The Melting Pot

The name “Seward” was almost a foreign word to me before this class. If you were to have given me a map, I wouldn’t be able to point out where it was located nor would I be able to tell you a single thing about the neighborhood. The only piece of tangible knowledge that I had of Seward is that it is the location that my Pizza Luce deliveries come from. Being that this neighborhood is so incredibly close to the University of Minnesota campus, it baffles me that more students don’t have the slightest clue what it is or has to offer. After an ample amount of time put into researching the depths of this neighborhood, I’ve come to find that the best way to describe Seward is that it’s a melting pot. My favorite and most truthful definition of a ‘melting pot’ that I found was from Urban Dictionary:

Multicultural surroundings where all the different cultures slowly become more uniformal generation after generation by adopting bits and pieces of other cultures and giving away some of their own traditions.

This definition touches on cultural context, history and the integration of cultures within a defined area. This is the exact depiction of Seward. All these aspects are incredibly important to consider while shaping a knowledgeable opinion about certain cultures and areas. Looking at the diversity in Seward today, one may wonder how and why it became so diverse. Studying the history helps paint the picture and give an understanding as to why Seward is the way it is. Being one of the oldest neighborhoods in Minneapolis, Seward was the main attraction for “foreign newbies” (LIVEMPLS); which ultimately means immigrants freshly new to the country. Since Seward offered a large amount of low-income housing, it was also attractive to white families near the poverty line to move to Seward. Since Seward was born with a vast amount of diversity, it’s easier to understand why so many cultures are incorporated into this little neighborhood. Walking down the street you can find a restaurant and grocery store for almost any ethnicity.

Seward is unique in the sense that it is almost 50/50 for ethnicities. Many other neighborhoods in Minneapolis shy one one end of the spectrum to the other, never resting perfectly balanced in the middle. For example, Cedar-Riverside is predominately Muslim, where Dinkytown is predominately white. Seward is near 50% Caucasian and 50% Asian, East African, Muslim, etc (Zillow). What intrigued me the most about Seward was not necessarily the diversity itself, but the fact that such a diverse community is so incredibly tight-knit and warm hearted to one another.

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In the book “Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria” by Dr. Tatum, the premise is that adults both white and of color often hesitate to speak to children about racism for the fear that it will create problems where perhaps none exist. She uses the example of her son asking if he was ‘brown’ because he drank TOO much chocolate milk, this implying that he knows he different and he thinks that it is because of something he is doing wrong. The picture posted above is a great representation of the cultural openness of Seward. Seward is so incredibly packed with cultural variety that it would be hard to avoid discussing with your children the unimportance of race. Since the residents of Seward are so close and neighborly no matter what the race, it is a great place to raise a culturally-aware child. Children learn from example. If the child is raised in a predominately white neighborhood and only learns about different cultures by the stereotypes portrayed in the media and by what parents say and act about different cultures, it’s inevitable for the child to grow up with a partially skewed opinion about race. With that said, I feel the diversity and closeness of Seward is a perfect breeding ground to start shaping the minds of young children to understand that race is only a color and should not determine one’s personality or worth.

I also found it incredibly refreshing that Seward is made up of very artistic and “hipster” people. These type of people, though I am not trying to stereotype, are often environmentally conscious and incredibly open-minded. I feel that this may have a lot to do with the openness in communication within the different cultures of Seward. Having an open mind free from judgements and main-stream stereotyping helps immensely in learning about other people and cultures.

Being that I went abroad, I caught the curiosity bug and I enjoy learning about other cultures and ethnicities. I was raised in a suburb, in the mid-west, by a middle-class Caucasian family; diversity was not among one of the things I learned growing up. I had a sense of “white advantage” as discussed in class for most of my life. Though I was never aware of this, after learning about this in class it makes sense to me. The more I learn about other cultures, the more I learn about myself and my own culture. I used to think America had it all right and others had it wrong. Boy was I wrong. Learning about different cultures brings a whole new light on the way you see things in life, its an incredibly invigorating feeling that I hope everyone gets to experience some day. The more people learn about one another, the less room there is for judgement, prejudice and racism. I think we should all take a little lesson from the neighborhood of Seward and close the gap to intercultural communication. After all, we are all human.

Tatum, Beverly Daniel, Ph.D. Why Are All Of The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria? N.p.: n.p., 1997. Print. 
Urban Dictionary from: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=melting%20pot
LIVEMPLS From: http://www.livempls.com/seward-minneapolis
Zillow From: http://www.zillow.com/local-info/MN-Minneapolis/r_5983/
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