June 14, 2005
The Subtle Differences
This is my first summer and first experience in a Midwestern city for an extended period of time. I don't know if it's the southern in me or just the spark of curiousity in my veins, but I've noticed some subtle differences in the Twin Cities that I find intriguing. Family, friends, and instructors all varied in their experiences and perceptions of the land of 10,000 lakes. Some thought it strange that I would spend a summer in Minnesota only because they've never visited and have a preconception of the Twin Cities as an anomaly because of its cold weather and proximity to Canada. Some people don't understand and don't care to understand geographical and cultural deviations from an accepted norm. Other associates discussed the Twin Cities as a liberal and diverse city. The city seems accepting of difference despite its lack of diversity, which is much better than many and most American cities can say.
I haven't traveled outside of the gopher boundaries yet, but noticed that many People of Color appear to be East African; more specifically Ethiopian, Somalian, Kenyan, and a few other representatives of African ethnicities. I'm always interested as to how People of Color recieve and interact with one another in various American cities. I would argue the or assumed and implied protocol is an acknowledgement of each other as People of Color who share a common ground through the collective experience of being a Person of Color in the United States irrespective of regional boundaries who frequently may find themselves in colorless situations. However, an emerging reality is the tendency for People of Color to identify themselves as indivduals and nothing more.
As a Black American I instinctively identify with other People of Color to acknowledge our implicit ability to relate with one another without a prior meeting. I guess the simple nod or positive eye contact is a part of cultural transmission and socialization that I've internalized as simple and beneficial. Some people say it's meaningless, yet being attuned to our immediate envrionments is essential. If you're not attuned to your surroundings then it is easy to miss the positives and the negatives which infrom one another and improve an indivuals knowlege resevoir.
My instincts confronted me with individuals I presume were Ethiopian or Eritrhean (probably messed up on the spelling). I guess I've been surprised while in Minnesota @ the number of East African people. With the majority I've met, there has been an implicit uncertainty as to how I percieve them and vice versa. I find the uncertainty interesting because I think people intuitively gravitate toward positive energy, but often times face the reality that some People of Color believe it to be beneath them to have the remotest association with people they percieve as culturally, economically, or socially inferior. I haven't seen enough Black Americans around the campus to make the assertion that a hierarchy exist between Black Americans and East Africans. But the tension I sensed in making eye contact with those few East Africans comes from somewhere. I look forward to learning more about Black Amerian-East African relations during my seven weeks here among many learing experiences.
Another subtle difference is White men's hair. Hair is uncommon for most White men in the South. I'm not saying that all White men in the South have short hair, but I think the difference is indicative of the conservative culture of the South. Most Black men in the South have at least a mustache, while it is common for a White man to have no facial hair. I've been amazed by the number of White men and women I've seen with dredlocks and White men with unkempt beards. Maybe once I move beyond the boundaries of the campus that will change and maybe it won't.
It's obvious when people see me that they know I'm not from around here. I wonder if people are aware of the expressions they make. I wouldn't be surprised if it's to the point of sub-consciousness for most people. I know I give those looks when I see things that are different and usually realize that I looked upon it strange after the fact. People in the Twin Cities overall seem if not accepting, indifferent; but not with the negative weight the word usually carries.
I'm told that once I leave the campus, I'll see more interracial couples than I've ever seen before, which is a sign in some respect of acceptance. I wonder to what extent though. Outside of the Twin Cities I know interracial dating between men of Color and White women is more common than women of Color and White men. I wonder if the same is so in the cities of purple rain.