Living with fearful neighbors
HELP! How do we deal with race-based fear??
A few months ago, my partner and I moved into a new apartment complex. Somewhere between then and now, one of our neighbors has developed a very real complex about us. We have not said more than a few things to her throughout our time here, so it is surprising the level of anger she has built inside her.
My partner tried to knock on her door and have a conversation to try and resolve the situation. This, as we learned later, was met with more fear and anger from our neighbor.
The last time we ran into her, she started yelling and telling us not to look at her and to leave her alone. We were walking from our apartment to our car, not engaging her.
Later that day, she confronted me, yelling that I needed to speak English to her, and that I would not win this fight. She would win.
It was here I came to conclusion that she had issue with our race and the way we present ourselves to the world. This has yet to provide any window for us to engage our neighbor in a peaceful, calm way. We have chosen silence and balance, the times we do have to engage, but this too it seems has lead to more anger and hatred.
We are at a loss for how to bring love into this relationship. We are beginning ourselves to live in fear of our neighbor and the actions she could take out of her fear.
We wait for your hearts to sing to us. Thank you.
Yes, I like both the flower idea and the basic strategies for handling racism that Bruce shares. But I am now curious to how you will approach this. Could you share for us so we can learn from your response?
I really appreciate how with much balance you share your story, since it shows that you already are doing a lot of good here.
Nowadays especially there is a hunger for stories of us against odds breaking through racism. So here I am, hungry to see how you will respond next…
Thank you so much for sharing this!
I am Michael’s partner and for me this experience has been grossly upsetting. My father is Iranian and although I was born in the United States, being Persian is an important part of my identity. And yet this experience has showed me how fragile I feel when this part of me is attacked(of course considering our current political climate).
From the start, I assumed at least some of her fear and rejection had to do with our dogs and the occasional breaking of spoken and unspoken ‘leash laws’, but since recent events I feel a heavier weight. This is no longer what I might call a plain circumstance, now this feels like someones’s hardened perception that I have fear of seeing become the majority, or worse more powerful, going unchecked and without consequence.
My immediate reaction during our encounters overall has been shock, anger, and also just feeling awkward.
When I Drop into to my heart-space I realize that I am also scared because when another person pushes on you, or I guess any attacks a part of you in any away, the feeling, at least in my case, was traumatic(also I think because of our current political climate).
I feel insecure. And when I allow myself to play my Monkey mind’s movie reel…of being yelled at and threatened, I get more worked up.
I do believe this experience has much more to do with me than my neighbor. Unfortunately, the pain of right now is still very difficult and seeps into my entire routine and life. I am currently taking steps to not get absorbed in the news, and instead remain informed while not overwhelmed.
Ok. So I just now Stopped and paused, then Dropped into my heart and just felt this situation, and then Asked sincerely and innocently for guidance. As I opened fora message, the image of an arrangement of flowers emerged.
My reasoning mind was immediately curious “What does that mean? Should they give her a bouquet of flowers? Interesting idea. It might soften things somewhat though maybe not. But worth a try. How should they give her the flowers? Handing them to her might be a little aggressive since she seems so reactive. Maybe they could leave them at her door with a note that says “We wish to live in peace and harmony with you and our world. If there is any issue we can address, please tell us. Know that we do not hold anger or contempt towards you. Feel free to stop by for a coffee or tea. Your Neighbors from …” (I assume she knows which unit you are in.)
I know this may seem like rewarding negativity, but it always the upset, scared parts of myself that need care, attention and kindness the most.
If your neighbor continues to act aggressively towards you, I would notify the property manger, document the instances and try to take video of any of the incidents with your smart phone. I just googled Handling Racism and the first site that came up was from and Australian Aboriginal source named Creative Spirits with a variety of tips at https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/people/how-to-deal-with-racist-people#toc3 (Just so you know One of the suggestions use the word threaten which caused some concern on my part. It means to threaten with exposure)
Best of luck. This a tough and heart-breaking situation. If you do try the flowers or anything else, please let us know how it got. We are here for you and we cann all learn from your experience. With Love
Oh geez, I feel incredibly grateful for this opportunity to share my experience on AskLove. This channel offers tremendously powerful feedback from people different and same to me, and I am happy to accept yours and their help. thank you.
In response to your question, how am I taking care of myself? Well, when I am tired, I try to nap. When I am sad or depressed, I try to be generous. When I am bored, I try to connect with people, especially those whom I feel love and support from. But ultimately, I try to tell myself these same messages that, yes, I am not alone.
However, it’s hard sometimes to find exactly how or where I can work or put effort forth to relate and connect…
I would like to find a Muslim Women meet-up because although I am not a practicing Muslim and much of the religion and culture is still foreign to me, I might find pathways for coping with outsider perceptions. Also, I am taking care not to recede into self-destructive patterns, either by stress-eating or using drugs including caffeine and flower.
Wow. I so feel for you and hear you. What a tough situation.
I can certainly understand how this situation brings up incredibly deep issues. Our sense of belonging is one of the most basic aspects of who we are, and when it is threatened it strikes us at our core. It seems to me so skillful that you are exploring your own reactions when you say it has more to do with you than the neighbor. That gives you the opportunity to meet whatever patterns are operating in you, and bring healing to them simply by being with them the way you might just stay with a distraught, scared child. It’s also cool how you see that spinning in your head just gets you more tied up.
That all being said, one of the things I did not offer in my prior response, that I wish I had, is an importance in taking really good care of yourself – in nourishing and resourcing yourself. This is a very tough situation. I imagine you would not want to have any outreach via even flowers left at the door, until you felt supported and somewhat balanced. I’m wondering if you have any ideas what might feel supportive to you?
This is such a challenging time in the US, especially, I can imagine, for someone who’s country of ancestry has been banned from travel to the our country. There is so much divisiveness and uncertainty. So much change, and possibly in truly scary directions.
I hope that when AskLove goes live in a few days, you will have more people who maybe have gone through something similar, and they can reflect their experience and provide a further sense of comradeship and useful responses. We’ve all felt the pain of being attacked and excluded and called “other” at some level. You are not alone.
Your job is not to fix this person, but to take care of yourself, I feel. It seems like you are feeling the pain and using that as an opportunity to grow. Awesome. I wouldn’t want to give another person power over me by the way they are acting which I can’t control. It may be too much for now to reflect on how they are just acting out their conditioning, and how they suffer from their hate, but that is there. If there’re any local support groups, that might be of help. For my part, I’m sending you my compassion and care, and willingness to keep this dialog open. I’m curious to know what would come up If you did Stop, Drop & Ask for yourself to what would be most supportive for you right now? If you do, please share. With Love, Bruce
Dear Michael and roxisharif,
I am so very sorry to hear of the difficulties you have been experiencing with your neighbor. It’s heartbreaking to think that your neighbor’s fear is so great that she is blind to who you are. I have been so triggered hearing about your situation that, frankly, it has been difficult for me to respond with the calm insight of an open heart.
Roxisharif, I am thrilled that you are aware and grounded enough to be “taking care not to recede into self-destructive patterns, either by stress-eating or using drugs including caffeine and flower.” That speaks worlds about your presence of mind and character. I also agree with Bruce that generosity is a wonderful antidote to fear.
Although you are not a practicing Muslim, Islamophobia is apparently a large ingredient in the fear mongering that is poisoning our current political climate and I suspect that it’s at play here as well. I am heartened by your own wish to connect with Muslim women. I have also been delighted to read that many others across our country are are taking action to give compassionate support to their Muslim neighbors . Just google support for muslim community and you’ll see lots of examples. Google ways to support muslim community to see suggestions of positive steps that can be taken to exercise generosity towards those who have become the target of so much intolerance.
Please keep the AskLove community informed of how things progress. You are not alone in this. We care.
May you two find support in your local community as well as here.