Letter Re: Advice for Newcomers in a Community–Overcoming the We/They Paradigm

Good evening Mr. Rawles,
My name is Ignacio, I’m a Cuban-born American. The three best days in my life were when I married my wife, when I became an American citizen and when my daughter was born (in this country). I am an avid reader of your blog, and working hard to get prepared, we bought a small place (1.5 acres in southwest Florida, it’s in the woods) it was the only thing we could afford to get ready. But I am very concerned that my neighbors might not like us because we are Hispanic (although my wife is blue-eyed and has blonde hair.). I can assure you that no one loves this country more than we do, but I understand that most of the Hispanics do not like our country.

What would be a good way to approach my neighbors? Sincerely, – Ignacio R.

JWR Replies: I recommend that you do your very best to get to know your neighbors, and make it clear that you are are part of the community. Get involved in community activities. For example: join the local volunteer fire department (they offer great training, by the way!), make the effort to introduce yourself to your neighbors, invite them over for barbeques and other social events, join the local church, Rod and Gun club, ham radio club, and so forth. I also recommend joining (or forming) a local Community Watch organization.

It takes time, but with effort, you can make yourself an insider in a community. I am confident that you know in your heart that you are “an okay guy”, but you just need to demonstrate that to the folks in your new community. If you work hard enough at it, they will consider you not just a neighbor, but an indispensable neighbor and a genuine “go to guy”.

Several times in SurvivalBlog, I’ve mentioned what sociologists call the We/They Paradigm. The bottom line is that you need to immerse yourself into the collective “we” (insiders), so that you aren’t seen as part of the “they” (outsiders). In my experience, race and even religion need not be barriers to becoming part of the “we”. It is clear from your letter that you love our Nation. Just make it clear to your neighbors that you love your community, just as much.

Cementing your relationships with your neighbors can take years. Or, in the case of South Florida, just one hurricane season. If a time of deep trauma or deep drama comes up (such as severe weather or wildfires), then jump in and help out with disaster relief, starting with your nearest neighbors. Check on every one of them, and ask if there is anything that you can do to help. Based on what you demonstrate of your character, your neighbors will quickly learn that you are someone that can be trusted when the Schumer Hits the Fan. And, BTW, it will give you a chance to size them up, as well.