Even though America is soundly post-racial and racism is over because Barack Obama and Cheerios, it turns out that many white Americans still don't have any non-white friends. I find this odd, considering that white Americans typically cite their "black friend" as evidence of their inability to harbor racist beliefs. You guys just made him up, didn't you? Carl's not real, is he? That's cold. Carl deserves better than that.
According to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll, 40% of white Americans have no non-white friends, and about 25% of non-white Americans have zero friends outside their own race. These numbers are disappointing, but not surprising to me. As a biracial kid in mostly white schools, I was the non-white friend.
In fact, the dearth of interracial friendships can probably be traced back to the failure to satisfactorily integrate public schools. It's satisfying to hope that the open-mindedness of today's children will somehow end racism at an unknown future date, but we're not exactly setting them up for success on that front by doubling down on the status quo. Despite the fact that school segregation officially ended almost 60 years ago, schools are somehow more segregated in 2013 than they were in 1954. White students attend schools that are 77% white—kinda tough to find a Carl given those odds. To recap, schools were more racially diverse at a time that there were segregation laws on the books than they are today, when we're legally free to go wherever we want, sit next to whoever we want, date whoever we want, and bum illicit cigarettes off of whatever 18-year-old member of the senior class we want.
If you're looking for someone to blame, or are looking for more reasons to hate the Supreme Court, you can start with Chief Justice John Roberts and his merry band of conservative dodos. The Roberts Court has made it nearly impossible for public schools to remedy racial imbalances, encouraging racial isolation and an overwhelming lack of interracial contact. Confronted with this reality, I'm rather shocked the 40% number wasn't a lot higher.
But as much as I love to blame Roberts for stuff, it's not his fault we all ended up segregated in the first place. White flight and discriminatory housing practices have also contributed to racially homogenous neighborhoods. And we can't blame Roberts or Scalia or any other shitty judge for that. That's on us. The racial prejudice that underlines housing patterns is what allows stereotypes to flourish. It allows white Americans to continue to think of people of color as threats instead of as people. When you don't think of people as people, it's easier to put them in jail, abuse them, discriminate against them, and forget about them. It's easier for people like George Zimmerman to kill them and feel nothing afterwards.
So, to the 40% of you white people who have no non-white friends, I issue this challenge: Stop clutching your goddamn purse and leave your neighborhood every once in awhile. Join the hiring committee at Lily White & Bread, LLP and start advocating for minority applicants at all levels in the company. Patronize minority-owned businesses. Stop shooting everyone all the time. Worship at the shrine of Melissa Harris-Perry. Read this quintessential piece about white privilege by Peggy McIntosh. Stop depending on your kids to fix racism so you don't have to.
But most importantly, don't be a dick. Carl will thank you for it.
Meagan Hatcher-Mays is a recent graduate of Washington University Law School in Saint Louis. She does a significant amount of yelling on Twitter.