Animated Short Your Black Friend Is All About the Racism of Silence

Image: Silver Sprocket
Image: Silver Sprocket

In Ben Passmore’s comic Your Black Friend, a black man sits in a cafe and watches as one white person diligently ignores the casual, anti-black racism of another. On some level, both of the white folks know that what they’re doing is wrong, but neither of them is willing to acknowledge it.

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But Your Black Friend isn’t actually about either of the casually-racist white people at the back of the cafe. Its real focus is on what it’s like to be a black man who is out with his white friend specifically while witnessing this kind of thing. Your Black Friend hones in on the unique kind of indirect bigotry that springs up when people who don’t see themselves as racists fail to call out racism when they see it—something that not everyone understands is dangerous in its own way.

Your Black Friend conveyed how that willful ignorance makes people complicit in systems of discrimination, but the point is driven home even better in a newly-animated short film from Doggo Studios that’s based on the comic. Narrated by Passmore, the animated Your Black Friend has an added dimension of nonchalant vexation that perfectly matches the story being told.

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These are the sort of racially-charged annoyances that every single person of color is all too used to dealing with. Take notes, white people.

io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.

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DISCUSSION

Watched it, loved it, will share it with other white people.

I will say that I have been in that barista’s shoes many times. It’s inescapable to avoid as a white person who knows and interacts with other white people, and it’s such an impossible situation.

You have to make a snap judgement about what this other person is ready to hear. You have to decide on the right tone and tactic that won’t make you sound like some shrill liberal obsessed with political correctness. Can’t be too long winded, can’t be too blunt. Can’t be too preachy, but you have to get the point across.

In those moments, taking the wrong tactic to point out or correct someone’s racism can backfire and cause the person to harden rather than soften. I’m not saying that’s an excuse to remain silent, I’m just pointing out that it isn’t just about comfort.

I’m less proud to admit I’ve also been in the other ladies position at least a few times, and on one occasions I did not react well to getting called out on my biases (which I genuinely believed I didn’t have). It’s weird to ask for empathy and breathing room about you unconscious racism, especially from the very groups that racism has systemically oppressed. I’m just not sure how else we can move forward.