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Life brings its share of surprises. But few things have surprised me more in life than finding out that almost everyone in America who is not white fears rural areas. I never would have thought the only areas of the country left where people do not lock their doors would inspire such fear, but apparently it is so.

Their fear is apparently very real. This was demonstrated to me in very vivid way a couple of years ago. I invited this fellow (we will call him Sam) up to where I live so that a computer problem he was having could be worked on and he accepted. Now in the days leading up to the time he was supposed to come up, I heard another person of color busting on him on how dangerous this trip was going to be. But I did not pay them any mind. I just thought it was their idea of a joke.

Since Sam did not have a car and the buses don’t run to where I am, I was going to take him there and back myself. But as it turned out, I needed to be dropped off to pick up my vehicle. So my dad (who in any case was the one who was going to fix the problem) gave me a ride to where I needed to pick up my vehicle, then he and Sam went on ahead while I stayed behind to take care of business.

I could tell even as we were riding in the car together that Sam was getting nervous as the scenery was becoming more rural. But when I was dropped off and Sam and my dad went deeper into the countryside, that nervousness got a lot worse. As he later told me, the further they got from the highway, the more frightened he got. His nerves got so bad that he eventually threw up.

I had heard Sam and other minorities express fear about rural areas before, but I never would have dreamed that it really bothered them that bad. I just could not imagine that Sam would really find my rural abode that frightening. After all, he came from the worst parts of New York City. He had had a bullet in his arm as result of gang related violence. How could my neighborhood possibly be frightening in comparison?

But apparently it is. All the Black and Hispanic people that I have ever talked to seem convinced that everyone in the country is armed, racist, an excellent shot, and determined to shoot everyone darker than themselves on sight. This in spite of the fact that they have had no personal experience in rural areas. In fact, I have heard a lot of references to horror movies to explain the kinds of things they are afraid of.

Such references to those horror movies are usual done in a somewhat joking manner. But I have learned that such jokes sometimes have a good deal of seriousness underlying them. Given that very few people with any kind of color to them actually have relatives who live in the country, you have to wonder how much those horror movies where hillbillies do unspeakable things to innocent city people affects their view of reality.

The issue of horror movies causes me to wonder how much of minorities’ fears of rural areas is due to insecurities regarding how they will be received because of their race and how much relates to phobias that many urban people seem to have. From what I have heard, most of the victims in hillbilly horror movies are white. So they must be playing off of some kind of general urban fear.

Some people just seem to feel very unsettled by not being surrounded by a lot of people and lights. I know one lady who told me that she felt more comfortable stepping out in a dark alley in New York City at night then she did stepping off her back porch at night. She came from New York City to marry a country boy. I have heard similar comments from many other white urban people.

But I don’t think this generalized urban phobia accounts for all of the fear that people with a little bit of skin coloration have of rural areas. The race factor itself also plays a part I am sure. Not that I think that supposed racism of rural residents is the real reason. Or if it is, it is a reason founded on ignorance.

In my experience, poor urban white people are far more racist than their country equivalents. Nothing breeds hatred like competition for the same resources and sharing the same jails. But at least when you are facing an urban racist you have a crowd of people who look like you at your back. Going out into the country you would be all alone. That has got to make the prospect of coming across a racist in a country setting awful unpleasant.

To make matters worse, there is the culture gap. There are all sorts of unwritten rules in a rural neighborhood. The more rural it is, the more unwritten the rules are. These rules can be hard enough for any urban person to understand and navigate, but I imagine that it would be even harder for a person of color to handle. You would always have to be wondering if people were being hostile to you because you broke an unwritten rule, or if people were being hostile to you because of your skin color.

Given all of these challenges, I have often pondered how I would move to the country if I were black. (There is no way I would stay in a city.) But such thoughts have little practical value. You can’t really walk in other peoples’ shoes.

Still, I would be interested in finding a book or an article by a person of color that moved with their family out into a rural area to homestead. It would be a fascinating adventure, I am sure.

One Response to “Minorities and the countryside”

  1. […] _uacct = “UA-1202685-1”; urchinTracker(); Map of the Ethereal Land The Ethereal Voice Front Page – Politics – Money – Knowledge – Art – Food – Fun Masthead About Minorities and the countryside By Ape Man | May 5, 2007 – 12:58 pm Posted in Category: Front Page, Knowledge Life brings its share of surprises. But few things have surprised me more in life than finding out that almost everyone in America who is not white fears rural areas. I never would have thought the only areas of the country left where people do not lock their doors would inspire such fear, but apparently Click Here to continue reading. […]

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