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Lani Writes: Hire a Brown Friend

Nov 26, 2015 etc

Introducing a great new service for the culturally confused.

This article was first published in the December 2015 issue of Metro. Illustration: Tane Williams.


I’ve been working on starting up a Kickstarter project called Hire A Brown Friend. It’s a working title, but essentially it’s for people who don’t have any brown friends or people of colour in their lives to give them a slap or a stern talking to when they are about to do something culturally offensive.

I think there’s a real gap in the market here. Its main purpose would be as a preventive measure. For example, to get advice on that possibly dodgy outfit you might wear to a costume party, before you decide to wear it in public and offend an entire race of people.

A certain reality TV star who went to a Bollywood-themed party in blackface a few months back would definitely have benefited from the services of A Brown Friend.

Halloween, I anticipate, will be one of our busiest times of year. The organisers of a recent “voodoo tiki horror” party — advertised by a poster featuring a bare-breasted brown woman in a grass skirt holding a spear — could have prevented a lot of pain and backlash if they’d only sought the services of A Brown Friend. Their guests, who left comments under the event poster exclaiming, “native boobies!” — and later, “boonga c***s” and “superstitious retards”, when Pacific women complained over its offensiveness — could also do with a few brown friends to enrich and enhance their lives.

But Hire A Brown Friend also understands that not everyone thinks to seek the advice of brown people before they decide to unwittingly offend them. The project also plans to offer a number of services after the offending has been done.

I’m working on training up a group of brown friends to offer a service titled Painstakingly Explain Why What You Did Is Offensive, along with a Painstakingly Explain To You Why My Culture Is Not A Costume service, and a How To Apologise Without Using The Words, “I’m Sorry If You’re Offended, But…” service. Again, working titles.

Why not hire a brown friend to come round and proofread your Twitter drafts before you hit the tweet button?

I’m also looking to develop a special social media service. Why not hire a brown friend to come round and proofread your Twitter drafts before you hit the tweet button?

Of course, you don’t have to hire a brown friend to seek the advice of people from different cultures. I realise people can do that for free, but it seems to be a social skill that is currently underutilised. Perhaps there just aren’t many, if any, brown people in your workplace, maybe they don’t live in your neighbourhood, or you’ve simply never thought to ask their opinion on matters that concern them.

It’s okay. We understand. We’re used to it. My ultimate hope is that with Hire A Brown Friend, we can teach people to become more and more comfortable seeking out and speaking to people of colour. The service itself would eventually become obsolete. This, however, seems a long way off. The market is already saturated with the opinions of white people. But seeking out opinions, advice and insights from brown people? There’s real opportunity there.

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