I'm from New Zealand and I have some family friends that did some travelling in the US. They're a couple in their 40s, one white and one is mixed race (part white, part Maori - native New Zealander). They were staying with some white, American friends (they were distantly related or something - but they were American born anyway), I think it was in Philadelphia. They were just having a look around the city by themselves and came back from a nice day out and told their friends about it. Their friends flipped their lid when they found they had gone to a "bad neighbourhood" (apparently code for "where black people live") - and they were then lectured about how dangerous it was. The couple couldn't understand it because they had met so many friendly people and hadn't found it tense or scary at all. Another time, the couple took a bus somewhere with the people they were staying with. The bus was semi-full and so the couple just took the first seats available. The guy sat next to a black woman and struck up a friendly conversation. They talked about his accent, where he's from, whether they were enjoying themselves in the US, what places they'd seen etc etc. When the couple got off at their stop, their American friends immediately flipped out and said how he wasn't being careful, and how he shouldn't talk to "those people".*The thing about the hateful racists when I meet them (this happens occasionally, including just last week) is that they seem to assume that it's a universal sentiment, by their nature. Universal, of course, meaning they see I'm a 'fellow white guy.' And figure because I'm a city person I must be acutely aware of how evil those dark people are, seeing them up close and all. "You're from DC?! There sure are a lot of black people up there!...I'd hate living in the city!" (this was seriously the first thing they said after they asked where I was from after maybe 1 minute of conversation) as if they're really expecting me to reply "Yeah it feels great to be away from that dark menace and with some real americans, high five." Genuine surprise I'm not hopping on that train with them.
Can you elaborate on the perceptions in other countries?
Now NZ certainly isn't free of racism, but my friends were shocked at how casual and blatant it was in America. They couldn't believe that whites seemed to not even see blacks as people, or if they did, they saw them only as threatening. I know plenty of enlightened Americans, so I don't see this as representative of ALL Americans, but it does make you wonder about what the general level of prejudice is.