Anushka K. C.
Before coming to the US, my relatives told me, “Always be careful around the black people. Haven’t you heard the stories?”
Yes, I had heard some stories of people being killed, shot or mugged. I always got frustrated and angry when I heard these statements. It felt unfair, the notion that African-Americans were dangerous. That’s why Nepal is digressing from being a liberal society. We are racially biased against people who are not even from our country.
I was still naïve, I realized. Things were not that different here in the US.
A documentary screening opened my eyes to a whole new perception of African-American people. “13th” was a narrative of what the African-Americans had faced: slavery, the Jim Crow South, segregation and unequal rights. It also showcased how another form of institutionalized slavery had taken its place, and how African-Americans were more likely to get incarcerated than a white people.
After I came to the US, I became more sensitive to the stories I heard. The New York Times posted stories like “Police kills a black child with a BB gun,” “Man Is Shot in Charlotte as Unrest Stretches to Second Night” and “The Ghosts of Emmett Till.” All of these would just have been some news story back home, but these stories started taking on a new meaning for me now.
Why is this happening in the United States of America, a country I thought was incomparable in terms of progress?
I realized that my perception of America was skewed. I had seen only what the media had shown: America was the land of the free and the home of the brave. I had not seen the silent suppression of a minority group that was struggling to get back on their feet.
In order to look for answers, I asked an acquaintance of mine, Ivo Trital, a retired teacher and psychotherapist from the Netherlands, for some insight into the ongoing racial tensions in America.
“Organizing the world along reciprocally excluding lines has always been the way that a fearful mind, a fearful group, a fearful society tends to make its choices,” he said. “It not only helps anxious people feel reassured, but it also gives them the impression that, by some magical leap, bosses and politicians may be granted the right to dictate to the ‘wrong’ and ‘bad’ ones what needs and has to be done.
“In the long run exploitation of the weak— ‘they are weak because they are wrong, and they are wrong because they are weak’— can’t but engender sheer resentment, meek cowardice and diverted aggression. . .Over there in the States, as well as in most repressive societies, scapegoats are usually not that hard to find. Fear and paranoia go hand in hand. ‘If you aren’t like me, you surely must be bad and, therefore, I may be in danger!’”
Hence, I had a conclusion to my reverie. I don’t have to be careful around African-Americans. Rather, I just have to be careful around ignorant people.