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UnCommon Bonds

Women Reflect on Race and Friendship


Edited By Kersha Smith and Marcella Runell Hall

UnCommon Bonds is a collection of essays written by women representing multiple identities; all uniquely addressing the impactful experiences of race, ethnicity, and friendship in the context of the United States. The essays unapologetically explore the challenges of developing and maintaining cross-racial friendships between women. A primary goal of this book is to resist simplifying cross-racial friendships. Instinctively, the editors believe that there is a unique joy and pain in these relationships that is rarely easy to summarize. The essays reflect narratives that challenge assumptions, disclose deep interpersonal struggles, and celebrate the complex sisterhood between women across racial lines.

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Chapter 3: “When You Do It to Me, It’s Racism” (Robin DiAngelo)


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Robin DiAngelo

I am having lunch with my dear friend Deborah. We are catching up on various recent events when Deborah says, “Robin, I need to give you some feedback.” My chest tightens slightly, but I try to stay open. “Okay, what’s up?” I tentatively respond. “You are always talking over me. That is your racism.” She replies. I am shocked.

What? Wait a minute! I know it’s a bad habit, but it has nothing to do with racism. I talk over everybody! I come from a big Italian family, and if you didn’t interrupt people at the dinner table, you wouldn’t get heard. It’s just a cultural style! How can it be racism if I do it to everybody?

Robin, when you do it to me the impact is racism. My whole life I have been interrupted and silenced by white people. You put me yet again in the position to have to fight for visibility. You not noticing or attending to that is part of what it means to be white.

I am a white woman. This chapter is based on a cross-racial friendship I have had with a Black woman—Deborah Terry-Hays—for over 20 years. I met Deborah when I was hired for a position as a diversity trainer. The position consisted of cofacilitating a series of mandatory trainings for State workers...

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