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

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Brian Pittman

It’s ridiculous to say, black women. I had many friends who are black. Having black women as a friend is much better than having a white woman. Almost all of my friend are black women and I have never heard about this anymore.

Bimisola
I personally think that black women get along truly depending on your personality, it’s closed minded to say that black women do not and will not get along, I mean many black peoplenonfat tend to ‘stick together’ and that is not a gender-basedfact. It’s more understandable to say that not all black women trust each other as much as other races but that does not mean they don’t get along, perhaps the person who made that article lived in a place that was quite unfriendly and her outer encounters weren’t the best but it’s a one sided article in general… Read more »
Nora

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

Nikki

A co worker moved to my town from another state and said she was told by other women, the town 30 minutes from us were full of bad news-trouble starters. I told her it wasn’t true. Sometimes the people you socialize with can make a difference in your experience.

P. Ellis
Most of my friends are and always have been Black women. I get my strength from these women on a daily basis. As I have grown older it has been Black women who have found subtle and unique ways of putting me down. If one more Black female says that I’m “too nice” I just might scream in her face. This has been said to me by women when they want to justify doing me wrong or as a way to make it my fault that others treat me bad. My question is why is being “too nice” such a… Read more »
Kasey Mack
Not down-playing the fact that stereotyping is a big problem that black women have to deal with like no other demographic. Black women constantly get prejudged & mislabeled unfairly because others compare us to the stereotypical characters they see on tv. But I have a confession that I just realized about me & my friends…we are a bunch of characters & we get along. Funny thing I’ve noticed about all my friends, we all kind of emulate characters we love on TV unknowingly. When I was growing I loved Khadijah from Living Single, I loved her style, presence, speech &… Read more »
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 »
Bimisola

I agree

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.

Bimisola
In this case, I don’t think we can, as much as I wish we could, it’s a known fact that races all act different so women of colour act different from other races and the same for the rest, we’re influenced by our environment, the things we see and the way we’re treated, so that makes us act alike in some ways. However I agree with you on the fact that it’s because we’re women, we’re more consious, not as layed back as many men and because of that, we may distrust one another and take the slightest actions into… Read more »
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… 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.

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.

Bimisola

Not really, it’s actually quite true. She said “regardless if their race”.

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.

Yetta

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

Bimisola

That’s quite true, I know a person who has what you might can a stank face, and she naturally wards people off, although she isn’t the social type by nature, many times it has nothing to do with you. But your point is right still, many times it’s from jealousy.

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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