Do You Have a Black Friend?
Tags: race/ethnicity, racial homophily, social networks, white habitus, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this clip from Jimmy Kimmel Live's Pedestrian Question segment (where they ask people on the street some type of question), his crew asks whites whether or not they have a black friend and the audience predicts their response. For example, a white woman from Australia admits not having a black friend, and Chuck from Ohio claims to have a black friend but then cannot name him/her, and a black man is asked if he has any white friends and he says "not really" because "white people are kind of scary." A couple white respondents do report having a black friend, but are sometimes asked to "prove it." While tackling a socially sensitive topic with humor, the clip works on several levels: it reveals the reality of racially homogeneous networks and the audience's disbelief of some whites having a black friend underscores the tendency of people to claim such connections when they don't exist. This phenomenon must be understood in the context of racial segregation, which has persisted in a very high degree within the US. Through segregation, blacks, whites, and Hispanics all develop group cohesion and identity, and develop networks that are often racially homogenous. However, this practice of racial homophily (in which people tend to associate with members of their own race) is strongest among whites because they experience the highest degree of racial isolation. In Racism Without Racists, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (2013) conceptualizes this in terms of the white habitus, or whites’ racial taste, perceptions, feelings, and emotions and views on racial matters, including a greater degree of comfort interacting with other whites. Bonilla-Silva argues that this results from a process of racial socialization that comes from all areas of life, including who you interact with in your neighborhood, schools, and social networks. Furthermore, because whites do not want to be perceived as racist in such a society, it is common for them to claim having black (or nonwhite) friends. Chuck's statement that he has a black friend in the clip, but was unable to name him/her, was actually a theme found in Bonilla-Silva's research. For additional context, see this series of clips from Anderson Cooper: this video reveals how this process starts in childhood; this video shows children's views on interracial friendships; and this video shows why racial diversity matters in forming views on race.
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