I remember so much about Minneapolis.
The first visit, winter. The year, 1978. My elder brother’s college buddy had come to town, charmed our mother, and swept me off my feet. Tall, ruddy, he was the one who’d applied himself – getting the grades, being accepted into med school and, now, establishing his own clinic in greater Minneapolis/St Paul. He’d even just purchased his own white cottage, complete with hardwood floors. I, being almost 21, couldn’t have been more willing to submit to the fantasy of a lifetime.
Well, almost. But, I did fly out for a visit. With him, I did eat banana pancakes, drink Cold Duck, and inhale a reefer, all for the first time ever; alas, a list of firsts which omitted that which he’d most anticipated.
But, I did see the city.
Winters in the midwest were fabled for their dry cold, the kind you didn’t feel, unlike those frigid to the bone affected by the Great Lakes. The first thing you noticed was the absence of significant snow. Oh, there was a certain whiteness, but it was hard, frozen, packed down like pavement. The only thing betraying the season was the cloud of breath coming from your mouth, as you made your way downtown; once you stepped inside the massive mall pavilions, the strip, chain restaurant nooks, or the concert venues, all was warmly lit and wonderful.
I remember thinking, months later, drawing comparisons to New York’s Manhattan and the likes of Cleveland, Ohio that what distinguished Minneapolis was its pace. People moved more gracefully through this city, nothing propelling them either from behind or within. Enjoying all the amenities and style of its contemporaries to the east or west, nobody there seemed driven; everyone was settled, content.
Returning, on or about 2015, this time in the fall to visit a dear old friend – herself, a native Minnesotan – we again spent time both in her suburb and the city itself. An antique store, where I acquired four carnival blown milk glasses; a bakery, serving large loaves of German breads. Again, I marveled at the elegant design of the wood framed downtown center, the grand foliage, the parks and, yes; the pace of the people. Nothing appeared to disturb their peace.
Today, I endured another realization.
Recalling both of these visits, separated by decades, I was now able to recognize one, unavoidable feature through the incisive view of hindsight; nowhere had I ever remembered SEEING a black person.
In fact, I wouldn’t have been able to tell if Minneapolis had any minorities, at all, among its residents. If they were there, they must have been miles from wherever I had been.
Now, I wonder. How many of those miles separated me from what, back home, could only be termed an integrated community? How far apart, instead, were its residents from one another – black to white, Latino to Caucasian……………German to Swede……..
How carefully crafted, by city planners, the American heartland. How many decades of suppression veiled deep bias, among its peoples.
Minneapolis. The heart of the midwest. Today, aflame.
False peace; deeply disturbed. Vastly entrenched racisms; exposed raw.
Fond memories, nevermore the same.
© 5/29/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting the authenticity of another’s experience.