Thursday, August 14, 2014

"Where the trouble is" in race, class, and culture

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Today is a gorgeous, balmy day. One to be savored while reflecting about urban life, race, class, and culture.

Riding the Metro Transit Green Line from downtown Minneapolis to the University of Minnesota this morning, I sat behind two, retired white matrons from Edina. They had come downtown and were on an adventure to downtown St. Paul. One of them observed that she once came downtown for an interesting walk around a few blocks during the farmers' market.

Perfectly pleasant folks.

As the train approached the mammoth construction of the new Vikings stadium, one wondered, "What apartment buildings are they putting up now?"

"Did you see that Edina has more than 6,000 apartment units?"

"Yes, and there was that hearing last night about that place they want to build for wayward youth. I didn't go over, but I watched it on television. It started at 7pm and was still going on at 12:30am."

"One is for it and another is against it?"

"Pretty much."

"So, what is this thing here?"

I leaned forward and told them it is the new Vikings stadium. 

"Well look at that. This where that is. Just huge. Thank you for telling us."

Rounding a bend a few blocks further on, both women pointed to the towers of the Cedar Riverside apartment complex. I lived there years ago.

"Look, there. That's where all the trouble is. The Somalis."

"Yes. Shootings, killings, murders. And they put them all together!"

"We are really seeing a lot, and we still have a long way to go."

My stop was next. I exited, fighting tears. My heart does not want to bleed anymore. It is amazing how much insight one can gain from less than five minutes of overheard conversation. 

I suppose these people have a right to shelter themselves and their world views, but I do not understand it. 

These two reside in one of our most affluent suburbs. Traditionally, no more than a few apartment buildings were welcomed there, so it can be a bit of culture shock for many of them to find 6,000 in their midst.

The project they referenced which was the subject of last night's public hearing is not for "wayward" youth but "homeless" youth. There is much more than a semantic, dime's worth of difference between the two for anyone who has an interest in asking a few questions. The reason the project is proposed for Edina is because that's where the homeless youth are – these are their children, and there is nothing wrong with most of them.

For all its visibility and the complaints about the public cost of the Vikings stadium, one of the most expensive public projects in state history, these two individuals did now know where it was located. 

However, they definitely thought they knew "where all the trouble is."

Because they have become able to ignore the violence that happens behind closed doors and even on the streets of Edina that does not get reported. I could give voice to numerous, ugly stereotypes about Edina and the "kind" of people who live there, but life is too short. 

I can imagine how their conversation probably continued as they passed through an even more diverse set of communities stretched out along the length of the Green Line, but life is too short.

I hope they had a nice lunch in St. Paul.