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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 18: The “Crazy White Lady” and Other Archetypes in Workplace Friendships, Boundaries, and Power (Deinya Phenix)


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Deinya Phenix


While it is my hope that most of the chapters in this book will contain positive examples reflecting women’s unique capacity to bridge society’s major divides, I share some rather cynical thoughts on a particularly stubborn barrier to such relationships. This barrier is power, and it is especially resonant when we think about authority and control in the workplace. Because many of our relationships are developed at work, collaboration on projects can be a productive way to get to know and bond with colleagues and superiors. But this context can also reproduce and intensify social inequality. The social divisions and hierarchies that exist in our society, particularly gender and race, match up with workplace hierarchies. Positions of high rank, seniority, or supervision within an organization tend to be held by white and/or male individuals.

But the gendered and racial dimensions of these divisions go much deeper than people’s official status at work. I argue that there is, embedded in our interactions, a troubling set of processes that muddies the possibility of true reflection, critique, and commitment to social change. Here I can offer a small ← 199 | 200 → glimmer of hope for women who want to get past this set of processes and cultivate deep, meaningful friendships.

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