How would you react if your squad – predominantly non-POC – constantly put you down for being #melaninpoppin?
Exactly. Wouldn’t even happen. Because, for one, what the heck would you be doing rolling with people who belittled you in the first place, right? You’ve got more self-respect than that. Anyone with an ounce of dignity would surround themselves with uplifting friends.
While most would, at the very least, ditch these oppressive bullies disguised a “friends,” there was one friend of mine who loved running straight into the lion’s den. He was a dark-skinned man – an Indian-American with a midnight-esque complexion that was much duskier than the typical phenotype of his ethnic group. And even darker than most Black Americans.
I was invited to hang out with him and his “friends” (I use that term so loosely, ‘cuz you don’t even know) – mostly Italian and Irish men, one was Hispanic — but in a sea of pale and creamy skin tones, he was rather conspicuous.
Highly observant as a newcomer to the group, the dynamic I witnessed was tragic. This man was being high-key abused and he did nothing – not a damn thing – as his “friends” verbally drug him through the mud for his obsidian skin:
“Well, no one would see you in the dark anyway, you’d blend right in,” one said.
“Stop lying about being Asian. You’re Black!” another taunted.
“Of course you’re good at soccer. Black people are good at that sh**,” one teased.
It was like watching someone kiss racist-Twitter-troll butt all day — sickening!
Later, he told me that on a drunken night out, one of these fools called him the n-word.
“What?!” I screeched. “Are you dumb? Why do you hang out with these imbeciles?”
He seemed to shrug it off. He didn’t want to be the “butt-hurt” man of color who “can’t take a joke.” He wanted his white friends to like him. And they did, I guess, in the same way that a gym rat likes his punching bag because it’s an inanimate object that takes blows and doesn’t fight back.
“Pathetic!” I said to myself.
But it got worse.
At first, when I heard that my friend was vying for the affections of a blonde, blue-eyed beauty in his social circle, my heart was aflutter – he looked like a heart-eye emoji whenever he spoke about her. But the warm feelings I felt froze over when I observed the tragic dynamic between the two.
Think of Urkel and Laura – you know, that you-can-treat-me-like-the-scum-of-the-earth-but-I-will-still-want-you type of love — but there’s no TV script and no one’s laughing.
My friend would travel three hours to visit her from New York City to the depths of Long Island if she ever needed him, but when he wanted her company – just a call – she disappeared.
He would buy lavish gifts and splurge his whole paycheck for her, but she wouldn’t even mutter a “thank you” in his direction.
She would ignorantly tell him that though he was different from “his kind” and that he was one of the “good ones,” she would never be with someone “like him” – all while basking in his adulation, praise, and fawning.
There must be something deeply wrong with him. There had to be. No one in their right mind would put someone who mistreated them on such a heavenly-high pedestal, and no one with a modicum of sense would want to be around “friends” who constantly ridiculed them.
Falling into a deep depression, he later revealed his true intentions behind his pursuit of white approval:
His pathetic cloying for his crass white “friends” was further decoded when he added:
“I felt that if I could get her, this pretty white woman, I could finally win their respect. People would finally see me as someone who is desirable. They would stop tearing me down and no longer call me the ‘n word.’”
“No offense,” he continued, “but I am not Black and I just don’t like to be called what I’m not.” I wasn’t offended at all, but something tells me that he would have loved to be called “what he’s not” if he were mistaken as Caucasian, you know what I mean?
Now that the underlying cause of his social masochism was revealed, I wanted to smack him for his faulty logic. “You’ll just be the ‘n-word’ with a pretty white woman. You’ll still get no respect from them. The only way to gain respect is to surround yourself around people who actually respect you,” I told him.
It went in one ear and out the other.
Still fantasizing about a fairytale ending where he rides off into the sunset with Cinderella as his white friends bow down before him, I my friend out of my life. Having friends with no self-respect is just as toxic as having disrespectful ones, don’t you think?
Kimberly Gedeon, founder of The Melody of Melanin, is a content creator with nearly 2,000 professional articles published online about everything from beauty and business to politics and pop culture. You can say hello to her on Instagram or Twitter – she doesn’t bite!