I’ve lived in a lot of places around the country. So many, in fact, that if I’m not enveloped by a variety of racial types, it seems like something is wrong. In my current (permanent?) location, it’s long been that you’d only see white faces or hispanic/latino faces, and that was pretty much it. Growing up, being both white and latino, I didn’t really notice. Now, as an adult, it’s nagged at me.
When I first moved to this southwestern burg about sixteen years ago, the demographic was pretty much as it was when I was a kid growing up in a different area of the same state: whites and latinos. For years, you could count the number of black people you saw in the general population on something like one hand, total, for the entire year. Given that I spent about twenty years in the Washington DC area, with its much greater mix of racial and ethnic types, this just never seemed right to me.
But change has been happening. I’m not sure when it started. Certainly before Hurricane Katrina displaced so many Louisiana and Mississippi residents, but that definitely spurred some of the recent migration. Slowly, more and more faces that I was accustomed to seeing were in evidence. And I’m not talking just black faces. I’m also including Indians (Indigenous Americans), Indians (from the subcontinent), and a variety of Asian ancestrals. (Note that I am not using the euphemism “African-American” as I’ve met a number who either aren’t American, or who consider themselves as Brazilian or Jamaican (say) instead of African. Since I grew up with “black” being the preferred descriptive, and since it’s not yet in lexical disfavor, I’m going to persist and avoid any residential assumptions.)
I have to say that I’ve been enjoying this changing demographic. Not only is it starting to look like what I grew up with, but it also seems so much more American. All of us, together, without making a big deal about it. Sure, we all notice someone’s race, but it so much less a factor than it was back in the 60s when I was first aware of the distinctions. Now, as a photographer in a studio, I see a lot of variety in my city. I see a marvelous stew of American families, mono- and inter-raced… and no one seems to care.
This is the America I think of when I think of America. True, there is still work to do, but in just my lifetime I’ve seen so much that’s changed. And it’s still changing. We’re getting there.