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).

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