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African-Americans avoiding eye contact has a history that goes back to slavery. It was socially unacceptable for a slave to make eye contact with a white man in the Antebellum South. Many whites back then felt if a Negro “eyeballed him” it was a sign that they thought they were equal to a white man and had no respect for him. In Jim Crow America, making eye contact was a social crime that could lead to a black person being lynched. And during the Civil Rights period and afterward, a black person could be arrested just for looking a police officer in the eyes.

Today African-Americans still regard making eye contact with a negative connotation even when interacting with each other. On the streets in inner city neighborhoods making eye contact is often seen as a sign of aggression and hostility. Any eye contact with a stranger in the ghetto can easily turn into an argument, escalate into a fight and lead up to murder. So many African-Americans, out of fear for their saftety, keep their eyes down and look away when they communicate with other brothers and sisters in the neighborhood….
These misunderstandings about nonverbal social cues have prevented African-Americans from getting jobs or keeping jobs, networking effectively in school, or socializing outside of the black community. Moreover it has prevented brothers and sisters from succeeding in the world of work. While social cues like eye contact and smiling are considered normal in White society, they can get someone killed in the inner-city.

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- Shawn James (via sisoula)

(via coconutoil97)