I am 32 years old and white. I have had social anxiety all of my life. As a child, I was around black people often and I was comfortable, but quiet because of my anxiety disorder. This changed in college.
I grew up in Ohio and went to school in southern California. My neighbors were from Compton. They were loud and expressive black men. I had never met anyone quite like them and I experienced some culture shock, but eventually became friends with them. One night, after a frat party, I smoked pot with them and their friends. I was the only woman and the only white person in the group and I wasn’t a pot smoker, so I started to feel awkward right away. We went to a Ihop. The staff seemed uncomfortable. I got the impression that they didn’t want us there. The guys were teasing me, saying that I was really high, which was true. All of this made me so paranoid and uncomfortable that I left before ordering. I felt bad about leaving, I felt bad about the staff’s behavior, and the behavior of the guys I was with.
Ever since then I have been extremely awkward around black people. I’m not afraid of them hurting me, I’m afraid of them judging me. I’m afraid that my social anxiety will be interpreted as racism. I try to avoid being around black people. That’s what people with anxiety disorders do, they avoid their triggers. I know that the black people that I have spent time around notice my anxiety. I don’t know if it makes them angry or uncomfortable, but I do know that I’m angry, uncomfortable and deeply ashamed. I feel like I am a part of the problem. These thoughts run through my head everyday. If anyone knows of a multiracial support group for people who want to overcome their fears about race, I would like to join.