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Column: Understanding the challenge of ‘misrecognition

To the Valley News
Published: 12/7/2019 10:30:15 PM
Modified: 12/7/2019 10:30:13 PM

Since the 2016 election, the media has been obsessed with understanding the disaffected feelings of rural white voters, while often overlooking important stories of people of color. We still know very little about how racial minorities feel as they increasingly make their homes in rural areas, places where whiteness is embedded in the local culture and demographics.

When I moved to rural New England in 2012, I had to learn the cultural rules of my new community. I found people where I live in rural New Hampshire to be nice but not friendly; kind but not outgoing. I came to understand that the rural culture where I grew up — in the western United States — was very different. Where I was raised, people commonly lift a hand in greeting when meeting another car on the road. In rural New England, studiously avoiding eye contact as you pass people on the sidewalk demonstrates a respect for their personal space.

As a sociologist, I wondered whether these cultural differences related to larger patterns of social interaction, and how my experiences as a white woman would be echoed or amplified among people of color.

These questions led me to investigate the daily lives of people of color who move to rural New England — a historically and culturally white place — where new people often get a chilly reception.

(Read more here.)

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