How White Supremacy Ruined a Friendship, and the Lessons You Can Learn to Build Deeper Connections

Michelle Saahene
4 min readJan 14, 2021

Two days ago on Instagram, I shared an experience with a former friend, and it said this:

That post got more engagement than any other post I have ever posted on Instagram. I shared it to help other people understand the impact on ones relationships when one refuses to do their personal anti-racism work. The comments of support and people sharing their stories was absolutely beautiful. Then I got a text….

After 2.5 years the woman whom I was talking about in the post texted me within 30 minutes, after almost completely avoiding me since May of 2018. Unfortunately, it was more the same aggression, blame, and gaslighting I referred to in the post. In a nutshell, she lashed out at me and told me I wasn’t a good leader for sharing that story publicly, that I only care about my following, and that I should “cherish what once was.” Let me explain how this is classic white privilege mentality, and more specifically, aspects of white American culture that can be quite toxic.

A Smithsonian image in a Newsweek article breaks down how white Americans communicate. Some of those are: 1) Avoid conflict, intimacy. 2) Don’t show emotion. 3) Don’t discuss personal life. 4) Be polite. These four items are relationship killers and ways that uphold the status quo in our society of white supremacy. To dismantle white supremacy, it requires all of these things to happen, to flip upside down. We have to confront the conflict of systemic oppression. The atrocities of this oppression needs your emotion, your sadness, anger, and frustration, to go from passive to active participation in addressing it. The personal stories of non-white people need to be heard to build empathy in others. And white supremacy doesn’t deserve politeness.

Well, I guess I broke all the white rules by addressing the conflict, getting vulnerable with my audience, discussing my personal story in public, which apparently wasn’t polite (even though she remains completely anonymous), and she felt completely entitled to let me know rather than reflect. But reflection requires someone to be comfortable with emotions and addressing conflict.

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