Posted on October 11, 2016

‘Learn Your Manners,’ a White Man Wrote to His Black Neighbor. This Was the Response.

Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Washington Post, October 10, 2016

As he rode the subway to work, Richard Brookshire couldn’t stop seething over the letter he found taped to his door.

A friend had called at 1 a.m. Thursday, looking for advice on quitting his job. Brookshire, a manager at a leadership institute who writes on the side, paced around his Manhattan apartment for a half-hour, giving the friend advice on the right tone to strike in the resignation letter, then crawled into bed.

As the 29-year-old rushed to work hours later, he found the letter, scrawled in cursive and stuck to his door:

“It is extremely rude and inconsiderate to scream and stomp around your apartment until almost 2 a.m.,” the letter said. “A complaint has been submitted to the management. Next time this will go straight to the police. Please learn your manners.”

Ultimately, Brookshire figured out what irked him most about the letter–the threat of involving the New York Police Department for something that could have been solved with a neighborly knock on the door.

“White people will sometimes speak without thinking of the bigger implications of their actions,” Brookshire told The Washington Post. “They’re just kind of reacting. That kind of speaks to their own privilege.”


Brookshire, who has a Master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University, delves into issues like that on The Reparations Podcast, which explores “the intersectionalities of blackness, politics and popular culture through humor and frank dialogue . . . tackling the s**t you don’t talk about with your white friends.”

Unable to focus at his day job on Thursday, Brookshire, still angry, typed a response to “The Passive Aggressive Neighbor & His Wife.”

“Re: I’m Finna Tell You What you Not Gon’ Do,” he started:

I, the tenant of apartment 6J, having secured this rental property through earnings I made and credit I earned, have no inherent or expressly stated obligation to accommodate your hypersensitivities or those of your spouse, when occupying my home.

As one of the only tenants of color occupying this building at full market rate, I find it personally abhorrent that you’d levy the threat of involving the authorities for an insignificant infraction such as the one you noted in your poorly written and ill-thought-out correspondence.

As a Black man, I take these overt actions as a direct threat to my physical and psychological well-being and as an act of violence upon me.

He signed the note “Your #VeryBlack Neighbor” and tucked it away, hoping to stick it on his neighbor’s door when he got home.

But first, he snapped a picture and posted it on Facebook. It apparently resonated.


The neighbor who wrote the letter, David O., told The Washington Post that the note had nothing to do with race. {snip}


“I know this was probably dictated by the tone of my note, but please do not perceive me as just another narrow-minded white p — – scared of anything outside of his little white world,” he wrote back to Brookshire. “I have nothing in common with such people, and I would like to emphasize it once (again) that my note yesterday, rude as it was, was nothing more than a response to a late-night disturbance.”

On the note, he left his name, his number and his email address and encouraged his neighbor to knock on his door and chat: “You know where we live.”