Urban living has made me racist

Kenna Hensen
Philadelphia, PA

I’m so ashamed to say I have racist thoughts. I grew up in a small suburban town believing that no matter your ethnicity, racist remarks where never appropriate. I moved into a large urban city 5 years ago and found my thoughts and feelings on racism being altered by my experience with people in my neighborhood.

I live in an area with a high immigrant population of Asian/ Vietnamese / Hispanic families. I also live down the street for a low income housing project that has a high majority of African American families. The Asian and Hispanic populations are very hard working individuals, opening stores, restaurants and businesses. They put me to shame with their work ethic, often working weekends and holidays. I always see my Asian/ Hispanic neighbors working their houses, playing in the park with their children, or sending time with their families, after they have worked all week and into the weekend. We always greet each other with simple words and friendly gestures.
When I walk past the housing project, I am heckled by my neighbors who yell sexual and offensive comments, fail to respect quite hours in the evening and often let their children wander around late into the night. I feel voices that I’ve heard say racist and offensive comments creep into my head and I bite my tongue to hold back a lot of words I feel inside.

But why? Why has the negativity of Racism crept into my head? I have very good friends who are African American, Ive been in mixed relationships, I even have an “adopted” aunt who I loved. I see their children as my own I would never disrespect an individual of this race, but I am struggling to understand the overall values of this ethnicity and the reason that I feel the way I do. What is happening in our culture and why has the majority of this ethnic group ended up becoming the so displaced in our society?


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