A Cheat Sheet Of Things You Should Not Do Or Say To Your Black Friends

·4 min read

If you’re not aware, Juneteenth is around the corner. It is the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were freed over two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Recently acknowledged as a federal holiday, people are already trying to celebrate the day in ways that are awkward and quite weird. With companies doing a host of obnoxious activities that don’t really move the needle, I think creating a quick cheat sheet of things you shouldn’t do or say to your Black friends for the holiday is necessary.

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1.“You know, I completed my ancestry report, and I am 2.5% Nigerian.”

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The quick and dirty answer, as a Black man, I don’t care. And what exactly am I supposed to do with that little piece of information. I mean, good for you, but that doesn’t make us any closer.

2.Don’t attempt to cook a “soul food” dish as a way to connect.

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Fried chicken, potato salad, and collard greens are a few staples within the Black community. Food, and the way we prepare it, are a part of our heritage. You are welcome to cook and eat anything you like, but don’t use our deep-rooted history with food as a way to connect. It’s pandering to stereotypes because as much as certain things are staples within the Black community, we are not all the same as a people.

3.Why are you breaking out in random trendy dances?

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Hitting the griddy or doing the nae nae at random is weird. I don’t even have a full explanation for this, as it’s confusing why one would think, “Oh, a Black person. Let’s dance.” If you do this, I will likely just walk away, leaving you to your own devices.

4.Our hair doesn’t grow the same, so don’t even bother.

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As more and more Black people lean into natural and protective styles, there seems to be some infatuation with our hair. For one, please do not ask or make any attempt to touch it. Also, most of us are never in the mood to explain the textural differences between our hair and other races/ethnicities. If you just want to know, wait until next month; maybe we will have the energy for the conversation.

5.Haphazardly using Black movie/music references as an attempt to be relevant will fail every time.

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So you just watched Coming to America, and you believed it was funny, huh? Great. I think it’s funny, too, but randomly quoting lines from the movie without proper context is weird. This goes for music, too. Don’t burst out the lyrics to Tevin Campbell’s “Can We Talk” while in the breakroom. You and your corporate karaoke can go!

6.Black History is American history, but we don’t need to hear random facts.

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Are you wondering if I know some obscure historical fact about a historical Black-figure? The answer just might be yes. However, starting a conversation with, “Hey! Did you know Martin Luther King, Jr. improvised most of his 'I Have A Dream Speech?'" Yes, I know that, and just like with the random dances, I am about to walk away.

7.We don’t need or want your awkward apology for slavery on behalf of your ancestors.

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Do you know what would be nice? Actual acknowledgment and action from the government concerning the systemic barriers that have affected Black people since slavery would be marvelous! However, apologizing for your great, great, great grandfather’s poor behavior isn’t the move.

8.Please don’t tell me how many Black friends you have!

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The fact that you keep count is problematic. If you grew up in a community of Black people, that’s cool. If you were in a small town and the population of Black people was minimal, that’s cool, too. Whatever the situation, your quick math problem about the sum of Black people in your life isn’t impressive.

9.Performative actions are never okay.

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Remember when the members of Congress took a knee in the capital with kente cloth on their shoulders? Yeah, anything close to that is a hard no. Don’t even think about it.

10.The best way to celebrate is to recognize and honor the history of Juneteenth, but don't overdo it.

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Stay calm, my friend. Don’t overthink it; if you do, do something out of pocket — take the critique as a learning experience and move forward.

Cheers to a Happy Juneteenth!

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