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You will sit next to me?

June 2, 2011

Tonight I am appreciative of a white woman I do not know and will likely never meet. Yesterday she sat next to a friend of mine.

The waiting room in the doctor’s office was large and mostly empty.  A white man set in one corner reading a book. My friend, a black man, sat on a chair reading a book. A white woman came into the room, sat down close to my friend and laid her purse next to him along with a clipboard.

“This is what I wanted to say to her,” said my friend,

“Thank you for not being afraid to sit next to me.”

For much of his 50 years he has seen many white women cross the street to avoid him and clutch their purses when he walks by.  He understands how they are influenced by the constant media portrayal of black men as something threatening to be feared. It still hurts every time it happens.

I’m left with some questions: Who am I afraid to sit next to and why?  What falsehoods have I been told that lead me to act out of fear in ways that strip others of their humanity? How has having white skin hidden from me the daily burden carried by others who are negatively impacted simply because of the color of their skin?

I want to sit next to these questions even if I am afraid of some of the answers.

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3 comments

  1. a seemingly simple story with a profound impact. thank you for sharing this, as painful as it is to read – and for providing the follow up questions to ponder. Fear is a powerful motivator and i appreciate you naming it.


    • Thanks for your comments, Cathy. Those who abuse power count on us being motivated by fear; refusing to do so is an act of resistance.


  2. Insightful post. Thank you for telling this story.



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