Right after my mother picked me up from my high school freshman orientation she told me that the Asian and Black girls I was talking to, “Only want to be friends with you because you are white,” and that I need to make sure I talked to more white girls. My best friends in Elementary school had all been Asian, I was the only white friend. By the end of middle school my closest friends were two South Asian girls. My mother had clearly been worrying about this for years, and she now thought she had to step in and tell me the “truth” about why those girls wanted to talk with me: they were just excited that a white girl was giving them the time of day. I am by no means a social butterfly, I’m introverted, and have struggled to make friends my whole life. But now I had an additional worry, that my mother thought that friendships I made were only worthwhile if the friends were white. This was 5 years ago and I still think about it a lot.
It came up in family therapy, I accused her of being racist for classifying the quality of my friendships by race–the psychiatrist was Middle Eastern. At that very same high school 3 years later I was part of a group discussing Asian racial issues, I told this story and an (extremely popular) Asian girl who I was acquainted with said, “I’m so sorry,” I was a bit confused and responded, “It’s ok, I am white.” Only later did I realize that she had taken my mother’s comment as an insult against me, that my only redeeming quality as a friend was my race. I had never even thought about it that way, that my mother had been insulting my lack of social cache rather than the race of my friends, but even after that realization it has never hurt me like an insult, it has only damaged the image I had of my mother as a person.