Travel Assignments, Weekend Trips

Minneapolis, MN: Be a Beginner

This past weekend I went on a girl’s trip to Minneapolis, MN. Aside from being an amazing weekend, it also means I have visited my 18th state out of my 30 before 30 goal! I will write more about the weekend itself soon.

Being in Minneapolis reminded me so much of Sacramento, CA. The culture there is young, it’s new, it’s progressive, and it is asking for change. That and the level of cultural diversity there is so starkly different from that of North Dakota where I have been on assignment the past few months. It was incredibly refreshing and I felt more at home there than anywhere I have been since I left California. Even so, I realized that I was a beginner. I am a beginner to the culture of the city and especially the culture of the city scorned by tragedy.

As many are aware, Minneapolis has seen a lot of tragedy in the last year. George Floyd’s tragic death brought on a movement that has been long overdue. Not only do black lives matter, but so does education and activism around black culture in America. I have seen so many people in my circle begin to educate themselves on the roots of racism and how to be an ally to the community. I have seen many people around my age start to ask questions instead of thinking they have all the answers. We are learning to be students instead of teachers. Black Lives Matter is more than a movement, it is a call for change.

One of the things that needs to change is our language. One of the terms that I heard while someone was describing Minneapolis was “melting pot.” Historically, melting pot has referred to the “melting” of different cultures in the country of America to form one diverse society. Here’s the thing though: I hope America never becomes a melting pot. Cultures should never “melt” together into one because that takes all of the beauty out of each individual culture. It means that some cultural practices will be forgotten. Some people will be sacrificing key aspects of their culture to melt into one culture. Black culture is beautiful, so is Native American culture. So is Vietnamese culture, and Indian culture, Mexican culture, and middle eastern culture. If we melt all of that together, there is no way to tell which is which.

Another thing that needs to change is our awareness of our own response to racism and cultural diversity. If you are like me (white, privileged) and you find yourself reacting to the movement in a way that surprises you, display curiosity instead of self-judgment. Why am I having this response? Where do I feel it in my body? When I think about my views on race and culture what comes up for me? Is there a memory that stands out to me? How can I address this in a way that is productive and feels safe to me? Who can I share this with? How can I educate myself on this topic? What am I afraid of? What does being a beginner (when it comes to learning about race, culture, and diversity) trigger?

For me, it all comes down to reservations about being a beginner.

I don’t know about you, but I have struggled with beginnings about as much as I struggle with endings (which is A LOT by the way). It is hard to admit when I am a beginner at something. I know a huge part of that is my own privilege as a white, educated, middle-class woman. Book education is important, but not as important as real-life education. I have never had the real-life experience of being a black woman or black man. I have only ever known a life of privilege. I can read what that means in a book, but it does not mean I truly know what it means. At first I struggled with it too. I had thoughts in my head about how I have my degree in Social work and that it means I recognize my privilege. Again though, it is one thing to know it – it is another to feel the repercussions of someone else’s privilege affecting my own life.

So, I am learning. I am learning to UNLEARN what I was taught in graduate school through books and lectures so I can be taught by people with real life experience. I am learning to say openly that I don’t have the answers. I am learning to ask questions instead. I am learning to be an ally. I am learning to be a beginner again.

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