What No One Wants to Admit: Howard

Painful Perceptions
"When I walk down the street, Caucasian people will lock their door, or when I'm walking on the sidewalk, they'll walk off the sidewalk while I'm walking on it, and then get back on the sidewalk after I pass them," Howard tells Dr. Phil.
 
"Stand up," Dr. Phil instructs. He gives Howard the once-over. "You're a pretty good size."
 
"Yes," Howard replies, chuckling.
 
[AD]"I notice people cross the street when they see me coming sometimes too. 'Ooh, there's Dr. Phil. We don't want to talk to him,'" Dr. Phil jokes. "But for you, it's different.  So you think people just prejudge you?" 
 
"Yes."
 
Dr. Phil selects an audience member, Sherry, who admits that she would be intimidated to approach Howard and places her next to Howard. He gives them both an assignment: By the end of the show, they each must be able to describe something personal about their seat mate.
Areva Martin says she sympathizes with Howard. "This is very common in the African-American community, not talked about a lot, but real. When you're fair skinned, somebody like me with long hair and what we call 'light skin' in the black community, there's more comfort with non-minority people. But when you're a darker-skinned person like Howard, and other people who are African American who are darker, they experience more prejudice than people who are more lighter skinned."
 
"Have you experienced that?" Dr. Phil asks her.
 
[AD]"Absolutely," she answers. "People assume you're smarter. They assume you're, you know, nicer and you're less threatening."
 
"Where are you from?" Dr. Phil inquires.
 
"I'm from a housing project in north St. Louis, and people don't believe that. They assume because I went to Harvard, 'You're a successful lawyer. You must have really educated parents, and you must have come from a really well-to-do family.' Far from the truth. I grew up in a home without a father and mother in a housing project." 
Dr. Phil turns to Astra, a producer for the show. "You've experienced the flipside of what Areva's talking about, right?" he asks.
 
[AD]"Exactly. I come from the suburbs, Long Island, New York. Whenever people see me, for the most part, they assume I'm ghetto," she explains. She gives an example of what happens when she's out with a group of multiracial friends. "They'll tell their different friends, 'Hi, hi, hi,' and when they get to me, they're like, 'Oh, wassup? How you doin',' like all this stuff, and I'm like, 'What are you doing? Why are you acting this way? Just say hello.' So I experience that. I think it's because I'm dark."
 
"Well, you did that 'wassup' pretty good," Dr. Phil jokes. "In all these years, I've never heard you say that."
 
 

At the end of the show, Dr. Phil revisits Howard and Sherry.

 

QUIZ

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"Tell me something you learned about him," Dr. Phil prompts Sherry.
 
"He was in Oregon studying for the past year," she replies.
 
"So you learned something about him.  What'd you learn about her?" he asks Howard.
 
"She goes to UCLA, and it took her an hour to get here," Howard jokes. "There was traffic."
 

"My point is really when we overcome unfamiliarity, then we overcome a lot of prejudice and bias, and we need to be conscious about it. We need to purposely do this," Dr. Phil stresses.[AD]