the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

My African-American Friend


“Derrick?  This is Neil.”

“Well, this is a surprise.”

“Listen, I know we haven’t spoken in a long time.”

“I’m not apologizing.”

“I know.  I know.  It was my fault.  It’s OK that you went to Jennifer’s party and didn’t tell me about it.  I don’t want to lose your friendship over something stupid.”

“Well, thank you.  I’m glad to hear that our friendship means something to you.”

“It does.  I’m a firm believer in diversity and whenever I have a heated conversation about race relations, I like to say that “some of my best friends are African-American.” And yesterday, I was online arguing with this woman about the lack of diversity in the parenting blogging community, and I was about to say, “Some of my best friends…” when I realized that YOU were my ONLY best friend who was black, and since we weren’t talking, I couldn’t honestly say that “some of my best friends are African-American” anymore because I am all about authenticity. And that hurt.  It also makes me look bad not have a black best friend.

“So, are you saying that you want to become friends again, so you can tell others that “some of your best friends are African-American?”

“Well, it’s not the only reason.  But the main one.  Is there a problem with that?”

“That is disgusting.  Is this what the entire civil rights movement means to you?  Just so you can prove your liberal credentials to your lily-white ass friends by trotting me out like… some… some… accordian playing monkey?”

“I would never call you a monkey.  That would be racist.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that your roots are in Africa.”


“So, I mean you have some sort of psychic connection to the jungle.”

“I’m from Queens.  I’ve never been hiking.  Who wants to go to the f*cking jungle?  How would you like if I called you a kike?”

“Are you calling me a kike?”

“Yeah, maybe I am!”

“What exactly is a kike?”

“I have no idea.”

“When I first heard that word, I thought it was “kite.”  Which was odd.  Why would you call a Jew a kite?   You rarely see Jews flying kites.”

“That’s not true.  Remember we flew kites once at Jones Beach.”

“That’s true.”

“We were terrible.  We had to ask that old guy to show us how to fly a kite.”

“So, are we friends again?”

“I don’t know.”

“You need me.  As much as I need you.  Without me, you can’t say that “some of your best friends are Jewish.”

“That’s not true.  Half of my friends are Jewish.”

“They are?”

“I work at school in the Upper West Side!”

“I forgot.”

“Am I really your only black friend?”

“Well, right now you are.  No, wait.  There is this black guy in Redondo Beach.  But I don’t really like him that much.  He’s a little boring.  Always talking about his car.”

“What type of car?”

“1965 Mustang.”


“You wouldn’t like him though.  He doesn’t like the Simpsons.”

“No?  Nah.  I probably wouldn’t like him.”

“Even though he’s black?”

“Even though he’s black.”

“OK.  So where do we stand…?”


“I take that as a yes.”

“OK.  We’re friends again.  You can go tell your white friends that you have a black friend again.”

“Thank you, Derrick!  Nice to have you back, African-American friend!”

Note:  Sigh!  I hate saying this, but just to protect the innocent from overly-literal readers:   Truth Quotient:  4%


  1. Amy @ Ess Eppis

    and the award for the most surreal post goes to…

  2. Holmes

    This is like when me and my black coworker friend leave the office for lunch and I sing all the violent rap lyrics and he looks at me like I’m crazy. Well, not exactly like that….

    • Neil

      Don’t tell me that he listens to Katy Perry?!

  3. drlori71

    Awww, how sweet. It’s like you two are Lenny and Carl from the Simpsons.
    (Good thing you and Derrick both like the Simpsons otherwise you wouldn’t appreciate the hilarity of that cultural reference.) 🙂

  4. Jillian

    That is hilarious. But really, is it worse to say I have ONE black friend or just to say I don’t have any. One seems more discriminatory, because you have the opportunity….and only like one. None could just mean that you are not in a spot where you ever meet any African Americans.

    Either way- I love this conversation.

  5. Jennie

    This is funny 🙂

  6. Missives From Suburbia

    I take offense at lily-white. I mean, come on. We’re not that pale. We’re more of a salmon pink.

    • Neil

      I’ve met people from Minnesota and you ARE lily-white.

  7. Bill

    I have a vision that the 4% truth is that you had to have an old guy show you how to fly a kite…

  8. Claire

    This should be on Stuff White People Like.

    I don’t have black friends but I have black neighbors, and I hang out with people that are not on facebook or twitter and who don’t read blogs, that proves I embrace diversity, right?

  9. Jack

    I am a Jew who flies kites. Doesn’t really matter, but I thought that I’d mention it.

  10. Texasholly

    I am loving the truth quotient percentage report at the end of the post. Genius.

  11. meredith

    am now falling out of chair laughing. the snorts are pretty epic.

  12. Erica M

    Maybe if you calculate the localized racial proportions of each ethnic and group and multiply by your curiosity factor then divide by your comfort level quotient, you can come up with the number of different colors that should make up your personal rainbow coalition. Do the same for sexual orientation and world religion. Math solves the world’s problems one algebraic expression at a time.

    • Neil

      Math is the answer to all problems.

      • Ben

        …and the problem to all answers.

  13. Hippest Snippets

    Another reason we always read here. This conversation, even if it wasn’t real. We don’t care because we have no friends.

    Parties are dumb anyway. Love this blog!

  14. Poor Fish Girl

    This. Was. Awesome.
    Not many writers can make me laugh out loud but this entry did. 🙂

  15. pia

    This was hilarious and I won my own bet as to what was true 🙂 Though I have never heard a Jewish mother (and they were all I knew growing up) say “go fly a kite.” It was always “go play in the rain until you hear the first rumble of thunder then run into the nearest apartment.”
    Oh I was in the worst mood and this cheered me up. Thanks Neil!

  16. Ben

    Wow, that was funny, I actually laughed out loud at work and it’s quiet enough to hear a pin drop here. Truth quotient if I myself in this story >50%

  17. Caren

    Claire beat me to it – I was going to say the post reminded me of this site:

    And, I will still say that. Cringe-worthy posts. Like watching Michael Scott on “The Office”.

  18. deedee

    Token black friend here. Think I’m going to have to start charging when my friends refer to me as their “lots of African-American friends.” 🙂

  19. Annie @ PhD in Parenting

    I only follow you on twitter so that when people say I only follow women, I can say, “not true, I also follow @neilochka.” Or when people say I only follow parents, I can say, “not true, I also follow @neilochka.”

  20. subWOW

    This is hilarious. Kudos to you to bring everything up to the surface in such a humorous way. Hmmm. Am I stereotyping you be commenting your wonderful dry sense of humor? My co-worker likes to joke that I’m a 3fer : female, Asian, and old. Ha. True integration comes about when ppl are comfortable enough to joke about this. Nicely done!

  21. Robin

    I started to laugh…really hard. Then I realized I’ve been that token black friend…..and I just felt sad.

    Good effort, though. 🙂

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