Sleepless but scared to complain

My neighbour’s alarm clock wakes me at 6am – but I don’t want to complain in case they think I’m racist. It’s an issue about noise, says our elder. Have that conversation, and work on a solution together.


Dear EWC

A new neighbor moved into my apartment building about a month ago. I don’t mind that sometimes I hear their kids. I don’t mind that sometimes I hear the adults. But their alarm clock wakes me up every morning at 6am! Normally I sleep until 8. I work from home, and I’m usually up until 1am or so – I simply can’t go to sleep any earlier. I can’t sleep through their alarm; it’s been weeks and I haven’t gotten to the point where I can tune it out because it’s just so loud and I guess it’s right against the adjoining wall. I am afraid if I complain they will say it’s a race thing since I am white and they are black. But it’s not a race thing, honest! It’s a sleep thing. What should I do? Signed, Sleepless in Baltimore


Here4U replies

Sleepless, I do believe that this is not a race issue for you. It is an issue about noise. 

In my opinion, it has nothing to do with what race you are for noise to be a problem for you, nor does it matter the race of who is making the noise. The two do not equate and I do not believe anyone would think that they do. This is a problem between neighbors. I also do not believe that it is really fair for you to expect them to use the race card when you have not even spoken to them about this issue yet.

I have had problems in my past with neighbors that I shared a wall with as I could hear noises through it that were bothersome to me. This happened at several different places with neighbors of the same race as me and with neighbors of a different race. It never occurred to me that a complaint would be seen as a race issue nor did any of my neighbors ever react as if they thought it was.

I do realize that, at this time, people are especially sensitive about the subject of race. This has been demonstrated by the many recent protests. However, the issue you are having with your neighbor has nothing at all to do with race. In my opinion, a neighbor could find it more offensive that their neighbor would hold back from addressing a problem about the noise from their alarm clock because they assumed that the neighbor would turn it around into being about race.

In my opinion, you should give your neighbors the benefit of the doubt and speak to them about this problem you are having. You might want to start by explaining to them that because you share a wall together you can hear the alarm going off which awakens you at 6 in the morning. You may want to express to them that you believe you can work out a solution together that will work for the both of you. I do not believe that anyone would react to this in any way but a pleasant and neighborly one. 

The only other solutions that I can think of would be for you to avoid ever discussing this with them so that there could not be any chance that they could possibility ever call it a race issue. However, you would have to change the time that you awake in the morning to two hours earlier. You could also rearrange the location of your bed. However, wouldn’t this all be terribly inconvenient for you? 

If for some reason they become so upset about you mentioning how bothersome the noise from their alarm clock is that they react by accusing you of being a racist there is no reason you have to defend yourself or listen to these insults at all. That would be the time to begin avoiding contact with them. I do not believe that anyone would react in this way unless for some reason hearing the smallest complaint about them infuriates them. 

I strongly believe that you should handle this the same way that you would if they were the same race as you. I hope that this has been helpful. If in the future you would like advice, please feel free to write again.

I wish you many, many nights of good sleep.   

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