Day 16: The Great White North

That’s the nickname for Canada, earned by its vast size that includes much of the Arctic and, of course, its northern latitude. We’re discovering that moniker could just as easily apply to the three New England states we’re touring this summer: Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine – not for the geography, but for the culture.

Race Across The Map

New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine are the three whitest states in the country. As a white tourist here, unconscious biases start to bubble to the surface. I realize the largely mono-cultural experience here represents a different America than I’m accustomed to.

When you travel, you notice overt cultural markers that give clues about the local population’s diversity. These markers range from the color and shape of the people you see walking the streets to countless others, including fashion, food and faith.

Here, those markers are stark.

Visitors to Anytown up here can find the requisite white steeples that proclaim the dominant Christian faith of their (founding, at least) population, with no other religious architecture in sight. Like a town uniform, the local fashion epitomizes the white-bread, buttoned-down style of polo shirts, khaki shorts, and tailored skirts that is invariably soled with Birkenstocks or Sperry’s. Local food fare here too often reflects the limited flavor spectrum found on a Denny’s menu. The denizens are similarly vanilla, with an overwhelmingly white demographic.

Uncomfortably Comfortable

Over the past two weeks here, we’ve noticed how quietly peculiar it can be when everywhere you look, you mostly see your white experience reflected back at you.

Once you notice it, you can’t un-notice it.

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