Identity in Brooklyn

On Saturday, our block had its first-ever block party. For many reason, including just plain old forgetfulness, it was scheduled on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews.
We stepped out in the morning to people preparing for the day of games, rides, food, and fun. Most of the block consists of old-time Park Slopers — real Park Slopers, perhaps, people who have lived here for a few generations with their families on the same few blocks of houses, lined with trees and cars. People on this block are predominantly white, middle class, Irish Catholic, and they are amazingly insular. For the majority of my eight years on this block, only a few of neighbors have said more than a word to me, though I’ve tried. Other blocks, I might note, are very different and more diverse.
Anyway, what was interesting about the block party on Saturday/Yom Kippur was our coming home. It was around 6:00 pm, and all of the families on the street (and there were many) were sitting among folding tables, eating BBQ and drinking and carousing. At first, it felt like we lived in another part of the world, perhaps Pittsburgh, but then as we moved down the street toward the apartment, feeling increasingly alone and unwelcome, it felt like New York, perhaps not at its finest. The few Jews on the block were not there and the two newly transplanted Southeast Asian families were nowhere to be seen.
It was not exclusion, nor indifference that I felt. Nor did I feel persecuted, disenfranchised, or scorned.
Rather, I felt like this was why I had moved to New York, to be part of the great mass of anonymity, to be a part of everything and yet have no one know you enough to acknowledge, credit or blame you for anything (unless you’re famous). I couldn’t blame anyone, including myself, for those feelings. I’m assuming my neighbors see me as an interloper, a temporary resident, a non-Catholic, a minimal participant in the life of the neighborhood, a recipient of the general safety and benefits of the area. And they are right.

One thought on “Identity in Brooklyn”

  1. I wonder if things aren’t a little bit different in Park Slope, as opposed to Windsor Terrace. I’ve always thought that your area is Windsor, not Park Slope — and that Windsor is much less diverse than the Slope. The Slope has really changed over the last ten or fifteen years, whereas Windsor has been more stagnant (it was already gentrified, so to speak, so it hasn’t really changed).

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