When I was younger, I lived in a neighborhood called High Point Acres. Every family inside the neighborhood inevitably became very close with one another. There was a communal pool that everyone flocked to during the summer, constant parties hosted by different families every month, and a communal friendliness that parents with young children appreciated, but there was a hidden flaw in the block that I’d never recognized until the first black family moved into the house across the street from me.
I knew the family already. The oldest son was in my year at school and on the club soccer team that I played for. We were in the same group of friends, and I was absolutely ecstatic when he became my neighbor. However, even before the family moved in, there was already a certain apprehension among some of the families who were worried that this new family would “disturb the peace.”
About two weeks after the new family moved into their home, already the family was getting blamed for causing a disturbance that they had nothing to do with. Another family who had been living in the neighborhood for years had a young girl with epilepsy. About twice a year, we’d hear ambulances parked outside the house, and, of course, every member of the community knew why. So right after the new family had moved into the community, ambulances were called to the house next door because the little girl had a seizure. When I heard the ambulances coming, I looked across the street, knowing that the little girl had another seizure, as was usually the case. Unfortunately, others came to a different conclusion.
Apparently, certain members of the community heard the ambulance sirens and assumed it was due to domestic violence at the new black neighbor’s house.
After this, I immediately condemned those people in my neighborhood who were spreading the rumors as racist. But that wasn’t necessarily the case. A black family just entered our neighborhood, which had before been strictly ‘white.’ And with their arrival, they brought with them the conceived notions of black people. Just like when a black person enters a store, and everyone immediately narrows their eyes at them in case they’re planning on shop lifting. The people in my neighborhood narrowed their eyes when the black family moved in. They paid no attention to the fact that the father was a respectable physical therapist or that the son had perfect grades in school. All they saw was the color of their skin. So when an ambulance pulled up next to their house, they let fears and stereotypes override the facts. They let their fear of the “others” get in the way of the truth.
I don’t necessarily think the people who started these rumors were racist as I once did. Rumors get out of hand as they always do, sometimes without a malicious intent. In this case, an ambulance pulled up in front of a family’s house, and instead of waiting for the truth, some people jumped to the wrong conclusions. I believed this happened as a result of a society that assumes blacks are criminals and whites are respectful.
What do you all think about this? Are the people who started and spread the rumors racists, or are they too just victims of a society that is inherently racist?