Thanks for your response, Josh. I lived in NYC — briefly, for basically a summer or two, off & on — and I know exactly what you’re talking about. I was deeply entrenched in the theatre community at the time (early to mid-90's), so that’s who I roomed/hung out with in the city. I remember how much it shocked me to realize that the NYC theatre community was just as catty, snarky, and judgmental of each other as they were here in Raleigh, NC, and moreover, the theatre community in NYC was just as white as here in Raleigh, NC! I mean, overall, the city is diverse, and generally, people were really friendly, but I definitely saw the segregation.
Also know exactly what you mean about being able to just walk one block away and suddenly find yourself in a very different socioeconomic area. For me, at least once, that meant a “dangerous area” — at least, back in the mid 90’s before certain areas of town were “fixed up.” and I was apartment hunting and ended up on a wild goose chase in Hell’s Kitchen. I was so out of place.
I remember a young black man wearing a huge, thick puffy coat with fur trim around the hood (in the middle of July) who was seated on a bench, watching me walk back & forth trying to find a non-existent address. He finally got up and slipped his arm under mine, walking me and saying, “You don’t belong here; Imma put you back on the subway.”
I had no idea who this guy was — I’d been raised a certain way, and I didn’t know what to make of this whole situation. For some reason, I just went with the flow. As we walked down the street, I noticed him throwing gang signs to others who were looking at us strangely. Here I was, a 19 year old white girl in a “Gap” miniskirt outfit complete with tights and heels, walking close to this scary looking dude.
Indeed, he did just as he said, and he took me right back to the subway, and I thanked him, got on. and went back to midtown.
Over the years I’ve looked back on that situation to always remind me not to judge based on preconceived notions or perceptions. That guy was my guardian angel.