Adapted from a recent online discussion.
I’m absolutely devastated over a recent fight with my best friend of more than a decade. She is white, and I am not. ([A white nationalist rally) upset both of us, but landed much harder with me. She was sympathetic at first, but then the conversation turned to race and responsibility. She explained that she thought all she could do was to be a fair person and raise her children well. I told her I never expect anyone to go to rallies or protests, but do think people need to speak up when we see or hear bigotry in our day-to-day lives, even if it is uncomfortable to do so.
She felt like I was attacking her and got extremely upset. (She often reacts angrily to anything she perceives as criticism.) I tried to explain that I didn’t think she had done anything wrong, but that we all have an obligation to be more vigilant given the way the country is going right now. She was dismissive and upset, and said she’d be happy to listen if I wanted to vent but that she wasn’t interested in talking about this in any depth with me. She more or less hung up on me after a few minutes.
We’ve talked since about mundane things, but this is clearly lingering. I don’t know what to do. Maybe I should have just avoided the subject. On the other hand, I hate the idea that I can’t talk to my closest friend about something troubling me so deeply.
It’s not a loss in the traditional sense where someone dies or ends the friendship, but it’s still shocking when you find out a loved one’s shortcomings — even those you’ve accepted as part of the beloved package that is your best friend — are bigger than her ability to sympathize with or show friendship toward you.
So I suggest you approach this as grieving. That means you don’t have to “do” anything about it just yet, besides give yourself time to let your thoughts and feelings settle.
Once they do and you feel ready to face the underlying issue that stirred them up, then you figure out how this new information about her affects the friendship as a whole. Is there a way you’ve handled her defensiveness in the past that could serve you here? Does she ever walk back her defensiveness later and accept new information?
If she stays behind her wall, is your interest in remaining friends strong enough for you to keep making your half of the effort?
There’s nothing more discouraging to an ally than hearing that you’re not a good enough ally. Push people hard enough, and they turn all anti-SJW out of sheer pique.
I’m a minority as well, and over the years I have become very offended when people don’t react with the same outrage I do to discrimination. But now that I’m older, I also can admit I’ve had several instances where I could have spoken up myself and didn’t, because it just felt like too much to take on. So, I guess what I’m recommending is at least exploring whether empathy is warranted.
Nice perspective. And when is empathy not warranted?
— Washington Post Writers Group