I don’t like Girls. Revolutionary thought, right? I know. Since the HBO show’s premiere two weeks ago, I’ve read all types of moaning about the show, the story of four twenty-something brown-haired white women making a way and doing slightly better than Florida Evans in seemingly homogeneous Brooklyn. The prevailing complaint about the show has been about all those people of non-color living, mating, and getting by in America’s biggest melting pot of a city. How could it be, many, many (too many) people have wondered, that they couldn’t find any color in Brooklyn?! I mean, besides the homeless Black guy that yelled at “Hannah” to “smile!” (There are people of color in Girls’ world, they just, well, color the margins life for the people of non-color.)
In all the Girls talk, there’s emerged a prevailing ideas that New York City proper, with inhabitants that undoubtedly rep every country and city on Earth’s face, is this place where people of all cultures gather around the Empire State Building and do some sort of collective kumbaya chant where we express tolerance for every race, religion, and creed. Nightly.
I’m almost certain where this lure of the New York melting pot came from. It’s a bunch of people from everywhere, living in close quarters, and so in theory, they would all intermingle on more than public transportation and then find common human interests like, you know, surviving this city and become friends. Surely that can happen, but what’s been my experience in application is it doesn’t for a lot of people. Of course, there’s potential for New York to be a melting pot, if you prefer it that way. But it can also be as segregated as a Jim Crow Mississippi, complete with the crazed police brutality, but without the separate but equal signs.
The crowded streets of Times Square look like the figurative UN (all tourists, so you know) and by convenience and for time efficiency, you’ll see people of all colors, including the Mayor, smashed together on the subway come rush hour. But for, dare I say, many New Yorkers, sharing a knowing eye roll across an empty aisle to whomever from wherever when the inevitable kid enters the subway car to sell M&Ms and recite the scripted speech about hustling on the train–“Not for no basketball team, but to have money in my pocket so I won’t be robbing you”–can be as meaningful as your NYC encounter with another race gets.
I will have lived here ten years come late August, and I have just one non-Black friend. She’s Puerto Rican, from The Bronx. Unlike Zoe Saldana and LaLa Vasquez-Anthony, she doesn’t claim “Black” even if she could be mistaken for such. I rarely see her, maybe once a year, as she’s a workaholic and a mother. We met when her husband was still her boyfriend, and clicked. End of story. Everyone else who I could call at 2 AM in the midst of a crisis and actually expect to answer and care is Black.