Living in Manhattan, I’m constantly amazed by the diversity of life surrounding me. Walking down the streets or riding the subway, there are so many different types of people living very different lives, often loudly enough for a passerby like myself to hear an interesting snippet of a story or a quarrel between friends.
I LOVE walking around the city, and on my usual trek to and from Columbia from the upper west side, I generally see a lot of young families with toddlers and dogs (80s), pieces of a vibrant Jewish community (90s, 100s), students (110s), and the Harlem African American community if I venture into the 120s.
However, yesterday I decided to venture out of my little bubble and walk the entirety of manhattan, top to bottom. The entire trip took about 7 hours and was about 18 miles.
We began on 225th street in the Bronx, cross a bridge into Manhattan, and then walked along the Harlem River in Washington Heights for a bit. We then went south through Harlem, through Central Park to the Upper East Side, over to the east River, down through the East Village and the LES, cut through Chinatown, and finally ended in Battery Park, high-fiving the Staten Island Ferry building to finish our 18 mile, 7+ hour trek through the city.
Walking through Manhattan, we really got a great snapshot of the wonderful diversity of culture and community that exists — from the churchgoers in Harlem, to the little girl in a cinderella dress on the Upper East side, to the European couple kissing on a bridge in Central Park, to the men playing chess in the village. Luckily, my walking buddy grew up in Manhattan so I got to hear a lot about his old stomping grounds as a child as well. I ended my day in the Puerto Rican/Dominican community in Bushwick for a BBQ with friends.
Having grown up in a very homogenous upper-middle class White neighborhood on Long Island, followed by an equally homogenous 4-year college experience in upstate New York, I love that my life in NYC has a diversity of culture, community, and thought. I actually studied race and intergroup contact in college, and there are so many countless benefits to having more intergroup experiences in your life. However, it would be easy to live in the comfortably bubble of the upper west side if I allowed myself to do so. Studies have shown that majority groups tend to seek out one another. Many of us harbor unconscious intergroup anxiety and prejudice due to our upbringings, and it take courage and awareness to challenge that and actively experience a more diverse day-to-day life. I challenge you to seek diversity in your own world and break out of your comfort zone.