Friday, January 11, 2008

Diversity

While having dinner tonight at the Brook, I noticed how devoid the area of midtown is of racial diversity. Sure, there are a few African American guys, some Mexican immigrants, and plenty of Native Americans. There is a lack, however, of a closely-knit ethnic community (of any stripe) here. Most of the African American population in Tulsa is concentrated in North Tulsa, while the Latin community resides in East Tulsa. I know there are several Asians (Eastern and Middle Eastern) in T-town, but they are primarily interspersed with the white upper crust in South Tulsa and suburbia. When I look around, I think "what happened to color?".

Perhaps this is the result of living in college towns and a large city for several years. I have grown accustomed to bumping into people from myriad nationalities and hearing foreign languages other than Spanish when I stop to get a cup of coffee. Living in the heartland of America makes me appreciate urban environments and the diversity of big cities. Don't get me wrong, I love the ease of mobility that Tulsa offers and slower pace that Oklahomans settle into, not to mention the low cost of living. Sometimes, though, I long for a little more friction in my day-to-day interactions with random people on the street, on a bus or at a metro stop. When you drive everywhere, it's easy to separate yourself from the world around you and remain in the safe bubble. Basically, I'm going soft.

I'm coming to realize that if I want to satiate my jones for diversity and grit, I need to seek it out. When my current state of flux is over, I plan to volunteer in some of the more ethnically and economically diverse neighborhoods of Tulsa. Maybe then I'll have the opportunity to fill that spot in my life's desire while helping others achieve their own.

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Midtown's Response to Winter Blast

Part of what makes Midtown so great are the beautiful old trees that line the neighborhood streets. Unfortunately, the ice storm that hit much of Oklahoma took a devastating toll on the wonderful old timber. I had the good fortune of a surprise visit from an out-of-town friend New Year's Day who, even in the darkness of night, was amazed by the fortress of downed limbs that lines the curb.

There are hundreds of homes in Midtown that lost most or all of their old trees, and even more in the greater Tulsa area. It's sad to drive around the neighborhoods and see how much damage was done and is still not cleaned up. One would think that they would see City of Tulsa work crews at least occasionally, but that's not the case.

Oklahoma weather is never predictable. For instance, yesterday's high was 41 degrees and today, it was in the mid-50s, very comfortable. So one cannot blame the City for not being prepared for all types of weather. It would be economically unfeasible and a waste of the taxpayers' dollars since there are many "mini-seasons" within each season, and the extreme weather is short-lived. The gripe, however, is the way the City _responds_ to extreme weather. The ice storm was a major inconvenience for a couple of weeks. People (mostly poor people) are still without power and utilities like cable and telephone providers are still working round the clock to restore the comfort services. The City is now taking bids for debris removal, which is a positive sign. But the fact that many people who can't afford to hire an electrician to come to their residences still go without what has become a basic need in our society is discomforting at best, and shameful at worst.

What, from my highly-narrowed and self-criticising view, is the Midtown response? For one, I have no idea what or if anything has been done to assist those less fortunate and without power beyond opening church doors and civic centers to provide warm shelter. My neighbors are all financially able and have taken the initiative to clean up their own yards or hire someone to do it for them. (I wish I could say the same for my landlord) Some may have donated to charities helping those in need. I would suspect, since I haven't seen any community action flyers at my local coffee house or on the windows of local businesses, that we forgot about our less-well-heeled Tulsans as soon as the switch turned on the light and refocused our angst upon the cable company or telephone provider.

I am the first to say that I am guilty of purposeful ignorance. I am learning, and adopting, the Midtown arrogance. I like to think of myself as progressive and tolerant and altruistic, but it takes real effort to actually live up to that image. My goal should be to reflect the wonderful things that so many give weight to in Midtown by crossing the line between tolerance and outreach.

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