Monday, July 28, 2014

Clinging to the Same Stories.

"America's seismic demographic shift is upending life in our suburbs, cities and our popular culture. So why are we still clinging to the same stories to make sense of these changes?"

Maybe it's encroaching middle age, a broader mix of world events, or just another car driving the right way on a wrong way street, but that last bit about clinging has been a theme of late. Preexisting frames are tough to beat. Not beating them, though, means you are beat.

When Our Kids Own America, By Gene Demby (NPR) 

Brooklyn Park, Minn., which sits just to the northwest of Minneapolis and hugs the Mississippi River, was once the quintessential American suburb: Pretty sleepy. Midwestern. Mostly white. Jesse Ventura, the garrulous former Minnesota governor and pro wrestler, used to be the city's mayor. It was the childhood stomping grounds of a young Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion. The city’s annual festival is called “Tater Daze,” a nod to its potato farm origins. 

The Wonder Years could have been set in Brooklyn Park. 

Over the past two decades, though, the city has undergone the kind of transformation that’s changing life in so many American suburbs. In 1990, around nine in 10 people in Brooklyn Park were white. By 2010, nearly half the town’s residents were people of color. People in the surrounding area started referring derisively to the town as “Brooklyn Dark.” 

Many longtime — mostly white — residents were either moving out or resisting the tide of newcomers. As the shift got underway in the mid-’90s, a white local bar owner spoke up at a City Council hearing: "If you come from a different perspective or a different place, don't bring those standards to Brooklyn Park.” A different perspective. Lurking just beneath those words is an unspoken stake of ownership: this place is ours

This pattern seems familiar by now: “they” invade, there’s tension, many of “us” leave, whether it’s white folks gentrifying a brown community or brown folks ethno-fying a white one. And as long as the dichotomy was just that stark — as long as white folks and people of color could reliably play the roles of “we” and “they” — the pattern was easy to understand. But what’s happening to the “quintessential American suburb” echoes what’s happening to our classic “Chocolate Cities” like Oakland, Calif., Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Ga., and what’s happening in hip-hop and pop music. That old story is starting to get complicated.

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