I’ve lived in five states within my lifetime, each for different lengths of time. One of the things that unified four of those states was that I lived in predominantly small towns with mostly white populations. There were several different minority communities within these places, but most of the time, I interacted with them rarely on a daily basis.
That was until I decided to pack up and move to the Washington, D.C. area, more specifically Temple Hills, Maryland, which is situated in Prince George’s County. I left a county of just over 160,000 residents to a county that is almost half the area geographically, and with a population over 860,000 as of the 2010 Census. I’m not new to living in places with lots of people, but I was not fully prepared to be outnumbered nearly 2 to 1 by black people.
I am now the minority. And it was a much needed breath of fresh air.
I remember going to the local supermarket for the first time. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to the people around me. I had a list of things to get and when I shop, I don’t fuck around. However, when I was standing in line with my items, I took the time to look at the people around me.
I was literally the only white person in the grocery store. I had a strange feeling come over me, and two thoughts crossed my mind. One, that it was actually refreshing to see more diversity around me, and two, are others looking at me right now, wondering where the white guy came from? I was temporarily paranoid, but then I relaxed. Why should I be paranoid? I’m in a store full of other humans; they were just a different color than me. My socially taught fears about different people reared their ugly head, but I beat them down as fast as they had arisen.
I work at a Ford dealership where I am one of about a dozen white people among the over 100 employees. I have rarely worked anywhere that had more than four or five black employees. I was not prepared for the work environment culture shock I experienced. The vibe is more relaxed, while still professional. Members of different departments interact more as if they were on a team, rather than being separate pieces of the same puzzle. Everyone knows everyone else, regardless of position or salary. I wasn’t sure at first whether it was the culture of the company itself, or the participants, but it soon became clear that the employees embody the team culture, and accept anyone who joins the team and produces. I have never truly felt like I was truly on a team working with predominantly white people.
I’ve lived here for eight months now. Any remnants of any taught prejudices are pretty much gone now. While I am still adjusting to city life, it helps to know that the people of Prince George’s County will make it a lot easier to do. I’ve met the most polite people, including a gentleman who hugged me at a bus stop after I told him when his bus was supposed to arrive. There are eight times more people living here, yet I have had no negative social interactions, even in crowded stores.
It has benefited me as a human to expose myself to living in a place with different races than my own. All people should do it. So if you have a chance to spend time in a place where you are the minority, I suggest you do it. Embrace it. Experience it. It will open your eyes.