Our readers write: This is another installment of Across the Divide, in which the AJC solicits first-person stories from readers in response to the prompt: Talk about a time when you felt like an outsider. The Across the Divide feature is part of the AJC’s RE:Race project, which is covering the dramatic racial and ethnic change sweeping Georgia.
I felt like an outsider, but not for long
Maria Mackas, Atlanta
I’m a white woman in my early 60s, a small business owner, a mom, a wife — and a grad student at Georgia State. I am an Atlanta native, born and raised. Went to public school. Graduated from UGA. For three years, I’ve been riding MARTA from Midtown, where I live, to school.
When I read of Melton Bennett’s experience on MARTA, I felt compelled to offer mine. He feels like an outsider on the train. I did, too — for about two weeks. Yeah, I was in the minority, race-wise, on the train — and even at school. But then a young black man offered me his seat on the train. And a young black woman came and sat by me and said, “Ma’am, you need to be careful with that iPad — I had mine taken right out of my hands. I wouldn’t read on the train if I were you.”
An older black woman told me she loved my gray hair. An young Asian man offered me his MARTA card when I couldn’t get mine to work. I didn’t feel like an outsider anymore.
At school, I was in the minority age-wise, too. I was nervous about feeling like an outsider. And sometimes I did.
But, for the most part, from the very start, I felt accepted, encouraged and supported — by my classmates and my professors. Georgia State is an amazing melting pot. There are so many ethnicities and cultures represented, you’d be hard-pressed to feel like an outsider.
I started looking forward to my MARTA ride and my walk in the city. A high point is hearing the black preacher evangelizing outside the Five Points station — his melodious voice greeted me each school day last fall and warmed the early morning chill. Sometimes he even sang. Somehow, he made me feel a part of something bigger.
I know we’ve got problems, Atlanta. But come on, we’ve got a lot of positives. If you look for them, and are open to them, you just might see them. Take a ride on MARTA. Visit a class at Georgia State. Report back.
Maria Mackas is a business owner in Atlanta.
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