Dear Amy: I'm a college student from the suburbs of San Francisco and am attending college in New York.
My best friend from school is visiting this summer, and I couldn't be more excited! But 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 asking people to think twice before panicking, should they see my friend walking down the street, 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 want to make sure my friend feels safe and welcome in the place I call home. Your suggestion?
Amy says: In recent neighborhood news, "neighbors" in a community similar to yours called the police because they saw a black 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 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 walking down a sidewalk.
Also, be honest with your friend about the kind of community he would be visiting, and the physical or psychological annoyance he could face, simply by being there.
Can't please everyone
Dear Amy: Last weekend, my sister and I (who both live out of state with our young families) surprised my parents and one of my sisters with a visit to our hometown.
Afterward, one of my father's sisters sent a message stating how disappointed she was to be left out. She said we should travel to see her when we're in our home state.
Between them, my parents have eight siblings! We try to see them at large family events when we can see everyone at the same time, but our time is precious, and this isn't how I want to use it.
I feel like this violates boundaries, which my own parents struggle to respect.
I want to respond and acknowledge her feelings, but the family is too large to accommodate these requests. Do you agree? It's also possible her late-night message was written under the influence.
Amy says: You don't state the wording your aunt used, but here's how I interpret her message: "I miss you! I'm so sorry I didn't get to see you! I wish you had also traveled to see me."
Is this boundary-crossing? I don't think so.
You need only respond: "I'm sorry we didn't get the chance to visit! But please remember that we have eight aunts and uncles, and these visits home are stretched so thin. Looking forward to Christmas!"
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