While reading a cool article on code-switching from NPR we looked through their “Code Switching” section and fell upon their newest post which seemed to be even more so up our alley. It’s a three part series and you can start reading part 1 after the jump. What is it about you ask? This: 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?
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.” 1 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.
In today’s Brooklyn Park, there are just too many “wes” and “theys” to keep track of: Fifteen percent of the population is Asian. Eight percent is Hispanic or Latino. 2 The 24 percent of the population that is black includes so many Liberian immigrants that the vice president of Liberia made diplomatic visits to the city in 2011 and 2012. 3
For most of American history, the country’s racial dynamics have been cast in crudely black-and-white terms — with black folks on one side, white folks on the other, and everyone else falling onto some nebulous continuum in between. But our country is now very much in Technicolor, and many of our old ideas about its racial dynamics are getting scrambled.
Like that bar owner in Brooklyn Park, those of us who’ve been here for a while are circling our wagons around the places we thought we owned. And we’re kind of freaking out.
You’ve probably heard the numbers before, but they bear revisiting: by 20…[Read Full Article Here]
Read All Parts 3 Here