What’s the Makeup of Your Friend Circle?
Who Are Your Friends? In thinking about this question, I am sure your mind invoked images of your besties and others who are in your inner circle. So, what type of people are they? Are their cultural backgrounds similar to yours; are they from another country; do they have the same religious beliefs as you; do they belong to the same political party or club; are they in the same line of work as you, or do they play the same sports? It’s natural to be friends with people who reflect our similar ideals. However, it is much better if our friends are different types of people as we would get the benefit of a broad range of perspectives and share in the flavor of their lives—so let’s cast our nets wide.
Forming relationships with others unlike ourselves is one solution to the racial divide. Some of you may be hesitant in getting close to your co-worker because s/he is not of the same race or background. Others would straight out admit that they do not want to know anything about anyone…just to do their jobs and go home. There are many things we can learn from each other, but all we see are the differences. I have had conversations with my white coworkers and was pleasantly surprised to discover something about them that I would have never guessed occurred in their world as it had in mine. You may even know two people of a different race who would seem to be polar opposites but their personalities, gesticulations, antics, and other behavior traits mimic that of each other. In her poem, Human Family, Maya Angelou wrote, “I note the obvious differences in the human family…We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”
If you are in a romantic relationship with a person of another ethnic group, you obviously didn’t let any preconceived notions or skin color deter you. You also get the opportunity to see up close and personal what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes. When I go to the cleaners, I greet the Spanish speaking guys, “Buenos días.” If they only respond with a sentence in Spanish, I am stumped! I count the number of my clothing items in Spanish and joke with them about teaching me more. You probably have your own stories of these types of connections, which can offer a great opening for a richer conversation.
While I have acquaintances of different races, we are not close. As I write this note, I wonder how do I get closer to them? It can begin with regular chats, lunch dates, or other connections. You can attempt this as well. Sure, it would not be easy or comfortable at first, and not everyone will turn into a bestie, but it’s an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and see what treasures you find. Having a broad and more racially diverse circle of friends would help us gain a better understanding of each other and bridge the racial divide. We all should take a page from the younger generation who embrace cultural differences and cultivate diverse friendships.