Letters to My Tutor…

My dearest Simone,

I grew up in a economically poor, “culturally rich” area, the Mississippi Delta. Social scientists and aid workers often visited this area and they were most often white and middle class. And sometimes they were also racist. And it was uncomfortable, to say the least, to interact with racist people who were in the midst of performing work or providing services that could be helpful. Of course there were also many wonderful people doing excellent work, but the overall feeling was one of suspicion from both black and white residents of the Delta.

The thing I want to mention at the moment is that often the white, middle class social scientists/aid workers seemed to think it a mystery which among them were considered racist. And I don’t know whether it was they didn’t understand that their behaviors were different or whether they did not view the differences as significant. Some were mean or grouchy, but not racist. Some were very uncomfortable being around so many black people for the first time, but not racist. Even I find it easier to say what was not racist. My more recent experiences with social scientists/aid workers have reminded me of this dynamic.

I’m searching for a way to speak about my experience in a manner that is thoughtful and instructive. The experiences in my home area, my own as well as the stories of the experiences of others, definitely shade my thinking about social science and social scientists, and believe it’s important to explore this more as I continue to consider further study in social science. More on this next week.

My warmest regards,