Is it all in my head?

Reply Wed 25 Jun, 2014 06:41 pm
I am 17 years old and can honestly say that I have never had a problem with racial discrimination before. I am currently enrolled in a summer program where there are kids from all over the world coming here. Now, unfortunately I am the only black kid here, but it does not bother me at all. I personally never had an issue with race. I don't even classify myself as a young black man, but just a young man. Me having dark skin does not necessarily define my personality, so I never really cared about it. Anyway my dormmates are multi racial Some are white, Asian, indian, etc... I notice whenever I walk into the main room it gets really quiet and weird. Everyone just looks down and says very little. Later that same day a girl who I am close friends with told me that the reason people don't say much at lunch is because they don't want to offend me by saying something rude. Now I am a quiet guy, so I don't talk much anyway, but I was really surprised at this. I began to wonder is that why the guys look at me funny and say little things to me? Or am I just over reacting and its all in my head? I just don't wanna be that kid that makes everyone uncomfortable because they don't want to offend me.
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Reply Wed 25 Jun, 2014 06:50 pm
I can't say if it's all in your head or not. However, this:

I just don't wanna be that kid that makes everyone uncomfortable because they don't want to offend me.

. . . is not a good attitude for you to have. If people are saying things which they think might offend you, then they have a problem, not you. You would not be "making" anyone uncomfortable. If they are uncomfortable, it's because they know that their attitudes and remarks are offensive. That's not your fault.
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Reply Wed 25 Jun, 2014 08:24 pm
Is there anything besides the dorm that you all have in common? Are you all watching the World Cup? Try some conversation starters around that. Maybe have a dorm World Cup party to watch the finals.
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Reply Thu 26 Jun, 2014 04:26 pm
I've had a similar experience, although probably less-than yours.

I sit in a room with four or five people. We interact as equals, and I always feel like I'm one of five.

Then, someone makes a comment about the south - or adopt a twangy Southern accent - or make an insulting comment about the south - or stupid people from the south - or something that identifies me as different due to the place of my birth recognized because of my accent...

Suddenly, I'm not one of five. I'm not one of them. I'm set apart in an insulting way.

I'm discriminated against because of my "belonging" in a group. That belonging sets me apart from them. I'm a suspect. I'm less than them.

It's not due to anything I've done or said. Like black skin, the way I form words is some outward sign to them that I'm different. As if they started talking about unwed black mothers or saggy pants, every disparaging remark made about people from the south is a side-swipe at me. Innocence of the things that are said matters not.

The indictment is made - indirectly, but as real as a slap on my face.

I don't react well to it.

I should, but I don't because it pisses me off.

No, I don't listen to Rush Limbaugh. No, I don't think blacks are inferior. No, I'm not a Bible thumper.

But, it doesn't matter.

Guilty as charged. I'm momentarily ostracized, bullied, charged, and judged.

If you don't react, you capitulate or cower. If you do react, you look guilty - forced to retaliate or defend your innocent self.

If you enter the conversation - obviously as the canary in the coal mine - you become an object of derisive pity.

If you figure out an acceptable answer, please tell me about it.

Meanwhile, solidarity with you, darling.

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Reply Mon 30 Jun, 2014 09:45 pm
keyonj21, I'm a white guy (and a fellow Southerner, Lash!) who has been living in South Korea for a long time. I very often get the same reaction to my presence that you describe. People get uncomfortable when I enter the room for various reasons. There are quite a few foreigners over here who do act like jerks in public. Koreans often aren't very familiar with Western customs and don't want to do anything offensive, so they avoid interaction (which is, of course, a negative reaction in Western culture). Most of them are also insecure about their English skills.

Anyway, I've learned to deal with it in a few simple ways.
a) I ignore it. I know they don't intend anything bad, and intent is more important than their superficial behavior. As for the rare person who might intend something bad, I think, "Screw 'em. Why should I care about the opinions of a racist?" Wink

b) I remain relaxed and positive. I've learned that when one person relaxes, it helps others relax. If you give out positive vibes, you're much more likely to get positive energy back.

c) I do something to show them that I'm "normal," by which I mean harmless. If there's a soccer game on TV, I sit down and watch it, for example. Even though I don't really care about the game. Whatever the setting, I match my behavior to theirs. Basically, I make myself as unremarkable as possible.

d) I wait for them to approach me. Approaching them only intensifies their anxiety. When they're sufficiently comfortable that you're not going to bite them (or whatever), they'll approach you. It's just a matter of patience.

(Of course, it also helps a lot when I speak Korean to them, but I understand that you're in an English-speaking environment, so that's not a problem for you, I guess.)

Anyway, best of luck. I really doubt that they're all racists. Just strangers. Smile
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