Sunday, July 22 , 2018, 4:24 am | Fair 66º


Paul Burri: A Few Words About Prejudice

Neighbors are neighbors, regardless of color

When my children were ages 1 and 4, we bought a new tract house in the San Fernando Valley. We were still settling in a few years later when the builders completed Phase II of the housing tract. It was a few months after that when I got a somewhat disturbing call from our next-door neighbor and his wife asking to come over to discuss an “urgent matter.”

Paul Burri
Paul Burri

A few days later, we sat down with them. He informed us that they had heard that a black family had just purchased one of the houses in Phase II and they wanted to talk about “what to do about it.”

I pretended ignorance and asked, “What to do about what?” He replied, “Do you want to live in an all-black neighborhood?”

“No, I don’t,” I answered.

After a slight pause, I continued, “I also don’t want to live in an all-Mexican neighborhood, or an all-Italian neighborhood, or an all-Catholic neighborhood — or an all-anything neighborhood. I want my kids to experience a healthy diversity of cultures, ethnicities and religions. I want my kids to learn to judge people on their personal merits; not on their religion or ethnicity or color.”

We didn’t speak much with our neighbors after that.

Several years later, we moved from that house to a house in another new tract a few miles away. This time, we were in a cul-de-sac with seven other homes. We never really met our new neighbors other than to occasionally wave to them as they mowed the lawn or drove by on an errand. It wasn’t a matter of being aloof or unfriendly; we were all young families busy with working, taking the kids to school, running errands, etc.

One day a few years after we had moved into the cul-de-sac house, our neighbors across the street sold their house. And guess what? A black family moved in. A few days after they moved in, my wife and I went over with a plate of cookies to welcome them to the neighborhood. We socialized for a few minutes.

As we walked back to our house, I remarked to my wife, “I hope that someday I will feel unprejudiced enough to be able to ignore my new black neighbors like I do the white ones. That will be the day when I will be able to honestly say that I have no prejudices.”

Within a few weeks, those new neighbors were given the lawn-mowing-wave status — i.e., I was ignoring them like all the other neighbors. I guess that means some progress was made.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >