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Ask Amy: School scholar worries about racism at residence

Dear Readers: To mark my final week writing this column, I’ve fired up the “Ask Amy” Wayback machine and am re-running some memorable Q&As culled from the last 21 years of “Ask Amy.”

Dear Amy: I’m a college student from the suburbs of San Francisco. I’ve been attending college in New York.

My best friend from school is coming to visit me this summer, and I couldn’t be more excited! But, excitement aside, I do have concerns.

In a time where people of color, especially men, are having the police called on them for everything from waiting for a friend in Starbucks to taking a nap in a common area of a dorm building, I am worried about my neighbors’ potential reaction to a man of color showing up in their predominantly white suburb.

I have toyed with the idea of making a post on nextdoor.com[a neighborhood social media site] asking people to think twice before panicking, should they see my friend walking down the street, as he belongs there as much as they do, but I know my county prides itself on being a liberal and progressive area, and I don’t want to insult anyone.

I don’t want to upset my community by accusing them of racist behavior I have never witnessed, but I am aware of incidents taking place in similar communities.

I do not know what to do to offend as few people as possible, while still trying to make sure my friend feels safe and welcome in the place I call home.

Your suggestion?

– Toeing the Line

Dear Toeing the Line: In recent neighborhood news, “neighbors” in a community similar to yours called the police because they saw an African-American firefighter (in uniform) performing a safety inspection in the neighborhood. The firefighter’s white (female) colleague said that in the future, she would accompany him on neighborhood sprinkler checks, basically for his own safety.

You should start this process by notifying your friend that your neighbors are somewhat likely to “panic” and call the police if he is bold enough to walk through the neighborhood while also being Black.

Strangely, you seem to worry more about offending your neighbors by challenging their lofty notions of themselves than you do about the risk posed to your friend if he walks through your neighborhood alone.

I have two suggestions: Challenge your neighbors out loud to actually let a Black man — any Black man — walk through the neighborhood unchallenged, not because he is your special guest, but because he is a human being walking down a sidewalk.

Also, be completely honest with your friend about the kind of community he would be visiting, and the physical or psychological annoyance (or worse) he could face, simply by being there.

(July 2019)

Dear Amy: Yesterday, my girlfriend “Lori” and I went to lunch at a local restaurant. Two guys were heading for the same restaurant and were slightly ahead of us, but when they got to the door, they held it open for us and allowed us to enter the restaurant first.

We smiled, I thanked them and as soon as I entered, I stood back to allow them to get in line ahead of us, because I figured that was their rightful place and they shouldn’t be penalized for having been courteous to us.

I could tell that they were on their lunch break from work, whereas we had plenty of time to enjoy our own lunch.

Lori got irritated with me and said I shouldn’t have let them “cut” in line ahead of us. I told her I didn’t think they should be penalized for holding the door for us.

Lori keeps laughing at what a “chump” I was. What do you think? When someone holds the door open for another person, does the door holder automatically give up his/her place in whatever line is inside?

– Confused

Dear Confused: Let’s diagram this situation.

On second thought, let’s not.

You are a nice person.

Your girlfriend is a jerk.

You performed an act of kindness.

She laughed at you for it.

My only concern is that if you continue to hang out with her, her harsh assessment of you might turn out to be correct. Don’t be a chump!

(June 2006)

Dear Readers: R. Eric Thomas is starting a new advice column called “Asking Eric.” Eric is young, smart, and an experienced advice-giver. You can help him to get started by sending your thorniest dilemmas his way. Email him at [email protected].

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