Urban Liberals Not Getting The Suburbs

| | Comments (0)

I saw a very puzzling story on NewsHour recently, about an art exhibit in Minneapolis that "tackl[es] the stereotype about suburbs, that of a colorless, design-free zone."

These are, unfortunately, people who believe in and perpetuate suburban stereotypes ... even within the exhibit itself. One of the curators says, "I grew up in suburbia and escaped as soon as I possibly could. And so it required a certain amount of effort to maintain a kind of objective or non-judgmental stance." Unfortunately, she utterly failed to do so: the exhibit judges the suburbs simply in order to highlight things that are, by contrast, good about suburbs.

To wit, one artist notes, "[T]he governor of Minnesota to me was the archetypal suburbanite. He was white; he was middle-class; he was evangelical Christian Republican. And then I was just asking myself some harder questions. I don't want anyone to paint all Italians in the same way or all gay people in the same way. And so that's how this started. I just started looking around. It's so massively uniform, and, I mean, I do feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone right now."

There's two ideas that bother me about this. The first is that they don't see that to people in the suburbs, the cities are massively uniform. Just because you have a nose ring doesn't mean you're unique (it tends to imply the opposite, to me).

The second is that they implicitly believe that demographic diversity is actual diversity, or at least, the most significant and important diversity. But just because you're brown and I'm white doesn't mean we necessarily have little in common. I have a lot more in common here in suburbia with the average Hispanic immigrant than I do with the average white urbanite; would having him live next door to me actually make my neighborhood more diverse, other than by adherence to a strictly demographic view of the world?

The reason diversity is important is because it broadens our perspective and helps us think in different ways. I daresay that most urbanites I know need this than a lot more than most suburbanites. Find me any street in suburbia, and you'll find Democrats and Republicans; strong atheists and strong Christians; anti-public school homeschoolers and anti-homeschooling public schoolers; global warming proponents and skeptics. I've done my share of doorbelling in suburbia, and I never expect that the people I run into will be like everyone else, and they never are, unless you look at superficialities like minivan ownership and soccer participation.

You find a much broader spectrum of beliefs and views and people here than in the city. Perhaps it is because many people who choose to live in the city want to live a certain "sophisticated" lifestyle, either among people who think like they do, or away from other people who don't, and this is strongly associated with specific modes of thought and views of the world; whereas, many people who live in the suburbs just want to live in peace, and that characteristic is found among every demographic. Everyone is different here, and they always have been. The only thing that draws us together is that we like to live in a place that is relatively quiet and peaceful.

Artists don't always know this, but all good journalists do: everyone has a story. Everyone is interesting. Everyone is unique and different and creates diversity wherever they go.

The exhibit actually perpetuates the stereotypes it attempts to tackle by implicitly saying that if you're white and Christian and Republican and don't shoot pornos in your back yard, then you're not contributing to your suburb's diversity.

However strongly I fit their profile, I think that wherever I go, I increase the diversity of where I am. And in this, I am not at all unique. slashdot.org

Leave a comment

<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by pudge published on August 4, 2008 11:36 AM.

Erm was the previous entry in this site.

Alternate Candidates for Governor is the next entry in this site.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.