A friend of mine recent­ly told me of a Face­book sta­tus she came across. Writ­ten by a black woman, it was a dec­la­ra­tion that many hold as truth: ‘Black women do not get along with each oth­er. Women of oth­er races do, but we don’t and nev­er will.’ The sta­tus was liked sev­er­al times by oth­er black women.

I chewed on it for a while because on some lev­el, it feels intu­itive. I’ve always been quirky and was often a tar­get of bul­ly­ing as a child, pri­mar­i­ly by oth­er black girls. Being a sen­si­tive spir­it, I cried at the slight­est insult.

Out­side of school bul­lies there were oth­er trau­mas, pro­fes­sion­al and per­son­al, inflict­ed by black women in my 20s and beyond. In some sense it feels easy to nod and agree that black women do not get along. That we are threat­ened by each oth­er, resent each other’s suc­cess and have a ‘crabs in a bar­rel’ men­tal­i­ty. But that’s only part of the sto­ry.

By the time I got to col­lege the over­whelm­ing con­ser­v­a­tive white­ness of my school drove me into the arms of black girl­friends, who car­ried me through my four years. When I got my first real jour­nal­ism job in Chica­go, a black woman men­tored me although it wasn’t part of her offi­cial respon­si­bil­i­ties. When I tran­si­tioned to blog­ging black woman friends and col­leagues read my web­site and spread the word about it. When I launched my shea shop black women were the first to sam­ple the prod­uct. Black women make me laugh on and off of social media. They make the music and cul­ture I enjoy. They are teach­ing my son in pub­lic school, and my daugh­ter in pri­vate day­care. They’ve cre­at­ed a cul­ture of ‘black girl mag­ic’ that is affirm­ing to me per­son­al­ly, and a cul­tur­al space in which I can raise my daugh­ter to love her­self.

I buy black dolls, head wraps, and hair prod­ucts made by black women. The writ­ing of black fem­i­nists has helped me to make sense of my place in the world. And every­thing I have learned about the impor­tance of self-care has been from black women. When it comes to the con­struc­tion of my char­ac­ter, black women have done some heavy lift­ing.

How could I over­look all of this and jump to the con­clu­sion that I nev­er have and nev­er will get along with black women? Because cul­ture often social­izes us to see black women as dan­ger­ous, invis­i­ble or not enough. 

I remem­ber being sub­tly shamed in col­lege for hav­ing most­ly black woman friends. “But why do you only hang out with the oth­er black girls?” white stu­dents would ask in dis­ap­prov­ing tones. I strug­gled to answer the ques­tion, often point­ing to the fact that I had friends of all races. But there was no doubt that the black girls who had non-black friends were seen as supe­ri­or. While the black girls who hung out with each oth­er were seen as sim­ple. The implic­it assump­tion, of course, was that it wasn’t ‘enough’ to just have friends who were black women. That you were lack­ing in some way because of it.

And it’s some­thing we accuse black men of all the time. When a black man says that his pref­er­ence is non-black women, our col­lec­tive instinct is to won­der how he could ignore women like his moth­er, sis­ter, grand­moth­er, teach­ers and friends. But we do it too — gen­er­al­iz­ing the neg­a­tive expe­ri­ences we’ve had with black women while ignor­ing the social and emo­tion­al safe­ty net they’ve built for us.

Black women are not per­fect. We are not saints, we are not a mono­lith and we will not all be friends. But we can acknowl­edge all these things while also respect­ing the com­mu­ni­ties and con­nec­tions we build for and with each oth­er that help us through life.

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­liste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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33 Comments on "The Problem With the Eternal Debate On Whether Black Women ‘Get Along’"

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Nora

BLACK WOMEN GET ALONG DEPENDING ON WHAT CITY YOU FROM. LOL

Yetta
I do not buy into “women can’t get along” sterotype. That’s a fan­ta­sy cre­at­ed by men because believe it or not many of them like to see women compete/fight with one anoth­er. Because of our con­nec­tion to the cos­mos (via the womb) women bond quick­er and on a deep­er lev­els. Some men can be friends with some­one for years over foot­ball and have no clue what’s going on in the person’s life. I’d rather be a woman any day. I only wish some women learn how to be real friends vs. just using oth­er women to pass time until they… Read more »
Kay
Maybe that’s just Amer­i­ca. In the UK black women who don’t have any black friends are seen as infe­ri­or and black women who have all black friends are seen as strong and supe­ri­or. I don’t know what you mean by “black women” in this arti­cle but it isn’t even a gen­er­al­i­sa­tion. Maybe it’s just in said loca­tion of authors expe­ri­ences. Oth­er races and black men tend to alien­ate black women in the and don’t real­ly care to have you in their cir­cles here so to have non black female friends is some­what forc­ing it with those who don’t respect you.… Read more »
Bumper

It is ridicu­lous to say ‘black’ women don’t get on. I had a white female
friend and, believe me, the falling out with her was worse or just as bad than any falling out I had with my black friend. Peo­ple fall out with each oth­er, end of sto­ry.

Nia
Most of my child­hood friends were black in ele­men­tary jhs and hs. Why? I went to inner city schools in Brook­lyn in major­i­ty black neigh­bor­hoods. As an adult it is dif­fi­cult to make last­ing friend­ships and we often fall back on our well estab­lished rela­tion­ships with those we knew since prac­ti­cal­ly infan­cy. Even after attend­ing col­lege its nat­ur­al we seek the com­pan­ion­ship of those who share sim­il­iar expe­ri­ences. I have only found since mov­ing to Texas there is an effort on the part of many African Amer­i­cans to dis­as­so­ci­ate from their black­ness. I think it speaks to a deep root­ed… Read more »
Cici

Does any­one know the name of the woman who was on the pic­ture link to this arti­cle. She was the one in the mid­dle with cen­tre part­ed curly hair …

Annie

I have nev­er heard of any­thing like this before ever. It doesn’t even make any sense to me because 95% of my clos­est friends are black women, and some I have known for over 25 years (I am 36).

Any­one that thinks this needs to change their mind­set or their cir­cle.

Corey
I believe in the free­dom of speech. But when peo­ple speak so fool­ish­ly I feel they should not be allowed to speak. Peo­ple like some peo­ple and dis­like oth­er peo­ple. Some of my clos­est allies and worst ene­mies and every stage in between have been black women. If you are around enough peo­ple you will find some you dis­like. It’s like the black on black crime statistics…most crimes com­mit­ted by white peo­ple are com­mit­ted on oth­er white peo­ple. Crim­i­nals com­mit crimes on the peo­ple they are near…I am sure if you go look­ing for some white women to befriend you… Read more »
Guest Writer
I don’t know why black women assume that all oth­er women just get along. His­pan­ic women, white women, Asian women are all cat­ty and stab each oth­er in the back. Does it make it right for us to do so? No. But let’s not paint every­one else as saints either. Child­hood and teenage years are hard, espe­cial­ly for black girls so there’s no won­der why we would be hurt­ful towards each oth­er. Add our expe­ri­ences in the black com­mu­ni­ty or with racism in gen­er­al onto teenage hor­mones and you have a recipe for dis­as­ter. Treat­ing oth­er peo­ple well is a… Read more »
Susie White

A clear case of con­fir­ma­tion bias. Once you believe some­thing, you’ll keep find­ing infor­ma­tion to sup­port it. It’s always amazed me how men fight over 90% of wars against each oth­er, form gangs to kill each oth­er etc & yet some­how we are to believe that it is women that can’t get along. Black women have had a sis­ter­hood with each oth­er that pre­dates slav­ery & col­o­niza­tion. It’s sur­pris­ing we are made to believe that’s not the case.

Japanese.LTR (all the same~)
Japanese.LTR (all the same~)

They don’t want us to get along, don’t want us to believe we CAN get along, because they don’t want us to progress. Infight­ing inhibits progress.

luv
Stereo­types once again. I have learned that women from oth­er races can be just as hard to get along with. In fact it seems that black women can be sin­gled out the most by black men and oth­er races because of the stu­pid stereo­types that some peo­ple like to believe. I also would like to say who cares about what black men think about black women any­ways, who are they to judge, most men from oth­er races are fas­ci­nat­ed by black women and will­ing to do right by the women and fam­i­ly. Don’t let any­body put into your brain that… Read more »
luv

Also I am not say­ing black women are hard to get along with some peo­ple you get along with some you don’t. I think the stereo­types are just an agen­da any­ways you know the say­ing” divide and con­quer”. Stay pos­i­tive don’t believe the stereo­types ok.

Treasure79

I wish we would take race out of the pic­ture. In gen­er­al, women have more con­flict with oth­er women. Some of this is just because we are more social, some­times more sen­si­tive, and we get clos­er to each oth­er. Men tend to brush things off more eas­i­ly. Why does no one ever say — white women don’t get along, Indi­an women don’t get along, Asian women don’t get along? We are peo­ple. We have con­flict just like any oth­er race. I would ven­ture to say its more about being women than black women.

Japanese.Lunch.Time.Rush.
Japanese.Lunch.Time.Rush.
I feel like this is just the result of liv­ing in a world that likes to put lim­its and quo­tas on our exis­tence. We (black women) bul­ly each oth­er as chil­dren because we’re taught that noth­ing about us is quite right and there’s noth­ing we can real­ly do about it. We are bul­lied by soci­ety, by fam­i­ly, by our peers, all with vary­ing inten­tions; whether it’s to out­right hurt us, hold us back, or out of ‘con­cern’ for our well being. Any­one who tries to stick out gets ham­mered down by those who don’t know any bet­ter or by those who do… Read more »
rhanoka
But oth­er races bul­ly each oth­er as chil­dren too. But the stereo­type only sticks to us. Why’s that? Many times you hear of oth­er kids killing them­selves or oth­ers because of bul­ly­ing in school or what was post­ed about them on social media, and they’re not even black but there’s crick­ets when talk­ing about that. I think it cross­es all races, all gen­ders, and is worse among some of the oth­ers races. It could depend too on the income of those who do it. In fact I’d go so far to say that how you’re bul­lied depends on where you… Read more »
Paris

This is an issue that I hold dear to my heart. I’ve rely let a few black women friends of mine go because of this issue. I’ve noticed that, some­times, we black women come at each oth­er with hos­til­i­ty that usu­al­ly stems from jeal­ousy. It hurts when I walk up to a woman that is sim­i­lar to me in many ways, with friend­ly open­ness, and I get stank face from them for no rea­son. I would like to know if any one else has this issue and how do you com­bat it.

Yetta

They could just have a “stank” rest­ing face. Not your fault at all.

Treasure79

Can we also acknowl­edge the fact that some­times we make up sto­ries in our minds about peo­ple? Some peo­ple are nat­u­ral­ly ‘awk­ward’ in social sit­u­a­tions. For oth­ers, maybe they have some issue going on in their lives that have noth­ing to do with you or race or jeal­ousy. Some peo­ple my be jeal­ous. That’s their issue to work out. But please know that some­times it has noth­ing to do with you — they could’ve lost a fam­i­ly mem­ber, pet, bad news from a rel­a­tive, etc.

Nikki

I have expe­ri­enced it, but I find it most­ly from Amer­i­can black women. I do not com­bat it. You are not meant to be friends with every­one regard­less of their race. It took me a long time to under­stand that; so I don’t hold a grudge. I just write them off. I refuse to waste time with some­one who obvi­ous­ly don’t want to be both­ered. Now if you deal with this at work then hope­ful­ly every­one is mature enough to focus on the job instead of per­son­al feel­ings.

La Bandita

Nik­ki you’re stereo­typ­ing and being racist.

Cindy

Well said.

Idongesit Ekpo

Leila, this is the best thing I have read all day. Thank you.

Ivie

My friends are A PLETHORA OF CHOCLATE and CARAMEL lol and I would not have it any oth­er way.…

TWA4now

Wow! Nice arti­cle. WE can get along but NOT always…maturity lev­el helps.. I can­not wait for part 2, PLEASE!

Claudette Young-Davidson
Claudette Young-Davidson

Inter­est­ing arti­cle. In the UK even when black men exclu­sive­ly date white women, their friends are always oth­er black guys.

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