I have white friends. There, I said it. Now I sound just  like a white person when they say they have black friends.  But not for one second do I actually think any of my white friends understand or relate to my experience as a black person. Sure, they may realize that racism still exists and that there area biases in the world, but that’s not the same as understanding. At least in my  opinion.

In a recent article on Psychology Today, Dr. Monica Williams tackled the “Can a white person understand the black experience” question.

In response to my article Colorblind Ideology is a Form of Racism, I was recently asked, “What does an African American want?”  The reader wonders how Black and White people can understand each other, live together in harmony, and promote well-being. I share a few of the main points below.

“How can a White person understand and give due recognition to the Blackness of a Black person unless that person reveals a fair amount of information about him/herself to the White person?  Should White people request this, or just wait for it to emerge when the Black person chooses?”

These are good questions that many well-meaning people simply don’t know how to approach. How do we connect to our fellow human beings who are from different ethnic/racial groups and cultural traditions? This is particularly difficult when there are over 200 years of oppression between groups and prominent inequities remain. Without launching into a history lesson, I think it’s safe to say that there are many reasons for discomfort on both sides. One result is that most White people do not understand the African American experience. Yet, making an authentic connection with another person means understanding, empathizing, and being able to see the world through their eyes.


So how to answer the question, “What Does an African American Want?” I can’t speak for all African Americans, but I can tell you what I want – an authentic connection. That means I want you to understand my experience. I want you to ask hard questions and not judge me when I give you the hard truth. I want you to take the time and effort to see the world as I do. I want to be seen as a whole person and not a stereotype. I want you to know how being an American can be both a source pride and pain.  I want you to understand the harm caused by discrimination and join me in speaking out against injustice and inequity. I want you to embrace cultural differences rather than merely tolerate them. I want you to celebrate with me the strengths and beauty of my culture. I want you to cry with me when racism and hatred win. I want to be able to connect with you as someone who is both different and the same. I want you to understand that differences are what make us special and the similarities are what make us human.

When you talk about the black experience with some white people, there’s always going to be judgment, or even comments about being overly sensitive. I don’t want your sympathy. I don’t need your sympathy.  Understanding comes from making a concerted effort in educating yourselves and white people haven’t come a long way when it comes to that.


Clutchettes,  do you think a white person can understand the black experience? 

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  • Cumberbatchfan

    I think the only exception is when someone’s is married to a black person or had black children and lives in a area where their spouses or their chikdren blackness is a constant issue. Then and only then will they get a BRIEF understanding of blackness,and even then they won’t truly get it. You have to live it to get it. But havig a black child or splices who’s consistently a victim if racism or extremely racially aware will get themclose to slightly understanding.

  • TreMolly

    The answer is no. But as usual white people feel the need to be the expert in everything.

  • JustOneProletarian

    Sigh. You guys are hilarious, dangerous and sad rolled up into one neat little package.

    Keep on drawing racial lines and dividing every human being among color, keep stereotyping whites with huge blanket statements while simultaneously having the gall to accuse us of inherent privilege and racism. Meanwhile we have, for the most part(and most other African Americans, as well-you holding these beliefs are in the minority, thank God) moved away from this silly issue already.

    Meanwhile the vast majority of blacks around the world are ashamed of “African Americans,” and actually have no idea why that ignorant term exists in the first place, when everywhere else it’s just Black. It’s because “African Americans” are sooo special they need their own little group. Get off your soap boxes, please.

    you don’t want to see white women clench their purses when you come near? Great, learn to raise strong young black men that don’t commit the vast majority of violent crimes, even being a small minority of the populace(go ahead check the fbi stats-oh and before you start, no it’s not because of discrimination by law enforcement and the justice system-ridiculous).

    Sigh. It’s..it’s like…you think we’re the ones covering our ears..white people, and everyone else, including many African Americans…knows the truth..African Americans need someone, ANYONE to blame their issues on.

    Like really. Your blanket statements and “you can never understand” attitude is giving you all an EVEN WORSE reputation, besides for the STATISTICAL FACTS of your violence.

    Oh, by the way? Many of you(see how I don’t use blanket statements? Wow, such a new concept!) Should…I don’t know, not have five kids by the age of 22, which you can’t afford to even feed and clothe, let alone bring up in prosperity with a strong moral foundation. This MIGHT, gee…might be part of the reason you get such a bad rep.. might be part of the reason that so many look down on the black community?

    • maralondon

      How many ‘black people’ have you personally encountered outside of America with the sentiment you claim the majority of us have? The same issues America has concerning racism are similar at least here in Europe(Britain) where i was born and reside and i’m pretty sure most would agree that white people would never know what is to be in our shoes.