In his book Racism without Racists, author Eduardo Bonilla-Silva recounts a study that was really troubling to me. In this study, researchers interviewed two groups of white people: they asked the first group if they had any non-white friends. Most of the group said yes, then listed those non-white friends. They asked the other group to list friends, then asked them to identify how many of those friends were non-white. Nearly none of them named a person of color as a friend.
What’s more, when they began interrogating the nature of the relationships in the first group, it turned out that, as a rule, the persons of color white people listed as ‘friends’ were really more like acquaintances. They never hung out outside of work, couldn’t name spouses, kids, partners, hobbies, etc. Because they wanted to appear diverse, the white people in the study promoted acquaintances of color to ‘friend’ even though they weren’t actually friends.
There’s a gap here: we feel like we should have friends who don’t look like us, but we don’t.
So when we’re asked, we tend to promote acquaintances to the level of friendship. But it’s an appearance of a diverse friend group, not real diversity.
That study has been haunting me because it rings so true. White people, as a rule, we are not good at real diversity. Studies have shown that, as a rule, white people have fewer real friends not of our racial group than any other group. Friends of color here, you do much better at this – partly because you’re around white people all the time.
But regardless, none of us are as good at this as we should be. Over fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. observed that Sunday mornings are the most segregated hour in America, and that hasn’t changed much in the last half century. That’s not who we want to be as a church. As we covered last week, we want to be a place of authentic friendships, and we want those friendships to be diverse.