So… My Best Friend Is Racist. What Should I Do?

So… My Best Friend Is Racist. What Should I Do?

Welcome to Friendzone, Jezebel’s column devoted to dealing with the valuable people in your life who you’re not humping. Got an issue and looking for guidance? Email [email protected].

My best friend is a racist. There’s no other way to say it. She’s great to me and great to my kids; she’s been there for me in good times and in bad; she’s loving and caring and would do anything for her friends. But she is a racist. I’ve talked to her about stuff time and time again, and she chalks it up to me being “a liberal,” which in her eyes is childish at best (but she excuses it in me because she loves me). Now she keeps posting the most offensive stuff on Facebook about the events in Ferguson, talking about black people behaving like “animals,” and it makes me so mad. It also makes me look down on her. What should I do?

Well, you should look down on her, quite frankly. If she’s posting things that are inflammatory, nasty, and willfully ignorant, she’s spreading hate in this world. You can love her; you can appreciate her many good qualities; you can have compassion for her. But you can still look down on her.

The bigger question here is whether you want to continue a friendship with someone who has such inhumane views. To me, this isn’t about political differences. My best friend is a Republican and I’m a Democrat and we get along just fine because our moral values are the same. We differ in theory with regard to the size and reach of the federal government. But we believe, in essence, that people are people no matter their skin color or gender expression or sexual identity/orientation, and we try to live our lives in accordance with that belief.

Your friend does not regard all human life as equal. Your friend does not believe all people have inherent worth and dignity. Your friend is a jerk in sweetheart’s clothing.

Everybody in this life has his or her personal line that cannot be crossed. I want you to ask yourself what your line is. Can you bring this person around your children? What does it say when we have a best friend who embodies ideals that we find reprehensible? Does it say we tacitly approve of said ideals? Or does it say that we are able to hate the sin and love the sinner? I don’t have that answer. You’re going to have to settle on it for yourself.

I’m sorry I can’t provide you with an easy solution. If it were me, I’d back away from the friendship and remain distant and cordial. If she asked why, I’d explain that after years of trying to get her to see the light of reason, I’d grown tired and concluded that I simply needed to put my energies elsewhere. We don’t do ignorant people any favors by enabling their ignorance.

She’s not going to change. Are you?

One of my friends is incredibly rude to waitstaff. She’s beautiful, intelligent, well-traveled, well-educated, fashionable, and accomplished in her field. You might even call her sophisticated and cosmopolitan. But she’s so mean to valets, waiters, waitresses, hosts, hostesses, clerks, cashiers – anyone tasked with serving her needs. It’s embarrassing. I understand that she grew up in a very wealthy culture in which “servers” are treated like “servants,” but now she’s in the United States of America in 2014 and she needs to grow up. I finally told her off at brunch one day and said she was acting like a fucking asshole, and she and my other girlfriends looked at me like I’d grown another head. Was I out of line?

You were absolutely not out of line, and you know it! Well, alright, I’ll admit that if you called her a “fucking asshole” to her face in front of a bunch of people, that may have been out of line. I don’t know the tone in which you said it or the manner in which you and your friends traditionally communicate, so I can’t make that call. But your sentiment was on point.

Give her a ring and ask to talk face to face (probably at somebody’s house, not in a restaurant, since we know she can’t behave there). Sit her down and explain that her behavior in restaurants and other public places really embarrasses you and makes you sad because you know she’s a better person than the face she presents to waitstaff. Tell her that she may not realize it, but she treats people with a lack of respect and it needs to change. Give her concrete examples of times in which her behavior has negatively affected others. If she can’t change, I suggest you stop hanging out with her. It’s only going to lead to more frustration and unhappiness for everyone involved (especially those waiters!)

My friend has two dogs, so she always jokes that she totally understands my role as mother to twin toddlers. She’ll say things like, “You know how hard it is with twins!” and then tell me something about wrangling two dogs into the car. It was cute at first, but I am so exhausted these days that I actually want to punch her when she makes comments. Am I overreacting?

You know, it’s interesting – I get a lot of questions for this column, and many of them end with a woman asking me if she is “overreacting.” No, you’re not overreacting. You’re reacting! You’re tired as hell and humor isn’t your top priority. Also, maybe your friend just isn’t that funny.

Look, I love my puppy and I call her “baby” and “sweetie” and “puffalumps” and “beansprout” and many other things, but I know that having a puppy is infinitely easier than having a child. I think most people know this. Unless she is absolutely bananas, my guess is that your buddy is just trying to be entertaining. Maybe on some level she’s even trying to relate to you through humor, not because she thinks your experience is the same, but because she wants to feel close to you and make you giggle.

It’s okay for you to get real with her the next time you’re feeling frustrated by her jokes. You can say, “Okay, I know you’re kidding about the dog-kid comparison, right?” She’ll probably go, “Oh my gosh, of COURSE, you didn’t think I was serious, did you?” On the off-chance she actually thinks having two kids is the same as having two dogs, well, you’re going to have to determine whether you want to hang out with someone who is so out of touch with your reality.

Illustration by Tara Jacoby.

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