Educated. Black strangers scare me still.

4bd8a0a1e7382af3461229a41fa935f8Samantha Murphey,
Submitted via: Scarlett called Scout.

Read more about this essay:

The Race Card Project

Trent and I talk and read about race a lot. Atlanta is a minority majority city with a complicated history of racial tensions and triumphs that bleed into the present. Alone, moving here might have been enough to spark an interest in the topic, but there were other things, too. There was Trent’s involvement with Teach for America, an organization that fights educational inequality, which continues to be drawn along racial lines. There were the lists of “Must-See Sites in the South” we consulted, dotted with civil rights museums, monuments and battle grounds. And there were the overtly racist sentiments we heard expressed by good people in our community here, people who seemed just like us.

In the past couple years, we’ve discovered a lot about the complexity of racism, but the most powerful and eye-opening lesson we’ve learned is a simple one:
We are racists. We are all racists.

All humans are prejudiced, prone to assumptions and judgements and stereotypes to help us navigate through the gaps in our knowledge about people who are different from us. And if we are white people, we are all beneficiaries of privileges and powers that are given to us based on our race—in this time in this country. That’s just how it is.

When you’re ready to admit that color blindness is a fantasy and that you, as well-intentioned as you might be, are a racist like everyone else, you’ll be ready to overcome it. And if you’re ready now to start identifying your racist attitudes, I know just what you should do.

Listen to this moving story on NPR about The Race Card Project, which is collecting boldly honest six-word essays about race to get a read on Americans’ true feelings, unsavory or otherwise. Then submit your own.

Here’s mine:

“Educated. Black strangers scare me still.”

We cannot change what we cannot confront.

Listening to: Iron & Wine, “Teeth in the Grass”

Keep the conversation going - comment and discuss with your thoughts

9 Responses to "Educated. Black strangers scare me still."
  1. Ryan says:

    I appreciate your honesty

  2. Samantha Murphey says:

    Just realized my punctuation may cause confusion. It should be “Educated. Black strangers scare me still.” My point was that despite the fact that I consider myself an educated, open-minded person who seeks to surround herself with diversity of all kinds, I still battle deep-seeded prejudices, just like everyone else. I still find myself occasionally get nervous around black men that I do not know, more so than I would with white men. Until I am honest with myself about my instinctive reactions, I will never work past them.

    • Peter Kim says:

      Same conflicted feelings here. I’m Korean and open minded. In grad school (Baltimore, MD), I was walking past a group of black teenagers minding my own business. They started with racial slurs and blocking my way. It was late afternoon and still light out but I was scared. I told them I didn’t was any trouble and being a grad student, they must have known I didn’t have much/anything of value. I guess they were bored and wanted to bother someone rather than looking to cause serious trouble and eventually let me go. Another time, I was driving with the window open. I slowed down for traffic and a black girl on the sidewalk yells, “Hey ching chong” and throws trash hitting me in the face.

      Yes, the irony of a discriminated people discriminating is lovely.

      It is human nature to pattern match and avoid problems– humans (and animals) who don’t tend to survive less well if they don’t learn from past experiences. It is sometimes a struggle to remain open minded when your negative experiences are instructing you otherwise.

      And yes, rowdy, ignorant white people scare me too.

    • Yes, but WHY? Where do the deep-seeded (seated) prejudices come from? Why are you more nervous around Black men than White men? Would it help if you came to visit an HBCU?

  3. Karl Foyer says:

    The punctuation totally changes the meaning. Consider revising (mail the site manager)

  4. Terrie says:

    Realizing that you harbor this fear is a first step and I applaud you. What are you going to do about it? Your fear, no matter how private you think it may be, is evident to people who unfortunately experience the unreasonable fear (and loathing) of others on a daily basis. I am one of these people. As a middle-aged, suburban mother driving a minivan, I wonder what it would be like to spend an entire day without someone imposing their irrational fear/hate onto me, poisoning my day until I find a way to put it behind me. It would be a lovely gift.
    Traveling in Germany, I noted that there was among the population a mix of people who stared at me with anxiety, and those who ‘overcompensated’. While it was unsettling to be met with unfriendly glares by some, the broad welcoming smiles of others did indeed compensate for that. Yes, they were over the top, and somewhat fake even, but the sentiment underneath was heartwarming and sincere, and it worked.

    So how about this: next time you encounter someone you can rationally say is unlikely to be a real danger, flash a big smile? If you can’t do that, can you do a quick nod? And if you can’t do that, try not to make eye contact, don’t move away, try to distract yourself with your phone or something. I’m saying, try not to impose your negative feelings on someone who doesn’t deserve it.

  5. barry irving says:

    …institutional racism affects every one. That is America’s great fault that is not addressed or acknowledged often or often enough! You say you are educated? Education has many levels and shades…academic education is just one!

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