"My friends are white"

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Are interracial friendships difficult?
Are interracial friendships difficult?

I sat down with my white brethren on separate occasions to talk about our friendships. First up was my buddy Duncan. We sat down at Jo’Anna Melt Bar in Melville.

Duncan says we connect because we’re in the middle of it all. “You know, bra, you’re black and Zulu, but you grew up in the suburbs, so that’s different from the general experiences of black people.

Then you get a dude who’s like me who has predominantly black friends because I was able to pick the language up on the streets of the east side of Johannesburg as a youngster.”

Duncan says we find ourselves strangely neither here nor there. “Too white for the black kids and too black for the white,” he says, making reference to a line by rapper Earl Sweatshirt.

Duncan is probably the blackest white dude I know. He speaks Zulu and Xhosa well enough to have got us out of a few police fines and other sticky situations over the years. As soon as we unleash his vernacular, tension drops rapidly.

READ MORE: I met some of my best friends on the internet

I haven’t known him for as long as some of my other white compadres, but I’ve come to learn that he perhaps resents the privilege his skin bares and leads his life to try to abandon that through his work at Uhuru Productions, the company responsible for films such as Miners Shot Down.

“Coming up man, the people around me besides my mother were black. To me those people in the Eastern Cape are family, just like you guys up here. It’s just a shame that at a time we have to answer for this in the ways we do.”

I’ve been running with Mauro and Nate since grades 1 and 2. People are always shocked to see that we’re still friends and I consider these guys to be family.

I now live with Mauro. “We were in the same class and we met each other through playing sport. I mean, we were seven years old and things were easy. I guess we’ve done well to keep that energy in our friendship.”

I ask him if there’s ever been a time when it’s been hard for him to be my friend. “Eish well, your hair is cooler than mine but beyond that man, smooth sailing.”

Football, music and perhaps dagga cemented our bond as boys and, other than his hipster tendencies, I have found it easy to be his friend too.

My other age-old buddy, Nate, first crossed paths with me in Grade 1. We just ran to the same jungle gym and that weekend he invited me to his house. “Yeah bru, I remember I was like ‘Who is this guy?’ and then you just kept following me around,” he says, joking.

Both these guys attribute the school we went to as being a part of this. Nate says: “Back then we didn’t really see colour and coming up like that has helped.”

Growing up as a black guy with many white friends has had its challenges – but they’ve mostly come from people who don’t accept this relationship.

READ MORE: Why a breakup with a friend hurts more than a relationship split

Nate says: “At Back to the City the first time you wanted me to come through, someone asked me if I was really your boy for as long as we’ve been and he told me that isn’t cool. In certain settings us just being there as friends can rub other people up the wrong way.”

There was a time I was travelling to Magaliesburg with both these guys. While passed out in the back seat, my boys stopped to get directions from a white guy. When he noticed me in the back he refused and got racial.

I woke up to these two guys about to get physical with this man in my name. I stopped them, but it was a touching moment.

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