‘It is so clean here!’, says my daughter, who lives in New York, Crown Heights, a low-income Jamaican neighborhood.
‘And where have all the black people gone? I haven’t seen so many white and Asian people in a long time, except Holland of course.’ Another one of her observations while walking to the station where the bus will take her back home to New York. ‘When I get of the subway in my neighborhood I might as well have moved to the moon. It is such a different world, here or there…!’
I am staying in a rather affluent neighborhood in Boston, where (mostly white) people basically either come to work in banks and trading companies or they come to work in the shops, restaurants and other entertainment places, catering to the the first group. The second group is multi cultural. The first group dresses well, looks well off and leaves town at night. The second group looks more casual, not very rich and they leave town as well, but much later in the evening.
On the other hand, the area around here is a big tourist attraction. Hordes of people from all over the world come to the waterfront in Boston to take boat rides, watch the seals and fantastic sea life in the Aquarium, or go for the famous Duck tour in the city.
Boston is an historic city as well. Its history goed back to the 17th century. In the 18th century colonists decided to stop paying the English taxes and fought for independence. A famous revolutionary was Paul Revere. His house and other famous building from that era can still be visited.
It strikes me how many Asian and Indian/Pakistani families walk around here on free days. Here, among other reasons because of sons and daughters studying at MIT (te vergelijken met de TU in Delft) or any of the other famous colleges and universities in the area. I imagine they have their parents over for holidays and sometimes it’s a funny sight to see. Parents (or even grandparents?) flown in directly from the hot countryside in India, their skins a grooved and wrinkled, their eyes into splits still, from the hot tropical sun, walking around the harbor. Slightly dazed by the opulence and freshness of the port.
Asians love to come here as well. There is a big China Town near here and many places cater to these Chinese Bostonians. There is even a direct busline from Boston to New York and back, Lucky Star, where all service is in Chinese, according to my sister-in-law. The bus is cheap but technically less reliable than some of the other ones, I hear.
The Chinese do well. The Asians in general do well. The Indian people do well. Not as many black people do as well. It is more difficult to say anyway. There is no such thing as The Black people, like Chinese or Japanese. Black people come from all over, some born here, others directly from Africa, the Caribean or elsewhere. The novel I read, Americanah, opened my eyes to this. They all have different histories, cultures and aspirations. Those who were born here often still suffer the sore results from centuries of slavery, but those who immigrated later for economic or educational reasons, have a different experience altogether. They were not in slavery, were not poor and suppressed, many of them were, or became, well-to-do. And Africa is a huge continent, with as many cultures as the West.
Race is a difficult and complicated issue and I’m learning not to simplify it. It is easy to do that. But I’m white and privileged, just because of that first fact. Hard to imagine, hard to realize, but I believe it to be true. ‘Boston is racist’, say my daughters black friends in New York. I wished it weren’t true.
And expensive it is as well. Take it from me. We go to a large supermarket in Somerville, next to Boston, to get anything for a decent price. And even there some tings are on the high end. Except meat. But as I said in my previous blog, I meekly follow my father-in-law along the aisles. I haven’t searched for biological meat yet. It’s probably not as cheap as the regular stuff.