Quebec Studies

"Some of My Best Friends Are …": The Relationship of Ethnicity to Close Friendship in Montreal

Quebec Studies (1985), 3, (1), 101–112.


"Some of My Best Friends Are . . .": The Relationship of Ethnicity to Close Friendship in Montreal J. Barry Gurdin and Horst Hutter "Some of my best friends are . . . " has become the classic one-liner by which ethnic and racial minorities and liberallyminded individuals identify a prejudiced person who attempts to deny his or her prejudgment. In its most classic form this declaration precedes or follows a highly bigoted comment about the group against which the utterer claims to have no inherent bias, and it is often delivered in the presence of a member of the group about which the declaration is made. The emitter of this message asks its receiver to agree with its content. A statement such as this with such a lineally-close, glaring contradiction would not seem to be likely to evoke the belief of its audience. Moreover, its dubious truth value and anxiety-provoking quality have most probably been factors in its institutionalization as a bittersweet joke, displayed by gestures of the face and head and intonation of the voice. Yet, routinization of this line as a marker of prejudice has led researchers to shy away from a legitimate issue embodied in the sentence, namely the reality and extent to which groups cross ethnic, racial, and other social group lines in establishing ties of close friendship. To look into this matter, we have asked people in the general population of Montreal, a multi­ ethnic city, to report their own ethnicity and that of their six closest friends. This investigation provides us with an in­ dicator of the extent to which this population crosses boundaries in forming close friendship. Some historical caution should be taken here in assuming that people who are closed in their intimate relationships are necessarily closed in their vision of society. Some groups that have been highly particularistic in some segments of society or culture, such as interpersonal intimacy, nevertheless have contributed to greater degrees of pluralism in the polity. 1

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Author details

Gurdin, J.

Hutter, Horst