This week marks my one-month anniversary since moving to Dallas. The move represented a big step for me. I spent over 40 years in New York, and during that time, I learned to blame myself for the hostility, standoffishness and snideness that I encountered.
The problem, as I see it, is that New York is a mecca for competitive, ambitious people who have big dreams. There’s a huge divide between the physically fit, well-dressed, sharp and driven people who populate the $3K/month apartments in Carroll Gardens, and the misshapen, sweatpants-wearing single mothers who balance three jobs and live in roach-ridden apartments.
During my time in New York, I came to realize that I would never feel comfortable around the finance-and-fashion and media types that made up the city’s high-profile residents. I also felt deeply uncomfortable around the radical leftists in the New York underground. There seemed to be an alarming degree of groupthink among them - everyone seemed the same.
When I first arrived in Dallas, it didn’t seem much different from New York. My first stop was The Wild Detectives, a coffee shop/bar/indie bookstore that sold a wide variety of leftist literature. I had to turn my headphones up at full volume to block out the obnoxious reggaeton and nu-soul that they were blasting.
As a card-carrying freethinker, iconoclast and witch, I was afraid that my controversial perspectives would not be welcome here. Several racist incidents that took place shortly after I got here, at the hands of both black and white people, left me thinking that I would be left alone with my feelings of deep hurt and rage. Since then, race has been an issue in many of my dealings with people here. I’m often shit-tested, gaslit or just plain abused by others.
Being biracial has been an issue for me here. I often find people staring or sneering at me. I’ve noticed that people often seem hyperconscious of what I do, reacting defensively at the slightest twitch or turn of mine. I’m often positioned as an outsider and not extended the slightest bit of human compassion for my shortcomings. That’s stressful, especially on a professional level.
But that’s not much different from what I was going through in New York. There, my heart was slowly being broken by the sheer number of people who put me through the same nonsense. What I love about Dallas is that here, people have no problem being honest with me about their feelings. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable being around me, they make it clear.
And the culture of the city has been influenced by Texas’ history of racial violence. There’s a conscious effort by residents to make up for that, and this has led to a city culture in which diversity is honored and respected. While most people are somewhat liberal, there’s an active effort to make sacred space for all people - no matter their politics or orientation. Texans value diversity - there’s a strong “live and let live” culture here that I love. As long as people are well-meaning and kind, they are respected here.
I even felt comfortable enough to start wearing my head wrap in public. It’s a huge, Erykah Badu-style piece that I learned not to wear in New York because people, especially brown people, didn’t like it. In Dallas, blacks and whites alike embrace my appearance and I sometimes start random conversations with strangers that end in exchanging numbers.