- Black friendships can be healing when dealing with discrimination or racial trauma.
- Friendships among Black people often create a safe space to discuss topics rooted in the Black community.
- Interracial friendships give each person a chance to learn and grow about different cultural experiences from one another.
Whether it’s a casual acquaintance or your BFF, most people have different categories of friends. Close to 70% of Americans say they have friends in specific places, such as workplace friends or school friends. More than 50% have friends associated with activities, like working out at the gym, attending church, or going to a book club.
We tend to want to hang out with people we have something in common with. It creates a sense of solidarity. For people of color, having friendships with other Black people not only provides a comforting support system but is also highly beneficial to their mental health.
“Having Black friendships provides a relatable space for sharing frustrations, gaining acceptance, and building support toward achieving greatness,” explains Charde’ Hollins, Licensed Therapist, Clinical Social Worker, and CEO of Relevant Connections.
Strong friendships can lessen your risk of being depressed or anxious. For some, Black friendships can take it a step further, helping you feel more clearly seen and understood, without pretense or explanation.
“Establishing a sense of community that allows you to be your authentic self is essential to maintaining a healthy and meaningful life,” Hollins adds.
This article will examine how friendships among Black people impact your mental health, as well as how interracial friendships can be enriching and engaging.
The Healing Power of Black Friendships
Research shows that having a quality conversation with a friend each day can improve your mental health and even lower your stress levels. Positive friendships improve self-esteem, decrease loneliness, and increase overall mental wellbeing.
When a black person has a strong friendship with someone of the same race, there is also a healing component that benefits mental health. This can be especially true when dealing with discrimination or racial trauma.
“When black people have people that look like them and have experienced a similar event, it allows for them to connect and better understand each other based on their shared experiences,” says Larry Ford, DBH, LBHP, BC, Founder at Hands to Guide You. “Strong community relationships contribute to empowered individuals who have self-confidence [versus] mental fragility,” he notes.
Charde Hollins, CSW
Having Black friendships provides a relatable space for sharing frustrations, gaining acceptance, and building support toward achieving greatness.
A study among Black undergraduate women at predominantly white colleges found that more than 25% of these women leaned on their Black friendships to deal with racism. They noted that they felt connected in a way that only someone who had that same experience could understand.
“There is no denying that black culture is a vibe. This term stems from the need to use creative expression as a tool to cope with the heaviness of systemic oppression and hatred. A vibe offers Black people a safe place to take off the weight of police brutality, economic disparity, racial injustice, and the long list of inequities even if it’s just for the hour,” Hollins states.
These friendships can feel enriching, fulfilling, and safe. But friendship is not just about the color of a person’s skin; the content of their character also matters. Having friendships with people of a different race can allow you to learn and grow in other ways.
Embrace Interracial Friendships
Friendships with someone of a different race can present unique opportunities. It still carries similar mental health benefits. But friendship also offers the chance to broaden your horizons and understand a different viewpoint. This is especially true surrounding sensitive topics.
In fact, researchers found that though it seems scary to talk about topics like race with interracial friends, healthy discussion can lead to a closer, stronger relationship. It can be a positive, mentally beneficial experience.
“Being friends with a different race provides growth opportunities for each person involved,” Hollins notes. “Black people with these friendships are more inclined to feel supported, have an increased level of hope for racial equity, and are less likely to internalize racial injustices because of their positive experiences with other races.”
Taking on the risk of talking about a sensitive topic can reap rewards for both friends in the relationship. The thing is, it’s not always easy to start the discussion. It’s important to be sensitive to the other person’s feelings and experiences. Show a genuine desire to listen and learn from what your friend has to say.
Don’t be judgmental, or critical, simply because their experience is different from yours. And while it may seem easier thanks to the prevalence of social media to have a discussion online, talking in person provides a more intimate connection, and less chance of being misunderstood.
Whether the friendship is with someone who looks like you or not, these relationships are critical to your mental health. And that’s the most important thing to remember.
“We live optimally when we give of ourselves—when we share with others, and when we know that the people in our life are ‘safe’—meaning, we respect one another, honor our differences, celebrate our shared connection,” Dr. Ford concludes.
What This Means For You
Fostering friendships of substance, that enrich your life, and create safe spaces for you to express yourself, is the most important goal of these relationships. Whether you find that valuable experience with someone of the same race, or in an interracial relationship, the key is to be in a healthy relationship that has a positive impact on your mental, physical, and emotional health.
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