When I hear the words “best friend”, it’s hard to fight back the nostalgia; I see those neon Scooby friendship bracelets and running around hand in hand. I remember the way categorising friendships would lead to playground fall-outs that felt astronomical – and were forgotten the next day. Throughout the years, my best friend’s face has changed, but the feelings of love have remained the same. It’s a very specific kind of love; the greatest I’ve known, a sisterhood, a special and impenetrable bond shared by two women of colour.
Having met my best friend when we were small 12-year-old girls, we soon became each other’s chosen family trying to negotiate this stratospheric maze called life. It’s a refreshing fact I hold dear: that I have known my best friend for such a long time and yet, our friendship is one of the never-ending, ever-flowing cups of support we can both sip from. Being Black and mixed race, the stereotypes associated to us are endless; from being angry and emasculating, to being a promiscuous jezebel who entirely favours the company of men, women of colour have long been demonised.
“There’s a security and comfort in knowing that my best friend is not only someone who I can confide, gossip and laugh with, but also somebody I can truly interrogate the dark corners of the world with.”
As a young girl growing up in East London, I think it’s easy for people to assume we all grew up in the same, mutually-beneficial multicultural bubble where everyone was tolerant and respectful of each other’s cultures. Of course, the reality is far from that and when certain incidents, questions and comments were made, it was my best friend I’d often turn to then, and it still is today.
Whether it’s being exasperated at someone commenting needlessly on our hair or approaching either of us in a bar with the sole question of “where are you really from?” – we share an understanding. There’s a security and comfort in knowing that my best friend is not only someone who I can confide, gossip and laugh with, but also somebody I can truly interrogate the dark corners of the world and swap anecdotes with, all the while within a safe space.
As the years have gone by, we’ve offered each other a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen to regarding a wide span of topics; heartbreak, career dreams, travel plans and more. Our friendship is not only woven with positive conversations though – it’s also stitched together by the irritation and anguish we often feel as two young women experiencing similar hardships.
“I think many forget that close-knit friendships amongst women of colour are pivotal for many. Ease, relatability and confidence are bountifully found within them.”
Often, it’s society itself that incessantly projects the image of being a “strong, independent Black woman” through music, films and TV, and whilst it is an empowering motif, it’s important to note that it rarely allows room for much emotion.
What if the news of yet another Black person being killed doesn’t fill me with the vigour to go out and make a masterpiece inspired by it? What if yet another politician’s ignorant racist comment just stacks on top of the societal fatigue I already feel? That’s when I know that the power of strong friendships with those who think similarly can be a saving grace, time and time again: offering empathy by an action so small yet so full of feeling – like listening to your 15-minute long rambling voice notes.
If you take a look on social media, it becomes immediately obvious that many people feel comfortable pitting women against one another. Sadly, many women also feel the need to criticise each other unnecessarily. From rife fatphobia and desirability politics aimed at Black women to the classic “light-skinned vs. dark-skinned women” comparison often fuelled by the male-gaze, these comments are ludicrous but provide real insight into how people view interpersonal relationships amongst women of colour.
Now more than ever, positive representations of the friendships shared by women are necessary – and finding solace within them, even more so. With an obvious lack of personification when it comes to talking about Black women online, in books, music and general media, I think many forget that close-knit friendships amongst women of colour are pivotal for many. Ease, relatability and confidence are bountifully found within them – just tune into an episode of Girlfriends for confirmation.
Ask most Black women and women of colour what their saving grace in life has been and chances are, many will reference their best friend. Amongst others, my best friend has been one of the main cheerleaders in my life but is also someone that I’ve been able to speak about racial identity with, colourism, beauty standards, self esteem regarding natural hair and so much more. Of course, a best friend should wrap you up in comfort and beam you up with positivity, that’s a given – but they should also encourage you, educate effortlessly and be an unashamed beacon of love and hope.
Morgan is a writer and aspiring author passionate about writing on identity, racial inequality and the state of society. Her over-flowing bookshelves reflect this. @MorgsNicole_