Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A White Woman Asked Me If I Think New Hampshire is Too White

Living here in New Hampshire has been a tremendous improvement in our quality of life compared to NYC-metro. There are definitely pros and cons to living in any city, but hands down it is an incredible opportunity to live here. When people ask me what it's like I tell them that it feels like someone pressed the easy button. Pretty much everything we need is within a 10 minute drive, the air is sweet, the people are kind, the schools are outstanding (and you don't have to stand in line for 2 days to gain admittance), it's close enough to Boston (where we have family and friends from our college days) and even smaller airports that are a breeze to get through security and also the staff at the post office are the best I've encountered - it sounds minor, but I never understood why the NYC-metro post offices treat customers like an annoyance. 

Anyway, back to the title of this blog post. 

I haven't had any racially off-putting incidents occur, but there have been a couple racially awkward moments that have happened. Living here I do find non-whites who discover that I live here remark in a way that I should be pitied for living "all the way up here." We're only 1 hour from Boston by car where we've maintained relationships with friends and family of all backgrounds. I always like to put it into perspective: in NYC-metro it'd take sometimes an hour or more just to get from one part of the city to another via public transit often involving transfers and lots of schlepping (I was reminded of this last week during our brief visit to the city). I much prefer sitting in my car for 1 hour door-to-door listening to NPR vs. performers entering my subway car where I'm being jostled around while they loudly announce, "It's SHOWTIME!!!" and start performing. 

Like I said, it's like someone pressed the easy button. 

I recently had a white woman ask me how I like New Hampshire then blurt out, "Is it too white?" 

"Is it too white for you?" is what I really wanted to retort. 

Instead I paused (oh Lord, am I happy for learning the power of pausing before speaking) and explained that while I lament the lack of diversity, my community is what I make it, and I seek out diversity in many ways. Actually I've found in my experience that people tend to connect more on socioeconomic similarities than color of skin. 

She agreed remarking how "wise" my words were and shared that she wasn't from New Hampshire and found it the most homogenous place she's ever lived. It was shocking to her. 

We went on to talk about the current situation in Baltimore and how I believe it is a heart issue not a racial issue. Our country is really quite young and we do have a long ways to go. She nodded in agreement. 

While I was definitely surprised by the initial question ultimately, no matter how brusque encounters like this might seem, I do think they are important especially when they are face to face like this instead of behind the supposed safety of a computer screen. 

Have you ever had a candid conversation about race that surprised you?