And by ‘non black city’ I mean that there are fewer black people in it than any other race.
There’s a running commentary in the community where I live, about how few black people there are in this city.
It’s not imagination. There are very few black people where I live.
Especially black women.
I joke with friends about how I’m one of maybe 5 black women in the city, and we don’t know each other.
I live in Vancouver, BC (Canada). And everyone knows (everyone who lives here anyway) that there are far fewer black people in this province than there are anywhere else in the country.
When black women who’re visiting the city come to where I used to work, we were like long lost friendS, getting into long conversations in which they inevitably asked me who does my hair (it’s a thing for us).
One time, a visiting mother and daughter in the city on a cruise stopover even leaned in and said, “We’re not trying to be rude, but…where are all the black people here? We got off the ship and we’re like ‘where the hell are we?’”
We all laughed hard over that one.
You could see that they felt awkward asking, but answering that question doesn’t phase me anymore.
That’s because it isn’t an unusual question. Quite the contrary.
I happen to be one of only 2 black women at my job. And I work for a company that employs 400+ people at my location.
Does it feel strange to be one of only two people who look like me at such a huge company?
I’ve lived in British Columbia for almost 30 years now. I moved here with my ex-husband who is Caucasian, so noticing whether or not I was the only person of color, never dawned on me, because I’m part of a family that is bi-racial.
As a black woman, I know that racism exists, even here. But I have never, in 30 years had to deal with it directly.
That’s not yo say that others haven’t experienced it. It just hasn’t been a part of my own experiences.
Have I had people (usually white women) try to put their hands in my hair while commenting on how much they love it?
And that will never stop being extremely annoying.
I should also say that I wasn’t particularly concerned about how my children, who are bi-racial would be treated in this environment either.
How could I worry about something that I haven’t experienced where we live?
A few years ago, one of my cousins came to visit me. At the time, we lived in an upscale neighborhood in the suburbs, and even she asked, “doesn’t it feel weird to be the only black person in your neighborhood?”
The answer to that question was “No”, but most people are surprised by it.
My group of friends looks like what we call ‘the UN’. The people that I see and socialize with most often are South Asian, Chinese, Indonesian, Mexican, Phillipino, Native Indian, and Italian.
So even though I’m the only actual black woman ‘I know’, I can’t say that in my direct circle I see a lot of white/European faces either.
I don’t know how it works in the rest of the world, but being a black woman in this non-black city hasn’t been a major issue for me.
People expect me to say that this experience would be largely negative, and I can’t say that I’m sorry to burst your bubble.
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