So much to say, so much time! I am stuck in Minneapolis…still!!! My flight out last night was nixed and I was bumped to the first available flight for this morning, which has turned out to be…guess what? DELAYED. Something about bad weather in Chicago (where I need to change planes) and crews needing to sleep. Anyway, I’m gonna be in this airport forever, so I have plently of time to write about my experience in the Midwest. (Sigh).
Let me just begin by saying that my frustration with not being able to leave Minneapolis was ultimately expressed with me pleading with the ticketing agent to get me to the EAST COAST. Didn’t matter where: Philly, New York, Raleigh…hell, MIAMI! I really don’t care, I’d find a way to get home. I just need to get to a place where people don’t look at black people like we’re martians! The Midwest is another world. One I am not too anxious to get back to.
Do you remember one of my earlier posts in which I mentioned that I lack much of the first hand experiences with racism that has shaped the perspectives of many in my community? Well…let’s just say that somebody has decided that it’s high time to catch Ms. Lexi up on the ways of the world. I have had one too many encounters this week that made me cock my head to the side with that puzzled, “Did s/he just say what I think s/he said?” look. And all too often, s/he had.
All of this has me giving a lot of my optimistic altruism with regards to race relations a second thought. I have been considering moving off of the east coast. I was actively considering (and still haven’t ruled out) the pacific northwest area: Seattle or Portland. And since I’m traveling so much for work, I thought I’d keep an open mind about the cities that are quickly comprising my travel calendar, like Minneapolis.
I actually loved the city the first couple of days I was here. It’s beautiful and clean, a booming metropolis. Quite frankly, nothing like I expected. I am drawn to big cities (except Buenos Aires, I can’t put my finger on why I hated it, but I did). The more I visit the more I am convinced that I am a city girl to the core. Just like when I got to Seattle, in Minneapolis I dropped my bags and started pounding the pavement. I love, love, love being able to walk everywhere: coffee shops, banks, dry cleaners, movies…everything. I am created to live in some city’s downtown. I thrive in the city. Even more in a city that has nature so close. Seattle stole my heart with the lakes and the ocean and the mountains all visible and accessible from the city. I expected that Minneapolis, in the land of 10,000 lakes, would bring me just as much joy. I had yet to meet the locals.
I’ve been in a conference all week (one of the best I’ve ever attended, replete with fodder for subsequent posts) so, primarily my contact has been with women from around the country who are all part of the movement to end violence against women. I’ve met intersting people, and strange people, and people (who still surprise me for 2006 in America) who obviously have had little or no contact with black people. I realize how much the east coast distorts one’s impression of the US. I really don’t feel like a 12%er in Chocolate City, (or anywhere else between NYC and Miami), but the further west (particularly midwest) I’ve traveled, the more apparent that 12% becomes.
I honestly don’t know what the specific demographics of Minneapolis are, but I have not seen very many people of color at all. And, for the first, second, and THIRD time in my life, I have had to bob and weave and repeatedly reposition myself to get the person I was speaking to make eye contact with me, as acknowledgement of my existence. The ticketing agent at the airport literally spoke over my left shoulder, while blowing off my questions about re-booking my cancelled flight. I think I looked back 3 or 4 times to check to see if there was some emergency requiring DHS jumping off behind me, for which I gladly would have shut up and moved out of the way. But there was nothing.
When I add that experience to that of white women in the elevator of the Hilton-Minneapolis who looked at a group of professionally dressed black women and asked if we worked in the hotel because she was having problems getting an attendant to her room, the group from the Women of Color Network who dined together at a local restaurant having to wait 1 hour to get drinks in half-full restaurant with everyone else around us eating and drinking away and I’m left to wonder,”Um, is it just me or did 1964 not happen in Minnesota?”
The first smile, eye contact and respectful customer service I received was from the black front desk attendant who checked me out of the Hilton (where I obviously was an anomaly), the black ticketing agent who actually answered my questions and directed me to how I could get me flight arranged and booked so that I could get back to normalcy, and the black security agent who was so happy to see another black person that he left his post and walked me to my gate. Now, I know this dude was flirting, but at least I got a chance to ask him what in the world was going on around here. (Oh wait, I forgot the black shuttle driver who was playing Michael Jackson’s greatest hits on the way to the hotel from the airport. And he was fine!) See any coincidences here? I’ve had it. You can have this town. I haven’t been here long enough to do a full appraisal, but from what I’ve experienced, no thanks. I’ve seen enough.
This is but the backdrop for a more detailed conversation I’d like to incite about radicalism, pan-Africanism, black love, cultural competency, integration, tokenism, culturally specific organizations and much much more. I have to carve out more time to write because this trip has churned up a hurricane of ideas I need to flesh out.
I welcome any thoughts on the subjects I’ve just mentioned to prime my pump.
Anyone have experiences in the midwest? What’s up with that?