Recovering Southern Privileged White Girl

Tiffany,
Indianapolis, IN.

I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. But I grew up in the middle class suburbs. My schools were overwhelmingly white. Black was something you saw on the news, heard about from others or saw on Marta. I grew up in a neighborhood where ding dong ditch was called N-word Knocking. I don’t even know why. I grew up reading Black Sambo and Uncle Remus stories. In high school there were a couple of black people amongst 4,000. They all “acted white” so we were comfortable with them. Districts were rezoned my sophomore year and we suddenly had 50-60 more black people who didn’t “act white”. Fights began to break out daily between the white (redneck, confederate flag toters) and the black kids from “the other side of the tracks”. I began to learn that black people were violent, loud, possibly dangerous. After high school, I would only interact with black people in downtown.

Sometimes as beggars accosting me for money, once as a man who picked my pocket. Between these few interactions and the media portrayal, it became clear that black men were something to fear.

When I was 21, I moved to Indiana. There’s less racial tension here. Definitely less racist talk. I’ve become a liberal, a feminist, a believer that we are all ultimately the same and that race is not what makes someone dangerous. I know now that I was seeing only part of the picture. I know I don’t have to explain to anyone here why my previous beliefs were wrong. I know, on a logical level, that black men are not dangerous… but I can’t let go of the reaction. I hate myself a little bit every time I have to fight the temptation to lock my car door when I see a black man walking down the street. I hate myself a little bit every time I’m afraid to walk on the sidewalk beside a black man. I hate myself a little bit every time I make any of these assumptions based on race. And I try to force myself to make eye contact and smile instead, to refuse to give in to my knee jerk reactions, but… I just wish the day would come that they would go away. I wish I truly could let go of my past and see people as just people, without having to force myself to do so.

 

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