Sunday, February 21, 2010


are black people friendly? from MY experience in portland, oregon, some are, but i have ALWAYS found white people easier to receive a smile or a 'hello' back from. i don't mean to give any props to white people or start self-hating here, but i would rather try to dissect why black people aren't as friendly. or at least why they don't give off that friendly 'vibe'. (i don't think white people are better, nor do i want to be white)

some of my readers might be aware of the fact that we moved to the laurelhurst neighborhood but still have our daughter at the hood school, which is now mostly black. there are a few white people sprinkled in, but black students are truly the majority there. at the beginning of the school year, i spent a lot of time on the playground while my kids played. i noticed that while the white parents were busy introducing themselves to the other white parents, immediately forming bonds, the fewer black parents on the playground barely said hello to each other(and that is still the case). one thing was for sure- they weren't itching to get to know the other parents, or discussing what they did for work. as for the white parents, i doubt it had anything to do with the fact that they were the minority trying to band together, because i've noticed this "instant comraderie" at other places where white people are (work, group interviews, expos, supermarket lines, etc).

of course, there are exceptions. i'm not going to presume to know every black person in portland. occasionally i've met a non-threatened black woman who was friendly and outgoing without sizing me up about whether or not i'm bourgeois because i'm light skinned, or because i'm obviously or evidently married to a white man or because i appear more confident than she is. but i'm sorry! those women are few and far between. whenever i've managed to meet and talk with another mother of color, i cherished it.maybe being in portland has something to do with it. i'm not exactly sure. i was born and raised in portland and i can honestly say that in my entire life, it has always been easier to make friends with white people. for example, in school or at school or work the dark skinned black girls (more on that later) were always (okay, not always but 8 times out of 10) distant, mean, unfriendly until time had passed and they got to know me. they would always automatically assume i thought i was better or for whatever reason, disinterested in sparking up a conversation. which, by the way is totally ironic considering that in portland we are such a minority-you'd think we'd want to get to know each other. why are white people so quick to do that? there are a gazillion of them. i'd always instantly make friends with the white girls in school (and even now, although now, i make more of an effort to be the one to befriend other black women), and almost immediately the black girls would start making jokes and poking fun and calling me 'white girl' for hanging around the white girls. yet, the black girls never initiated any type of friendship. they were always too busy calling me 'bougie' and 'white girl wannabe' and other stupid names. in hindsight, i think they were just jealous.

so whether it was my school days, or now in my 30's, it really hasn't changed much. a clerk in a grocery store, someone walking down the street, people i come into contact with on a daily basis- whites are friendlier to me than the black people. 8 out of 10 times, i'd say. black men are friendlier because well....they're black men. they'll say hi because i'm pretty. that's just a man for you. i've never had issues with a black man being mean to me.

maybe the reasons just boil down to numbers. i know there are white people who are mean and distant and unfriendly. perhaps it's just the law of large numbers. since there are so few black people, and so many white people in portland, maybe it's easier to spot the unfriendly ones, and not so easy to spot the unfriendly white people.


Anonymous said...

My wife, who is black, says the same thing. With the exception of one of her girlfriends, all her other friends are white or asian. She says this is because she hasn't found many other black women she could form a friendly bond with.

I hadn't noticed a difference, but than again I'm not all that outgoing. I do try and at least smile and acknowledge the other person and will make small talk.

Anonymous said...

Happy to see that you are blogging again! :). I would have to wholeheartedly agree with you on this topic. I too have come in close contact with black women and find that SOME are not friendly.

I am puzzled by this because I (a young black woman) am an inviting person, meaning I often smile as a friendly greeting. This sometimes will make a person feel somewhat at ease to strike a convo.

But sad to say, SOME black people will totally dismiss your smile and maintain that closed boundary. I have found that the MUCH older generation of black women and men are more sociable.

But what irks me the most is that black and white people will stare you down and not so much as smile or say hello. If you are going to look so hard you could at least smile and pretend to be friendly.
I guess their are many things left to be desired in all races.

Anonymous said...

I am a black woman and I really don't notice this as being the case. I get smiles and the cold shoulder pretty much equally from black and white people. I am very shy but was taught to be friendly so I grin at most people that I pass and say hello sometimes.

I think and this is just a theory that alot of black people were taught to just keep their heads down and get through the crowd. We don't want to be noticed and are just more gaurded than some white people. I also think that with a lot of people myself included, that some of the time I think that I am smiling back at a person and I find that I was barely grinning. I think that black people are just a little more self conscious about showing that kind of affection to strangers for many reasons.

Almost every time though that I smile at a black person I get a big grin in return and the same thing is true with white people. Most people are generally good and want to be kind. Usually I just think that if the person didn't smile back their mind was just some place else or they are just not in the mood.

sue said...

Okay y'all need to come down South. Everybody's friendly, Black or White! As a native Floridian it was definitely a culture shock facing the unfriendliness of Blacks in the North. I've learned to accept that its kind of a regional thing. There are certain areas in the country where the environment encourages anti-social behavior. Don't take it personal just live your life.

As far as that "light-skinned, bourgie thing" honey that happens EVERYWHERE! Portland doesn't corner that market. I got that same attitude when I moved to Baltimore and I'm brown-skinned! Chuck that down to unhappy people seeing through unhappy eyes.

You always seem to lament your lack of connection to the black community there. Hon either make an effort to get to know some of these people or let it go.

XaiXai said...

Blacks in the Pacific Northwest are known to be unfriendly in comparison to blacks in other parts of the US. I am born in the Midwest and lived my formative years on the east coast. This is not just a USA thing, found blacks in the Netherlands and France are very unfriendly. Found most blacks from Jamaica/Barbados friendly no matter where you meet them on the planet. Don't take it personally, however; you are probably not entirely innocent. Watch what you project, many smile at me and it's obviously not sincere or it's covering some unconscious negativity. Sounds like you may be projecting something that may be off putting to certain blacks. I know I do, I'm quirky, very worldly as opposed to neighborhood. So many blacks watch me first before becoming communicative. I find that many whites are immediately 'surface friendly', where as blacks will observe for awhile. I smile the way I toss flower petals, sometimes the wind blows them back and sometimes not. Either way, I smile because I feel like it, it does not have to be returned.


Anonymous said...

I think it's some kind of social insecurity thing. Being friendly / affectionate can be seen as showing vulnerability and weakness.

The rap scene shows this misplaced 'tough' mindset. Although that is an extreme, it would make sense for there to be a degree of those thought patterns about.

John Ross said...

No, white people don't "get it". How could we/they? Do you get what it's like to be Native American? Of course not, and there's no reason you or I should feel guilty about that. It is good to try to figure this stuff out, this who we all are - how to make things in general work.

Anonymous said...

Well put John Ross. :)

Dee said...

I agree. I'm a black woman that moved here recently from Dallas, TX. I can not understand why there is no black community here. When I try to make eye contact and say "hello," I get this crazy look. So I've learned to stop. I don't want to scare people, lol. And I get the size up too from black woman. I'm used to this-black women seems to have a tendency to be jealous-but the percentage of black women who do this is high. I don't get it. I miss black people! Could it be seclusion and self induced paranoia about racism in Portland? What is it?

Joyann said...

I'm one of those people who won't go out of my way to smile or be welcoming simply because I'm not very demonstrative. But if someone smiles at me or says "hello", I'll usually do the same in return. But sometimes I won't. I was at Subway, a while ago, and a white guy smiled at me, but I didn't smile back because I just didn't feel like it. I think this entry is kind of ironic, seeing as how in one of your latest entries, you described yourself as a "stranger snob" and you basically questioned why a black guy was saying hello to you in a store. I mean, a lot of times you have to have a friendly demeanor in order to receive it from others. And another thing, nobody is obligated to smile and put on a happy face for anyone else. You, yourself, don't always do that, so why should others have to do that.

Someone mentioned that most people from Jamaica/Barbados tend to be friendly,but that's not always the case either. I'm from Jamaica, but I'm introverted and tend to be a loner, so I'm not usually labeled as friendly at first. Not all people from the Caribbean are outgoing and blatantly friendly when you first meet them.

Everyone has different personalities and as someone else said, it depends on where you are as well, because the region/culture sometimes influences how people are perceived.