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***"How? By placing ourselves in situations where we are the Other. Now, I am sure some of you will claim that this is your existence everyday. If so, then amp it up."

Last summer I went to Brooklyn with my husband. (Funny how some of my most foreign experiences are in my home country!)

DH dresses like a European, meaning, you can pick him out as someone who is not from the U.S. I dress like someone from the West Coast. We were almost the only non-black people in the neighbourhood. I'd never been in a majority black area before.

"What is going through your mind during the moment?"

So this is what they mean when they talk about the ghetto. The mall doesn't even have an ATM machine!!! The banks have guards outside! The sidewalks are as dirty as those in the outskirts of Moscow. How awful. It's really shocking that there aren't more race riots in this country, it really is.

Everyone is black- they must know we are tourists, though. I wonder if they think we are lost. Oh, my god, jeans for $5. DH buys 15 pairs, one for each of his brothers, cousins, etc. Hey... why is she stapling that other guy's bag shut? So he can't put anything else in there? They used to do that in Russia when they first started open stores.

Why didn't she staple ours shut? Could it be because we are not black? But she is black. Oh, my God.

"What is going through your head about the people who surround you?"

I wonder if this is how black people from New York feel when they come to Seattle. So this is what it's like where all the black people live. This isn't scary like our racist landlord said it would be. Thank God they aren't staring at us.

"What do you perceive will be their treatment of you?"

Nobody's staring. That's good. I guess they see light people all the time. I hope DH doesn't say anything politically incorrect a la Borat. I'm squatting South Asia style with my baby on my knee as she nurses and nobody's looking. Good. This is nice. Very accepting people.

"How do you act in response to all this stimuli?"

At first: be on my guard. Try to be extra polite- I automatically go into guest mode. Speak Russian with DH so that they know we are tourists. Though, in New York, not all native Russian speakers are tourists. Anyway- defend against possible stereotypes by retreating into an exotic persona that cannot easily be defined by the majority group. Later we got more comfortable.

Except for my outrage about the lack of air conditioning in the mall and the lack of ATMs. What a crock. Approximately the same feeling as I get when watching documentaries about the wall in Palestine. It's just outrageous.

Edited to add:

When I reflect back on this, I realize that my emotions are a mix of wonder at another culture and the conditions which my compatriates live under, sympathy, fear of being the outsider- or maybe no, fear at being perceived as part of an oppressive culture even though I myself do not identify as an oppressor, but who gives a flying fart about whom I "identify" as?

I realize that for all I've learned about civil rights, I am still ultimately complicit in what is no less than an apartheid. No, I'm not white, but in my Banana Republic jeans , Eddie Bauer fleece and New Balance white sneakers, with my white-as-can-be speech patterns straight from Seattle, Washington, well... might as well be.

Ultimately my focus is on myself. How will they perceive me? I don't expect to be accepted as belonging, but will I be accepted as a guest, or an oppressor? Will I be ignored?

Thinking back I realize that though it's a majority black area, they must see tons of different coloured people every day. I mean they don't all work there, after all. I probably didn't stick out as much as I felt. DH is tall and full of childish wonder at our ghettos (and by ghetto I mean segregated area, not poor area) and I think I somehow feel that black people must sense this, though that is unrealistic.

The power balance between whites and non-whites here has affected everything. If blacks were just another group, like the French, it would be different.
 
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