you learn.

    • guest

      that's a huge jump to conclusion! where did she say who ditched who?

  • SuperChick

    Strangely, I can actually really relate to this article. I think I've been the "token black girl" in all of my classes up until college. I took honors courses, enjoyed Girl Scouts, sports, and a slew of other activities. It wasn't until high school when I realized "where are all the other black people". aaah I remember now…

    In kindergarten, my mother pulled me out of the predominately black elementary school. Why? I was failing my classes because I couldn't stand to be there. Cried everyday, from the time I got on the bus to the time I got home. The BLACK kids were RACIST. Now tell me, how a black child has the nerve to call another child names based off of skin SHADE. Really? (intro to issues our folks have with dark skin versus light skin). I eventually grew out of my bitter phase (grow up get over it), but i found myself shying away from friendships with my sistas and brothas. College really helped repair all of that eventually.

    But I can relate. I didn't ditch my white friends though.

    • Daughter of Christ

      Dear Sigh,

      Now you are part of Gods family where we are all truly sisters and brothers in Christ, regardless of color. I would rather be with my faith family than anyone else of my race or any race or nationality. I pray you find the friends our Lord is preparing for you.

  • People Choice

    this is a dumb article..so what you’re racist now??..Me and my girl going on vacation…Travelocity giving away $1000 Giftcards for anywhere in US..just for giving them your email..haha..My whole fam got 1 http://goo.gl/8IQWl

  • lala

    so i dont get it, why exactly did you start hating white people, you were cool with them before right? so what happened?

    • ItsJust4Decoration

      i don't think she hated white people, so just didn't have the commonality that she used to have with them. There was probably some resentment in there too. When you see your white friends saying something is "ghetto" because they are unfamiliar with it, it kind of stings