I’ve always lived in predominantly white regions. I think my high school class had one black kid. My college town was more diverse than my hometown, but it was still a lot of people who look like me. Still, I quickly discovered that the real differences between us weren’t based on the color of our skin, but how we were raised and what we valued.
I can’t remember a time in my life in which the color of someone’s skin mattered to me. It’s just not something I thought about – except when I offered sunblock and got a strange look in return like, “why would I need that?”
Anyway, now I’m living in a place where people don’t look like me. I was at the Laundromat yesterday folding my clothes and generally not bothering anyone when I heard two women complaining about all the white people moving in and changing the neighborhood. They weren’t directing their comments at me. In fact, they didn’t even seem to know I was standing three feet away. If they had made their comments to me, I might have asked how people like me are changing the neighborhood. Not to be a smart Alec. I’d really like to know. Afterall, I didn’t move here to open a sunblock store. I think I do all the same things everyone else in this neighborhood does. I ride the same trains, shop at the same grocery stores and wash my clothes at the same Laundromat. I don’t think I’m changing a thing. I’m just doing it with pale skin.
I heard similar comments in the locker room at the gym in Fort Greene, Brooklyn not long ago. Two women were ranting about white people taking over their gym. I don’t want to take over their anything. I just wanted to use the gym, too. There were enough lockers and treadmills for everyone. Didn’t we end segregation decades ago? Again, the comments weren’t to me, but I was sitting right there. They saw me. I was clearly not welcome in their minds. They’re entitled to their opinions, and I’m sorry I made them uncomfortable. I didn’t engage them in conversation. I just got changed and met my (Latina) friend for a workout.
I’m taking a Spanish class right now. Last week we were learning how to describe people (she has curly hair. He is young, etc.). The teacher told us race isn’t discussed in Hispanic countries. You talk about where you’re from “Yo soy estadounidense.” I like that.