Friendship is not often thought about in terms of diversity. Discussions of interracial romantic relationships are bountiful, but platonic relationships are often disregarded. After all, friendship is supposed to be more organic than that.
People look for love and, therefore, discuss what they are looking for. Friendships, on the other hand, are more likely to be found than searched for. You see someone often enough, or you find enough in common, and suddenly you are friends—or are you?
Members of majority culture are quick to say they have a friend of color (“Some of my best friends are black!”), but a study by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that interracial friendships are not common for white people. In truth, the average white American’s friend group is made of 91 percent fellow whites. The diversity they claim to find in their social groups is most likely to come from co-workers and acquaintances.
America is lauded as a melting pot, where people from varying backgrounds can come together. Due to this, only 60 percent of Americans are white alone. That means 40 percent of our country is made up of people of color. That translates to roughly 135.2 million people.
If this is true, why are our demographics not reflected in our friendships?
One thought process behind the lack of intercultural friendships is that people tend to drift toward those who they look like. When you’re surrounded by strangers but one of them looks like you, they are the person you are most likely to seek out.
While humans can find comfort in the familiar, diversity is where we are most likely to find growth.
The addition of members from different racial and cultural backgrounds is proven to increase creativity and entrepreneurial thinking in groups.
A study from the University of Illinois shows that the presence of diversity increases student leadership skills. This was demonstrated to be true for white students specifically.
Cross-cultural platonic friendships also increase the quality of life and social awareness. However, this is true only for deep, meaningful friendships that involve cultural learning. For acquaintances, not so much.
Knowing that diverse groups of friends are good for yourself and for our society does not make them suddenly appear.
We have to be proactive in breaking free of the homogenous culture we so often find ourselves in.
Venturing out to explore new avenues and discover new communities is the best way to expand our social horizons and begin to collectively reap the benefits of togetherness.