“FUOCIO” (Feared, Uncomfortable, Offended, Curious, Inspired…Other)?

Share Button

My brother-in-law and I were about halfway through our walk around the track yesterday when we approached a white haired fellow ahead of us. Slowed and steadied by a cane to maintain his balance, and perhaps to ward off stray dogs, it didn’t take us long to catch up with him.

Now the closer we got it looked like a confederate flag adorned the back of his tee shirt. We agreed that that was what it was since two pairs of eyes cannot possibly lie…or could they?

“Oh man, I wonder if he might go into cardiac arrest once we pass him?” I asked my brother-in-law.

“Hey, both of us are big and black, me all of 240 pounds and you pressing 210 pounds soaking wet,” he said. “Those factors alone could scare him to death.”

We laughed, not at the prospects of a heart attack, but as way of taking the sting out of the image, right or wrong, of the confederate flag from our experiences as black men having either been raised, college educated, or otherwise having traveled across the deep South.

FUOCIO” (Feared, Uncomfortable, Offended, Curious, Inspired…Other)?

“Knee-jerk reactions” best describe how we respond sometimes to seeing something different, something way out of the ordinary, something that may conjure up unpleasant memories from our past.

For example, the image of the confederate flag evoked fear in me years ago – although much less so today – since I was reared in a small, largely segregated town in the South where many of us associated that flag with lynching. You see, we’d seen it on license plates on rusty pickup trucks on dusty country roads. And for years, we’d see confederate flags waved in the stands during televised football games on Saturdays.

However, rather being feared by what I thought was a confederate flag on the back of that gentleman’s tee shirt, it evoked curiosity more than anything else; curious as to why he would be daring enough to wear such an emblem in a park frequented by lots of folks who look like me.

Now before I ask you to work my FUOCIO filters through five scenarios, to buttress my point, let me share another moment I experienced about a year ago.

I was one of about a dozen folks in a bank waiting to advance to an open window to make a transaction. All four windows were occupied, including one on the far right by a woman with long blond hair, high heels, a large black pocketbook dangling from her arm and a plaid skirt. Nothing out of the ordinary, so we thought.

When the “woman” whirled around after her transaction and headed past us to the door while saying hello to us, it became immediately clear that “she” was in fact a man and not a woman – a cross-dresser. The deep baritone voice and shadow of a mustache were dead giveaways. Interestingly, not one of us uttered a word.

Now although I cannot speak for others in the line in front or behind me (I did hear some soft laughter), my knee jerk reactions were a cross somewhere between uncomfortable and curious.

Okay, that’s me, now you. Try applying FUOCIO to the following five scenarios that you’ve encountered, or may encounter. Ask yourself which, if any, of the FUOCIO emotional filters best represents your reactions:

An interracial couple in a restaurant…

A same sex couple showing affection in public… 

A Black president of the United States conducting a news conference…. 

Two people speaking a language you don’t speak…

A homeless beggar asking you for some spare change!

What were your reactions to each?

How have your reactions changed in each scenario, if they have, over the years?

If you had a chance to put a face on the person, or persons, you saw in the scenarios above, to get to know them personally, did that nudge you towards being more curious, or even inspired? If yes, why? If no, why?

In the end, and back to the track with the white haired gentleman in front of us, once we were about ten yards behind him we discovered that it was not a confederate flag after all, despite the “X.”

How ya doing fellas,” he said as we passed him.

Out getting a good walk in?” queried my brother-in-law.

“Yep, a walk a day keeps the doctor away,” said the gentleman. “Hope you guys have a great day.”

Questions for a thoughtful analysis:

  1. What does this narrative say about the danger of jumping to conclusions?
  2. What could help you to stay open to the realities of the people described in the above scenarios; to help you understand them more completely as opposed to judging them from your frame of reference?
  3. In each scenario, to what extent are you aware that you’re observing their behavior versus making judgments of those behaviors against your notion of what’s right and wrong, natural or unnatural?
  4. Assume that you were with others who observed one or more of the scenarios above and, among yourselves, one of the observers made disparaging comments about the people they observed and you remained silent. How would you rationalize your silence to someone who is near and dear to you?

©Terry Howard is a writer, corporate story-teller and trainer based in Douglasville, Georgia. He can be reached at wwhoward3@gmail.com

Share Button

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *