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  • Seema

back porch culture

I interviewed a middle aged white male who lives in a suburban neighborhood in the South. He described his cul-de-sac. Over the past four years, it's become more diverse with two African American households, a Turkish Muslim American household and an Indian Hindu American household. They've been getting to know one another and building a sense of community. Last fourth of July, they threw a block party together, rolling the grill into the cul-de-sac, renting a water slide and dunking booth for the kids. They started playing at noon, cooked at 5 pm and did fireworks together at 8:30 pm. Spending time together and "doing life together," he'd like to see on a daily basis. "I don't want to be people who just see each other in the driveway and wave," he shared.

He knows that some of his neighbors have been hesitant when he first welcomed them. "Rightfully so, it's not how most white people have treated them. I know there is racism. 'White privilege' is the word I've heard and 'social elitism.'" He continued, "Our world has become a back porch culture when we used to be a front porch culture. You know, growing up we had big front porches. We were out on the front porch, we had a chance to see our neighbors across the way and to talk and have them over and have a cup of coffee, and I've seen our world go from the front porch culture to the back porch culture of it's just our family back here, the people we invite over, the people we already know and that we feel comfortable with rather than getting to know folks on our front porch. I know we lose something because of that. We become more insular, we become more focused on our friends and our people rather than encountering people from the front porch that are diverse and unique and have different life experiences than we do. And I think we are lesser because of it."

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