“It’s…odd that ‘bro’ has become a culturally white designation”

It’s…odd that “bro” has become a culturally white designation. The word has roots both in the church and as a way that black people address black men — as “brother.” Black use of that word is publicly fraternal and privately political. It’s how black men salute each other — still — in white spaces, as a way of saying to each other, “I see you.” What’s vaguely obnoxious about “bro” is that it doesn’t really see anybody.

The willful blindness sometimes feels like a stab at utopia. White men calling black men “bro” aspire to or assume a kinship with black Americans. There are other words — O.K., the N-word — that the bro knows he can’t say. “Brother” seemed O.K. Eventually, so did “bro.” But I’ve heard more than one black man say, “Dude, I’m not your bro.” I’ve been that man. There are regional variations on the word “bro” that seem designed to lock out certain white people: In the South, for instance, there’s “bruh” and, in Hawaii and the American West, “brah.” But a bro can always get a key made.

“Bro” draws a line between cultural blackness and cultural whiteness while also drawing a circle around white male groups. Its swell gets at a kind of vague discomfort we have with male camaraderie, even though certain comrade cohorts — like the dudes in “Entourage” or at Donald Trump events — invite derision. The bro, in all his permutations, can work the nerves. But the trawl used to fish him out seems indiscriminate, netting all senses of fraternity.

Where does the expanded taxonomy leave earnest, sensitive male bonds?

Wesley Morris, “Boy Friends”, The New York Times Magazine (20 March 2016), 23.