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Woman Branded 'Racist' for Asking Black Man if He Was Lost Divides Internet

Newsweek logo Newsweek 3/16/2022 Jack Beresford
Stock image of a white woman and a Black teenager - a woman has divided the internet after revealing how she was accused of being racist by a Black teenager in her neighborhood. © HbrH/Motortion/Getty Stock image of a white woman and a Black teenager - a woman has divided the internet after revealing how she was accused of being racist by a Black teenager in her neighborhood.

A woman has described how she was branded a "racist" after asking a Black man she found walking around her neighborhood if he was lost.

However, while the woman said she was left "feeling shocked" at such an accusation, others felt she crossed a line by making the remark.

Racial discrimination remains alarmingly commonplace in the U.S. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2021, 80 percent of Americans polled said Black people face at least some form of discrimination in the U.S.

Racism can sometimes take an insidious form; an off-hand remark that magnifies a certain subtle prejudice. But while thoughtless and ill-advised comments of this kind do exist, identifying and addressing them can prove difficult, as one recent Mumsnet post demonstrated.

In the post, a concerned woman described how, while walking home with her husband one night, she noticed a young Black man "peering" at his phone down an alleyway close to where she lived.

The woman said she asked the man: "Are you alright? Do you know where you're going?" He replied: "Yes, I definitely know where I'm going" and walked on. Though she initially thought "nothing of it," he then called out to her saying: "Hey maam, you know that was really racist."

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Though she shouted back: "You had your phone out, I thought you were looking for directions" her explanation fell on deaf ears. "I'm now home and feeling shocked that I should be called racist," she wrote. "How was that racist?"

The responses to the post perfectly demonstrated the difficulty in addressing subtle racism. In this instance, many thought the man was wrong to claim her remarks were racist.

Rainbows*** said: "I can't see anything racist in that," with CantStandMeCow agreeing: "I wouldn't say it was racist. You'd have said the same to white person staring at their phone?"

Yzed thought the man was being a bit "touchy" with his response while Stopsnowing insisted it was just a "misunderstanding" and urged the woman to "move on."

However, others felt the woman had been wrong to challenge the man in the way she did. Levithan felt her question had made the man "feel as if he didn't look like he fit" in her community.

"People are on their phones all the time—I'd feel it was a bit strange if someone asked me if I knew where I was going just because I was looking at a phone," they added.

Margot78 agreed, writing: "Maybe he felt the question implied that you thought he was up to something or didn't belong there and that you were making negative assumptions because of his race."

PinkGinBigGrin, meanwhile, suggested the man has probably had to deal with similar situations before which may have shaped his reaction. "He obviously thought what you meant was 'what are you doing around here?' and that you thought he looked dodgy," they noted.

Elsewhere, AtlasPine urged the woman to "learn" from the experience. "It could be seen and certainly felt as a micro aggression. Easy to do without overt racist intention but understandably perceived as racist," they wrote. "I'd have said sorry, that wasn't my intention at all but I can see how it could have felt."

Newsweek has contacted the original poster for comment.

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