Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In the Minority

One of the best things about going to Africa is being part of the majority.  Most places I go when in Ghana or Nigeria, I don't stand out.  The people all look like me.  The advertisements all feature people that look like me.  If I turn on the television, I see people that look like me.

I happen to live in a town where most of the people look like me but as soon as I step foot out of this town, and go up north just a bit, I become conscious of the fact that I am in the minority.  It doesn't really bother me much. I have not encountered any overt racism and generally people are friendly and accepting.  But still, as a human being, it's tough sometimes when you don't see people that look like you.

In the homeschooling community, I am definitely in the minority and that is difficult.  I keep showing up to homeschooling meetings holding out hope that there will be other faces of color.  Every so often, one will turn up like at yesterday's get-together and it's thrilling.  I can connect with homeschoolers of any race but there are things, certain things, that only folks of color can understand so it's important to me to find them.

But back to being in the minority . . . one of the most interesting things that happens is that you often have to stop and think about things a lot to figure out if it's racially motivated or just, you know, regular.  I think that's one of the worst things about being in the minority.

They have opened a new Fairway Market not too far from where I live.  I absolutely love Fairway and used to drive down to NYC to do my grocery shopping there.  So I was thrilled that they were opening on up here--not more than 5 minutes away.  There was a huge hullabaloo when they opened too.  The place was completely packed and for good reason:  the store is huge.  You can get any and everything there.  It's just awesome.

About a month ago I went on down there to do some grocery shopping and I discovered that the bridge connecting my town to the town the Fairway is in was closed.  It's a drawbridge so every so often, they will pull it up to let a ship pass.  I didn't think much about it--I just took the very congested and out-of- the-way detour.  A week later,  I noticed the bridge was still closed and now there were signs that the bridge was closed.  Oh boy--this sucker was going to be shut down for a minute.  Well, no problem for me:  I figured out a better detour which involved a highway.  But currently, there's no way to walk to Fairway--well you could but it would tack on well over an hour to your journey.  I started to wonder how they could close such a major bridge when there was a brand new business everyone was itching to get to.  That didn't seem like good business practice and then slowly, slowly, slowly I started to wonder if they were purposely trying to keep folks out, away from their new, shiny, upscale store.  Who were they trying to keep out?  Then it occurred to me:  those folks on that side of my town for whom Fairway would be closer than Pathmark and a better option for grocery shopping (especially since the prices are, believe it or not, comparable).  They would be heading to Fairway on foot to take a cab home or by bus.  But with that bridge out, it would be way too inconvenient to go to Fairway.  I then remembered how much of a big effort they were making to make sure they never said Fairway borders my town or NYC . . . all to preserve the upscale shi-shi image.

Then I thought to myself:  What dark thoughts!  Why do you think like that?  The bridge could really just be out--no ulterior motives.  Just out of order.   But then I realized I kind of have to think of things in this way being in the minority.  I have to be able to recognize these things.  Nobody wants to be that character in the Dave Chappelle skit who doesn't realize who he is and when things are directed at you!  It's not only ridiculous but dangerous.

I know issues of race and class often get conflated and it's hard to separate the two sometimes.  But most of the time I honestly feel I catch more heck for my race than for my class.  More often I think, "Are they doing that because I'm black?" than "Are they doing this because of my tax bracket or where I was raised?"  That's the honest truth.

So anyway, the bridge stays out of order.

And I keep wondering about when my brain will get the memo that we live in post-racial America.


Trudie said...


I took two trips to Fairway and you enlightening me on how long the bridge was actually closed to realize that , yes, they are keeping us out because of our race AND tax bracket. Mostly our tax bracket though. Those of us that can get around it are tolerated as long as there are not tooooooo many brown faces. I used to think this way ALOT in HS when I experienced blatant racism in my HS town. Then I stopped, or resisted thinking that way, until recently, over 20yrs later when I started working at an international school. Everyone wants someone to hate and lucky us, it's us.

LadyRoz said...

I really enjoy your blogs

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

I don't think you're being paranoid in the least bit. This country has moved many steps backwards in being post racial since too many white folks lost their minds over a black man in the White House, with Fox News and haters like Rush rekindling the fires of racism.

When I lived in DC (I'm just outside of it now), the city began building a subway system, I think it was in the mid or late '70s. The Georgetown neighborhood was very trendy and chic like you described. To lessen the number of blacks coming there, that area lobbied to NOT have a subway stop in it. They were too racist to think a lot of blacks in this majority black town wouldn't just drive there to go to clubs and restaurants and shops like white folks - which is exactly what happened a lot by the '90s. To this day, that place is a parking and driving nightmare, and the nearest Metro is a helluva walk.

And now, the mentality of fear and exclusion is right back where it used to be... with Texas and Arizona acting as the new old South in leading the way.

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