Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rant: Dear New Yorkers, Los Angelenos and Chicagoans...

Ya'll are about to get on my last Hoosier nerve.

This may come as a shock, but people who hail from big cities can be just as provincial and ignorant of other cultures as their counterparts in minor metropolises and tiny burgs. Most people I have encountered in small cities are aware of their homes' limitations. They understand that they will have to look beyond their borders for some things. By contrast, many big city dwellers I've encountered believe everything exists where they are (the smartest people, the best food, the best art, etc.) and that there is no need to look beyond their borders for anything. And so there arises this idea that everything between coastal urban centers is a sea of lack and strangeness. And, for Chicagoans, the same goes for anything beyond the approved (white, wealthy) suburbs of the Windy City.

This week, it seems I've encountered more than my share of big city bigotry--some of it the typical stuff from East Coast talking heads. Y'know throw away lines about how in 2012 politicians will need to talk real slow and simple for us rubes in the flyovers. How we're all Tea Partying bigots. But I also encountered a woman, newly relocated from Chicago to Indianapolis, who was under the impression that buffalo meat was a popular Indiana delicacy. She spoke as if she had moved to 1800s Montana. It was astonishing to me that a woman born and raised in a city that borders Indiana and shares major broadcast media with the northwest corner of the state could manage to know so little about people who, depending where you live in Chicago, could be in walking distance to your home. But, as someone who grew up in Chicagoland on the "wrong" side of the state line (i.e. the Indiana side), I'm used to wide-eyed questions that assume I'm from some odd cultural vortex.

Then, this morning, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Blacking It Up. Unfortunately, the normally funny and astute team was having what I thought was an extremely privileged and fat-shaming discussion about obesity and food deserts, when someone threw out that access to affordable, healthy food was likely more of a problem in the Midwest or South than in NYC. What!? Not according to this study. Food deserts exist all over the country, but they are a particular problem in urban centers like New York due to economic and racial disparities. Indeed, the city launched a Fresh Bodegas program specifically to address what this trio of podcasters blithely labeled a problem of the Heartland. I love Elon, Aaron and L. Joy, but that was some New York-preferencing bullshit, son.

Here's my bottom line: Incuriousness and cultural ignorance don't look any prettier on a Park Slope hipster or Lincoln Park yuppie than on a pick-up truck pushing good ole boy. I wish folks could remember that when talking about where I live.

Some of my previous rants on this subject:

Middle Americans are not just White, Working Class Folk (Huffington Post)
Fear and Loathing in the Flyover States (What Tami Said)

Photo Credit: noesym


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