About Me

“Diverse” as a Euphemism

The other day I was standing in line in a post office in Harlem.

I turned to a woman behind me, who was the only other “white”(-ish) face in the post office and asked, “how do you like living here?” She said, “oh, you are thinking of moving here?” I said, yes, and she started off by saying, “Well, it’s…”diverse” around here, so you know, you have to like that.”

I thought to myself, “diverse”?
We are in the middle of Harlem.

Or, maybe, she means that there is also a Latino population?? Was she referring to the large African immigrant population? Somehow I wasn’t sure that she was even aware of the difference between African-Americans and the recent African immigrants. What does she mean?

It kind of bugged me, made me self-conscious, and also made me regret having asked her that question in the first place.

She also told me that she had heard that it got “noisy” in the summers–but perhaps, she quickly added, that was true about anywhere in Manhattan.

“Noisy?” You mean, people hanging out in the streets? I don’t understand. What’s wrong with that? If you don’t want that, shouldn’t you be living in a place where you can buy an acre of land for the same price you pay for a tiny apartment in Manhattan?

My head was full of question marks.

I didn’t understand why someone would want to move to Harlem if they were so uncomfortable around the African-American community. Harlem has been a black neighborhood for over a century and bears the richness of it.

Having had more time afterwards to put things together I came to the conclusion that she in fact was using the word “diverse” to mean that “it wasn’t white.” Wow….I thought.

Another woman walked in who looked closer to my age and friendly-looking after I had already engaged in discussion with this other one, and I really wished that I had asked the same question to her instead. She was black (like everyone else in the post office ), but didn’t look like she was a long-time resident there and that was my point: Asking someone who was new to the neighborhood what it was like coming in as a new-comer to the area.

This incident reminded me of how the word “diverse” is often used in the Jewish community as well. Isn’t “diverse” also used to mean “not white,”  including the Sephardic community, in many American Jewish communities?

Te be continued…. maybe

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6 thoughts on ““Diverse” as a Euphemism

  1. I attended college in Harlem – no, not Columbia, I was never smart enough for that. CCNY. We ‘non-diverse’ types were certain to clear out before sundown, as the old Southernism goes/went. Those who didn’t had problems. The ‘diverse’ students had no problems; they came and went at will. That was a long time ago – like the 1st half of the ’70’s. Also, people who looked like me used the 145th Street IND station exclusively; we were scrupulous to stay clear of the 125th Street stop. One of my friends at CCNY – Chinese-American – got off at 125th St. one fine day. A middle aged ‘diverse’ gentleman saw him, grabbed a metal pipe, and chased him uphill, swinging the pipe over his head. My friend, who had a brown belt in Judo – RAN. But that was a long time ago – 1st half of the 1970’s, as I’ve already said. Live in the country – I favor the Catskills.

  2. At last I found out the ‘right’ person to whom to talk with! Please don’t be too embarrassed if I say like this, sorry, but I’ve searched some cases or persons who experiences like me. I’m the one who is preparing conversion to judaism and also a KOREAN. So your being seems a kind of miracle for my sight. You’re a japanese and a jew.

    For a long time, I’ve thought the combination like that wouldn’t be exist. But my heart has been drown by judaism and now I regard it as a destiny(or ‘so perfect fit’). I feel I already have the jewish identity. So I’m a non-official jew.

    Adding on my interests in your blog and articles, I have to confess that japanese people is always my liking, another is jewish. I have not a few of japanese friends or acquaintances, and some jewish friends, but never have had JEWPANESE.

    So interesting! And great pleasure for me to look around in your blog. I’d like to visit here often, Thanks!

  3. Schvach,

    Honestly, I was a little confused with your comment. I wasn’t sure what you were trying to say with your comment on the blog. If you see this, can you please clarify?

    Ryu,

    Actually, I know quite a few people who are both Korean and Jewish or Japanese and Jewish, some by choice and some by birth. It can feel lonely if you don’t know other people like that, but I can assure you that there are communities of us out there. Hang on! Hope your conversion process progresses smoothly. I am glad you also seem to enjoy this blog as well.

    Than-Ha,

    Thanks!

  4. Kaguya: There’s no hidden meaning in my comment. I used the term ‘diverse’ in the same way as you. Back in the 1970’s Harlem was not a friendly place for people who looked like me or like my Chinese-American friend. I don’t know if things have changed since; 30+ years is a long time. Regardless of that, I suggest living in the country rather than in uptown Manhattan, and I do favor the Catskill Forest Preserve. If you want to live closer to the city and have money, try Pound Ridge in Westchester.

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