Over the years, we and many of our fellow transplant Blackasotans have noticed some of the things that make Minnesota…unique. After talking it over, we decided to speak on just ten of these things. You know how they say, “Keep Portland weird?” Well, these things must be part of some hidden conversation about “keeping Minnesota weird AF.”
- You can’t just have regular bikes. OK. Admit it. You didn’t see people just riding along on “alterna-bikes” before you moved here. You know what we’re talking about: “lay down bikes,” “shoulder pushers” and unicycles. Yes, we went on to learn that the first two are really called recumbent bikes and hand bikes or hand cycles, and that there are ergonomic and health- and ability-related reasons for choosing these over your more commonly-known bike. We respect that, but had to admit before we learned more, we would wonder, exactly who just rides this to work? (And sorry, not sorry – still can’t wrap our minds around riding a unicycle for anything outside of performance or entertainment contexts.)
- White people in black hair salons. Ma’am. What is this?
Countless black folk have spoken and written about the importance of black salons and barbershops as sacred spaces for us. Dara from Truly Tafakari breaks this down:
We don’t go just to get our hair “did”; we go to get our life right and to testify when it, like our hair, is perfectly laid. We trust our beautician to talk us off the ledge of a bad haircut and a bad life decision. And so a stylist’s chair is a confessional booth and psychologist’s couch rolled into one.
And even if you don’t have that kind of relationship with your stylist, the salon can be a place where black hair and features are affirmed in a society that doesn’t typically celebrate our beauty. Therefore, it can be jarring, unusual and frustrating to have that space disrupted, especially if you’ve grown up somewhere else where this never happened.
- Where are the #BlackSacredSpaces? Speaking of sacred spaces for black folks, something we hear often from people who move here is, “Where can I find a good church?” That got us thinking – even for the black people who are not Christian, belong to another faith tradition or no tradition at all, where are the sacred spaces where we can just revel, celebrate, grieve, process, etc. with just other black folks in all of our diasporic glory? There seem to be very few of them, whether that’s a club, a dance night, a place of worship, a festival, or as we’ve mentioned, even the hair salon. There’s value in having space where you can have cross-racial interaction, but there’s also moments when you need to be with your people. The lack of these spaces can have you feeling like:
- Minnesota Nice. #LIES. Minnesotans are polite, but there’s good reason for the saying, “Minnesotans will give you directions anywhere except their own house.” It feels like you have to make a Herculean effort just to locate community, much less make meaningful connections once you find it. Let’s not get into the passive-aggressiveness, the reluctance to change or address conflict. This is true for people of all kinds, but this takes on a particular flavor when you’re a black transplant trying to find your way with other black folks. Have you ever gone to an event with a surprisingly large black turnout, and wondered, “Where the hell did all these people come from?!” TeamBlackasotan is convinced there are Members Only jackets, secret passwords and clandestine locations where the black folks all meet, and nobody will give up the goods.
- Brother, can you spare an eye? Perhaps we don’t feel the “nice” or the love in Minnesota because too many of us have experienced the patented look-away move. You know what we’re saying. You’re walking down the street and you see another black person. We have talked to transplants North Carolina, Chicago, New Orleans, Texas, California, Massachusetts, and we all concur that there is a universal “Hey, other black person, I see you and I will now acknowledge your existence” protocol that’s typically observed. Not here. Folks will go to great lengths to avoid your glance, and not see you. As soon as you nod or smile, suddenly the other person has an urgent matter to attend to on their phone or in the clouds at that exact moment.
We’ll be back next week with the other five things that make Minnesota…interesting. What are some unique things you’ve experienced as a Blackasotan?