It's Totally OK To Unfriend Your Racist Friends — In Fact, You Should

Photo: Eugenio Marongiu / Shutterstock
It's Totally OK To Unfriend Your Racist Friends — In Fact, You Should

We’re all familiar with the many types of toxic personalities we can find online — from the self-absorbed narcissist to the perpetual victim and from the fake person with the "perfect" life to the 'I know it all" authoritarian.

These personality types often fracture relationships (both in the real world and online). But there is one toxic personality type that is less talked about, although equally upsetting and infuriating. And recently, there is a frenzied uptick in UNFRIENDING people like this.

I’m talking, of course, about your racist "friends."

There is nothing more awkward (and disappointing) than when old high school friends, well-liked neighbors, or work colleagues post something on Facebook or Twitter that is overtly or even subtly racist (or tolerant of racism).

But, it’s happening more and more.

With heightened attention in the news to racial disparities in our nation, the rise of grassroots movements like Black Lives Matter to combat racism and policing, and demands from black and indigenous students in the Black Liberation Collective to fight racial injustice on university and college campuses … sometimes, the comments on our posts have us unfriending even the nicest people we know (or thought we knew) at unimaginable rates.

But here’s what you may not know — research indicates that racist behavior is actually a sign of having a personality disorder.

In an article published in the Journal of the National Medical Association, Carl C. Bell suggests that the act of making discrimination and segregation illegal only addressed overt racism, leaving its more covert forms intact. These covert (less obvious) forms of racism are much more pervasive and damaging.

RELATED: Spike In Anti-Asian Racism Calls For More Cross-Cultural Solidarity Than Ever — Here's How

Covert racism perpetuates despite the laws in place because it is far more difficult to prove. Therefore, at an individual rather than systemic level, the racist individual suffers from a particular form of narcissism that stands in the way of normal psychosocial development.  

"The racist individual suffers from a psychopathological defect of developmental processes involving narcissism, which precludes the subsequent development of such qualities as creativity, empathy, wisdom, and integrity," Bell said.

Yes, you read that correctly. Your racist "friend" is a narcissist.

And here are two reasons why:

1. Like the racist, a narcissist has no real respect for others.

Arguing as to why "certain people" aren’t worthy of basic human rights (like the right to live without fear, harassment, or murder) is a sign that your "friend" sees themselves as better than their black and brown peers.

So, if your friends make excuses about why a world filled with social injustice "is what it is" or if they tell that it’s not as bad as it seems since they were been able to make it through challenging times in life themselves, then you are looking at a classic narcissistic personality disorder.

2. A narcissist will not change their behavior (no matter how many facts you give them).

There is a difference between indulging a racist attitude and racism as a veritable personality disorder.

Bell explains that a person with racist attitudes may have never been exposed to racial others, and therefore has no reference point to challenge social norms that framed their own socialization. But once someone like that meets people from other racial backgrounds and hears about the social inequities people of other races face, changing their mind and re-thinking their previously racist position is usually achieved with little to no resistance.

For the narcissistic racist, however, even exposure to "others" leaves their racist beliefs intact. In fact, this exposure might lead to an intense rationalization of their own position (i.e., narcissism) or incessant attempts to de-legitimize the examples of racism being discussed with comments like, "But slavery was a long time ago — I didn’t own slaves, so why are we still talking about this?"

By responding to racism by rationalizing it instead of listening to the points of view of others, narcissism puts your needs and your ideas before everyone else.

When people of other racial backgrounds tell you that, because of colonialism and the institution of slavery, they are now forced to deal with social injustices every day because of the color of their skin (even though they were supposedly born "free"), and your friends on Facebook dismiss these realities to make the conversation about themselves (i.e. about the fact that they were not slave owners), then that too is a sign of narcissistic behavior.

RELATED: 8 Low-Key Racist Things You Need To Stop Doing Immediately

Yes, the toxic personalities of these "friends" make them fair game for your unfriended list.

And Bell explains that the key way to tell the difference between a racist attitude and full-blown racist narcissism is "the degree of hostility directed toward the minority population."

For example, did your "friends" get angry that you posted something about Black Lives Matter? Did they counter defensively with the "All Lives Matter" slogan in order to emphasize that they, too, should be considered human and treated with dignity?

If your answer is "yes", then they are reflecting the behaviors of the racist personality disorder Bell wrote about nearly 40 years ago.

With the anonymity afforded by social media paving the way for an upsurge of horrifying social media comments about Black and Brown people, there’s strong cause to begin unfriending folks fast.

So, be prepared to keep it real, and don’t make excuses once the toxic comments show up on your feed.

When the sentiment is shared on your posts, you are in the driver’s seat.

Sure, you may not be able to do much about the 'friend of a friend’ who commented, but you can certainly speak to your actual friends about the impact of their racism on social media, what it looks like, and what it feels like to those who experience racism in their real and virtual worlds.

And don’t be afraid to unfriend. When the influence of someone’s toxic personality is recognized it’s important to act fast.

Racism is a toxic personality, and if you can’t tolerate that (and you shouldn’t), choosing to unfriend someone based on that is not mean, it’s self-preservation.

In fact, choosing to unfriend someone is your active participation in anti-racism in the social media age. So stay alert, monitor your social media feeds, and do your part to send a message to the toxic racists in your life.

As Shakespeare would have pondered (had he been around during the social media age): "To unfriend or not to unfriend? That is the question."

RELATED: How Racism & Prejudice Destroys Mental Health

Dr. Laura Mae Lindo is an author, parenting coach, success coach and the Founder and Director of Dr. Lindo Productions Inc.