‘Who invited Miami?’: An LA transplant on the rules of racial division — and how we can bend them

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Yoán Moreno (LAist) explores the many differences between Miami and Los Angeles, pointing out that in Miami “there is a uniting reality: you have to speak Spanish. At work, at school, at home or in the street,” that it is a city where she went to school with “‘Chinese’ kids that had Jamaican accents,” and that “there’s no true ‘white’ for which to pass.”

My friends and I have been drinking at a party all night. At some point, over the sound of the music, the conversation turns a familiar corner to the question of how race affects me in Los Angeles.

I warn my friends, who are all native Angelenos, that I’m going to respond in Miamian. What I’m going to say to them will seem outlandish. But my intent isn’t to confuse; it’s to let them know that my view is informed by the place I was made, and to describe the peculiarity of that place. It’s to let them know that there’s something else out there — a different planet, almost, of bendable rules — where the perception of race works differently.

As my friends can see, I have a tattoo on my index finger, “305,” indicative of the area code for the place where I was born and raised. Someone at the party interrupts — a need to place me before I even begin — and I say, “No, I’m not from the Beach.” To avoid slicing my city up and pinpointing my neighborhood, I do just the opposite, and tie it all together: “I’m from Miami, the whole thing.”

There’s no point in naming the neighborhoods, because across Miami there is a uniting reality: You have to speak Spanish. At work, at school, at home or in the street — you’ll need it. Once, I tell them, a lone tourist, map in hand, asked me if I spoke any English before asking for the directions he needed. He may have mistaken me for the majority of the area’s residents, who were born outside the U.S., but I’m one of those who’re homegrown. And any of us knows the deal: Though to an outsider we may look like one thing, we are many, and we’re prepared to respond either way.

Miami isn’t like L.A., where you might need Spanish. People assume Miami and L.A. — big Brown cities, lined with palm trees and nightclubs — are the same. But, of course, they aren’t. In Miami, our Brown people come from the sea, our trees are shorter and thicker, our clubs more unruly. They aren’t the same. In Miami, you have to know Spanish, or you will simply hit dead ends, like that tourist.

Especially when you take a closer look, Miami definitely isn’t like L.A. Miami is where I went to school with “Chinese” kids that had Jamaican accents. It’s where I had a white-skinned friend who’s Argentine and Cuban but was born in Mexico and raised in Miami. Someone at the party interrupts to ask if he’s white passing, a question that begs this need to place him, despite what I’ve just explained: he cannot be placed. He’s many things. But I appease the inquirer: in L.A., he would be “passing.”

My friend’s question is nonsense to someone from Miami, where there’s no true “white” for which to pass. In fact, the closest thing are those lost tourists. And there is no way we’d confuse the two.

For original opinion piece, see https://laist.com/2020/08/21/race-in-la-bending-the-rules-of-racial-division.php

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s