So, I'm dissatisfied with the advice on the recent Friendzone given to the white woman who "wants to meet more people who are not white." The discussion afterwards has gotten hung up in the the part of the headline — not the letter — about "making black friends." Everyone agrees that's problematic, because people are not Pokemon, design elements, &c. But I was hoping for a discussion that didn't end up happening. In the hopes of eliciting that discussion, I'm going to rephrase the question so we don't get tangled up in the original letter-writer's deal.
Let's say you look around one day at your social and professional circles and realize that they are really homogenous. You're the kind of person who'd try to send your kid to a school with a diverse student/teacher body for reasons that are no-brainers for this crowd. You've realized that you yourself are not getting the experience you'd have tried to ensure for your kid.
Here's the question: What do you do?
Don't answer yet. I'm not quite done wittering.
It think it's going to matter whether you and your homogenous crew are in some nexus of majority and privilege (if we're in the US, let's say, white, straight, culturally Protestant, middle class) or members of one or more minorities and/or stigmatized groups. To wit, if you're a Hasidic Jew in an enclave of Hasidic Jews, you can have this moment and then decide not to go to yeshiva. Go to NYU instead, and you're set.* You'll meet a whole range of people. Let's call this this "get out there" solution.
There are other "get out there" solutions, like "get out of your all-white/homophobic/monocultural/mono-whatever town and move to a metropolitan area." There's "do a junior year abroad!" — which moves the "out there" to outside the national borders.
But what if you're not in an enclave or a small town? You're in some big "there" where people like you are the majority, you're not encountering diversity of whatever kind in your everyday, and you'd like to find a "there" where there's more diversity and get in there. You might be the white kid who did get out of all-white suburbia to the big state school with 15-20% minority enrollment but wake up in your sophomore year to realize that your college friends are just like your high school friends. Say your major isn't going to help you here — you fell in love with Slavic literature or Medieval Studies or whatever and you're surrounded by more white kids. Say you're on some sports team that is whitewhitewhite (lacrosse? who knows), so that won't help either. What do you do?
Or maybe you already bobbled college, and you're out in the working world. One day you realize your workplace is lily white — WTF? So, hobbies and interests: you're into craft brewing, and of course there is nothing ethnically anything about craft brewing, but for whatever reason the local zymurgy nerds whose events you've been going to are all portly white guys in camo baseball caps. You love the Walking Dead, and of course all kinds of people love Walking Dead, but they aren't in your living room when you're watching it. What do you do?
It would be easier if it were literature, right? You can wake up one morning and say, hey, my bookshelf is full of stuff by dead white straight guys. You do some research and find some books by other kinds of humans and you read them, and it's great. But you can't check a community out of the library, and — yes — you've already fucked up by even toying with that metaphor. What can you do?
Or is there no way to do anything because it's always always too problematic? It wouldn't be for the straight kid who stumbles on Queer voices online, gets politicized, and joins the Gay-Straight Alliance, right? Or —?
*I'm skating past a lot by writing "you can," because of course this requires money, &c. Bear with me and read "you can" as "you might, assuming you had the financial and other means and were free to act."