This is the third installment of the four-part series “Thriving While Black.”
My co-worker told me I was a cat person.
We were carpooling from a happy hour session, jamming to Insecure’s season one soundtrack. I was low-key offended because I hate cats, so I asked my colleague to explain how I’m a “cat person.” She said cat people are stingy with their time and selective about who they spend that time with.
It was at that moment, I realized, that I am indeed, a cat person.
I don’t just hang out with anyone. It has to be something about you that I find intriguing – something that can lengthen my attention span past 10 seconds. But being picky about friending can be hard when you’re Black moving to a city with a dwindling Black population. This was my fate the moment I touched down in Austin, Texas.
I tried tightening loose connections with people I met in college. But, I soon realized having a Tar Heel connection wasn’t strong enough to help me endure the type of activities I was invited to attend. From Game of Thrones watch parties and outdoor camping, to bar hopping in Black gentrified neighborhoods, I turned down a lot of offers to hang out. I had to find some Black friends.
Since I’m the only Black person in a department of 25+ people, I relied on BAE’s professional network to be my “Black Austin” connection. Through him, I successfully found my Austin soul sister and a few more Black gems. However, outside of my crew, it quickly became clear that penetrating Black work cliques was way harder than I thought.
I had to find my own work friends.
Friending my co-workers was easy. They spend the most time with me, we share a passion for communication, and they are cool AF. Although I sit quietly when they geek out about a new season of Game of Thrones, I can still bond with them over the new season of Insecure, Jay-Z’s latest album and the relentless pursuit of a flawless Instagram post.
It’s been a year since I moved to Austin. Since then, I’ve learned that successfully friending while Black relies heavily on one’s ability to blend in. I’ve learned finding commonalities between different types of people requires a lot of code switching. And I’ve finally accepted the fact that I will most likely be the only Black person at a bar, club, or house gathering. Accepting my fate has saved me from a lot of awkwardness.
Friending while Black has uncovered my own stereotypical views I have of others. I’ve learned that just because you are white, doesn’t mean we won’t have anything in common. I’ve also learned that just because someone is Black, doesn’t mean we are going to automatically hit it off. I’ve even found a few friends from other minority groups who remind me that at the end of the day, there are similarities that cause our struggles to intersect.
Friending while Black is like walking an infinite line between Black and white. Occasionally you settle in the gray – when you do, it’s time to thrive.
Click here to read this series’ second installment: “Dancing While Black“