How Many Black Friends Do You Have?

Last week, in honor of Black History Month, Jimmy Kimmel and his crew took to the streets of Los Angeles to ask a simple question: " How many black friends do you have?"  Take a look:

http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2015/02/jimmu-kimmel-asks-white-people-if-they-have-black-friends

The satirization of this question is ironic, funny, sad and instructive. Why? Because the number of black friends white people have has become a proxy for determining if whites are racist, at worst, or the degree to which they are "diverse, " at best. The irony is that, as demonstrated by one of the participant's in this video, research consistently indicates that an overwhelming majority of whites don't have poc in their network. A recent survey from the Public Religion Research Institute found that most white people have no black friends in their social circles.

blog-blackfriendinfographic.png


You can read an article from the Washington Post here:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/08/25/three-quarters-of-whites-dont-have-any-non-white-friends/

And for those who are interested in delving more into the data and methodology of the survey:
http://publicreligion.org/research/2014/08/analysis-social-network/

In short, we have an absurdly imperfect criterion to assess white people's racial conceptual frameworks, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors; an overwhelming white population that lies about the question because, in fact, they have no black people in their social networks, and a polarized society, along racial lines, regarding perceptions of the saliency of race. We also know that authentic exposure to people of different backgrounds and cultures is critical to cultivating respect for difference. So instead of asking people how many black friends they have, maybe we should encourage ALL people to consider the nature of their social networks and reflect on how they learn about those who are different to them? The "how many black friends do you have?" ultimately serves no purpose besides promoting a fictitious sense of "diversity."