How common are friendships between people of different races? I have been giving this question a great deal of thought lately due to the prevalence of interracial friendships on TV, especially in ads and on certain popular shows like The Walking Dead, where people of various hues have banded together in order to defeat the inarticulate zombies that are out to eat them.
Commercials would have one believe that interracial friendships are common as red sports cars. I live in a diverse neighborhood so it’s not surprising to see Black children playing together with Hispanic kids, or White boys playing basketball up at the park with boys who are Latino or African American. It is not as common with the older crowd, however. I hardly see interracial friendships between those of different ethnic groups in the 30s, 40s, and older age groups.
Of course, I reside in a Southeastern state with conservative (read; Republican) leanings; the city and county I was born and raised in have been segregated since the days of the Sundowner towns (and yes, there were some of those right here in North Carolina). There are city-owned Black cemeteries, the many churches are mainly divided along racial lines – there are even Hispanic churches that hold Spanish sermons, some of them Pentecostal – and schools have become rather segregated once again now that White parents won the battle to allow their children to attend schools in their own (largely Caucasian) communities.
One of the latest studies I could find on interracial friendships revealed that while only 3.7% of Whites had invited a Black person to their wedding (the consensus being that only the closest of friends will get a request to attend one’s wedding) while 22.2% of Blacks invited a White friend to their own wedding. However, Whites and Asians included each other in their weddings at about the same rate, whereas Asians invite Blacks to their weddings at about one-fifth the rate that Blacks include Asians in theirs. Asians and Whites are less inclined to invite Blacks to their weddings much in the same way as they are less inclined to befriend them.
A more recent poll revealed that 40% of Whites and 25% of non-Whites do not have close friends of another race. In this study, Hispanics were found to have a more diverse social network, though 20% of Whites claimed to have 5 or more close friends who were non-White. Younger people were more likely to have friends outside their race, same as with dating, but the study showed that Blacks and Whites still tend to lead segregated lives here in America.
On a purely geographical basis, the South – no shock there, folks – had the least diverse relationships, while the Pacific states had the most diverse, again not a shock as far as I am concerned. This poll from 2013 also showed more, not less, racial segregation than a similar poll undertaken in 2004. A 2014 study revealed that 91% of the average White American has only Caucasian friends and family, with only 1% of their close friends being Black. While Black Americans had a more diverse social network than did the Whites in this study, they did not fare much better: 83% of Blacks could count only close friends of their own race, 0% Asian, 2% Latin, 3% mixed race, and 8% Caucasian.
It seems that sitcoms featuring families and groups of friends that are largely homogeneous are more true to life than a fantasy after all – Friends, Cheers, Glee, The Cosby Show & that whiter than snow old spectacle my grandmother rather despised, The Andy Griffith Show – which was criticized for its lack of Black characters back in the day. Those diverse TV commercials are clearly a Liberal dream.