I’m Afraid of the Deep South
I truly do want to believe that it won’t be as intimidating as I’m imagining it to be
Growing up, I’m proud to say that I was exposed to a great deal of diversity. I’m from Central Jersey, just a quick forty-five minute drive from New York City.
I grew up in a town that, although was predominantly white, still had a decent mix of ethnic backgrounds. I later went to a University that had a very large mix of ethnic backgrounds.
After graduating college, I took the natural next step of getting a job in Manhattan and moving to the city shortly after. To this day, I still reside in the New York, right in Queens.
In my (nearly) thirty years of living, I’ve seldom been the only minority in a public setting. Whenever I’m walking around the city or even in my own neighborhood, I’ve always been met with at least one other non-white person and I’ve always been comforted by that feeling — knowing that I’m not “alone”.
Which is probably a huge reason why I never left.
But, even though I’ve pretty much lived in the same place throughout my entire life, I do have an appetite for traveling. I’ve visited half the states in America as well as five countries, with many more still on my list of places to visit. However, the “Deep South” in America has never been on that list.
Those of us who are well-versed in America’s History know the long-standing tension that was, and still is, present between Northern States and Southern States.
We’ve learned about the civil war, the battles, the racial divide, the differences in political views, in religion, and even in mannerisms and culture. We know about the stereotypes that people from both sides have for one another.
And because of this, because of my own personal views and the fact that I grew up in one of the “Northern States”, I’ve always been reluctant to visit the South. You could even say that I’m somewhat afraid of the South.
Having a majority of friends who are white, there’s always been someone I’ve known who’s raved about their vacations going to one of the Southern States, such as South Carolina or Georgia or West Virginia.
They’ve either taken a family trip or went to a bachelorette party or just took a long weekend there. And I’ve heard so many good things about those trips.
But, it’s always from the perspective of a white person.
So, all I think about whenever I’ve heard about those trips is, “But, what would it be like for me?”
“Would people stare at me because I’m not white?”
“Would anyone down there make a racist comment?”
And as much as I’d love to take the leap of faith in testing out the waters for myself and finally paying the South a visit, I still can never shake the fear that it won’t as great of an experience as I’ve heard about from other people.
Instead of the fun trips, I fear of the other stories. The racist encounters. The discrimination. The lack of diversity. The fact that my sister told me about the time she went on a family trip with her friend as a teenager and her relatives couldn’t figure out what kind of Asian she was because they assumed that all Asian people were Chinese.
I understand that this fear of the unknown is just as bad as a white person’s fear of going into a predominantly black or brown neighborhood.
I also understand that unless I overcome this fear, I’ll never really know what it’s like. I understand that I should try to see the positive outcome instead of fearing for the worst. And I understand that I could be proven completely wrong about my preconceived notions.
I truly do want to believe that it won’t be as intimidating as I’m imagining it to be. I want to see the best in people. I want to believe in the best of people.
But, at the same time, I’m not yet ready to take that leap of faith. And I guess the same can be said about the people on the other side of the fence as well.