I spent most of my years in what is referred to as the Bible Belt of Canada. A small little town chalked full to the brim with old white Christian folk. Sure, a Canadian bible belt is a far far cry from somewhere in Mississippi but the bottom line is that it’s just a whole schwack of the same old people with the same old mindset. There are minorities here and there, there are the young people that come out in the summer time, they even have the odd culture event from time to time, but by and large it’s all white, all middle to upper class and if variety is the spice to life then this would be a very very bland dish. In the end, culturally dead for the most part.
In comes Baltimore, they’ve got the Christians, no doubt about that but let’s take a peek at the demographic breakdown:
- Black or African American: 63.4%
- White: 31.9% (Non-Hispanic Whites: 30.6%)
- Native American: 0.2%
- Asian: 1.9%
- Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: <0.1%
- Some other race: 0.9%
- Two or more races: 1.6%
- Hispanic or Latino (of any race): 2.6%
It’s not even a close race on this one, an overwhelming African American population here that is greater than all other ethnicities combined. What does this translate into from day to day that is different than what most middle-class white folk are used to? It translates to a culture that is more outgoing than any other culture I have ever experienced, which is saying alot as I’ve lived in South America.
Everywhere you go people are engaging you, saying hello, commenting on something, joking around. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a white guy in a black man’s world here and I stand out, but the warmth and connectedness I feel from every person I cross paths with or even cross eyes with is awesome. Going grocery shopping means I’m going to end up with at least one 5-10 minute conversation/laughing fest with one or two employees, every person that I pass on the sidewalk says good day, people will join in on your conversation in parking lots and make friendly jokes when they can. Anywhere you go, as long as it isn’t into the overly white areas, where there’s an opportunity for engagement people will engage you and it’s wonderful.
It’s not just that they engage you though, it’s how they do it. There’s a certain confidence and openness that exists in the black community that doesn’t exist with white folk. There isn’t that hesitation about what the other person might think, it’s just out there, straight forward speaking their mind and making a good time of it. The first time I went to a Sam’s club here there was a big Football game going on and at first I got a hard time for not having any purple on me, so this lady comes out of no where with a piece of paper with the word ‘purple’ on it and tacked it on my hoodie. I ended up making cat noises with a stranger in an isle and one of the sample food ladies gave me an entire pizza pocket and told me that it’d be our little secret(didn’t have the heard to tell her I was a vegan). This wasn’t a rare occurence or a strange day, this is the status quo. People don’t shy away from human contact and walk around in their little bubbles they reach out for more connectedness and engage each other at any opportunity. Even then when the opportunity might not be there they make it
Every outing I have here I walk away thinking that the rest of the world could look in on how people interact with each other here and transform their lives and their cultures into something so much more open and connected where people might actually give a damn about each other again. It’s a great way to be and another reason I’m grateful to be in this city.