Totally Safe Unless You’re Brown

“When he would come visit me, we would never leave campus.”

Hold a Conversation

In addition to the questions below, please see How to use the questions for reflection.

Clarifying Questions
  • What does the speaker mean by Valpo is “totally safe?”
  • What ended up scaring her most in the encounter she relates?
  • What do you think she means when she says no one wanted to admit that it was a racial slur they heard?
  • Why is she scared for the “other students that go here?”
  • How did the encounter end up impacting the speaker and her boyfriend?
Interpretive Questions
  • Do you think the speaker and her boyfriend made the right decision to “never leave campus?”  Why or why not?
  • What implication does this choice have for them? for the city of Valparaiso?
Implication Questions
  • If you were to witness this encounter, how would you want to respond?
  • What might get in the way of doing that?
  • How – if appropriate – could you overcome those hurdles?

Let us know how the conversation or self-reflection went. Email us or discuss the experience in our comment box.

Transcript for Totally Safe Unless You’re Brown

Since I am from the area, Valpo has like this reputation of being a safe place. Like you’re not going to get robbed, you’re not going to get beaten, you’re not going to get kidnapped. It’s, you know, this little like utopia—for safety, at least.

The first blatantly racist thing that I experienced didn’t actually happen to me, but I witnessed it. My freshman year, my boyfriend, who is black, came to visit, and he, my friend, who was white, and then I went walking to Target. You know, we were talking and things, and then somebody yelled something out of the window by the roundabout, and I didn’t want to assume that they yelled a racial slur even though that’s what it sounded like. So we we’re kinda like, “What did they say?” Nobody really wanted to admit, so we just kept walking. And then that same car circled back, and then they said the racial slur against black people–very clearly–and that scared me, just because they, you know, they came back and made a point to do it. I feared for him, just because you really don’t know what people are capable of.

We got to around where Starbucks is—before you get to Target—and we were in the crosswalk. We were crossing it, and this guy comes barreling through. My friend and my boyfriend were like, you know, “What the heck?” You know, they’re like yelling and stuff, ‘cause this dude literally almost hit us. The guy stops. He backs his car up, gets out of his car, and he comes out. He addresses only my boyfriend, and he’s like “What did you say, you little f—er?” It was, it was very scary. He was a middle, a middle-aged dude and you know, he was about to pick a fight with this kid. I was so scared for his life, like, I did not know what that dude was capable of. I swear it was only because he was black, because my white friend said something as well, but my boyfriend got all of the heat. And luckily, it stopped, and the guy left, but you know, ever since then, when he would come to visit me, we would never leave campus, because I didn’t want something to happen to him.

You know, it made me fear for the other students that go here, you know, because, he, he doesn’t go here, but there are lots of black students. That’s their daily reality; if they decide to go walking somewhere, there’s that risk. It’s like, you know, “Oh, you’re totally safe in Valpo”—unless you’re brown.