1.16.2008

harlem of the north, part 2

I have a letter in today's Toronto Star about this. Just a short version of yesterday's blog post.

They edited my "30 years" to say "a good many years". Let's just say many, many, many.

18 comments:

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

*applause*

I'm particularly gleeful about this one because one of the things that continually irks me about Canadian-born Canadians is the fact that they think they know so much about the U.S., but in reality know very, very, very little that's actually a) completely up-to-date, and b) completely true.

L-girl said...

*applause*

Thank you, thank you. :)

As I noted on the other thread, Canadians are extremely sensitive to American stereotypes of Canada, but are always throwing around stereotypes of the US and Americans. Perhaps not surprising, but it can still be irksome. (Good work, your "irks".)

s1c said...

Nice, too bad they couldn't give a link to wmtc along with your name!

M@ said...

they think they know so much about the U.S., but in reality know very, very, very little that's actually a) completely up-to-date, and b) completely true.

It's not our fault, honestly. 29% of the Canadian energy sector's GDP is based on warm air created by feeling smugly superior to Americans. It's been a real growth industry in recent years, of course.

Anyhow, all Americans think it snows year-round in Canada and that we all live in igloos. I read it in Reader's Digest one time. (Canadian edition.)

James said...

Part of the problem is that much of Canadians' knowledge of the US comes from US TV... And, since most US dramatic TV is crime fiction, there's not much call for portrayals of dynamic, vibrant Harlem.

Jere said...

Great job! I'm so glad they printed it.

(Aren't you glad you didn't get a letter back saying, "write us when you've got something important to talk about."?)

[And I was about to post this when I thought to go back to the original discussion. Wow, I missed a lot. My above comment needs not be altered, though....]

Amy said...

Great letter, Laura. Sorry I missed the original post. All I would add is that it isn't just Canadians who have misconceptions about Harlem or who misuse the term Harlem to mean "slum." In fact, it seems to me that the geographic scope of some of what was once Harlem has now been relabeled as more of the Upper East or West Side or some other neighborhood name, as the streets in the 100s and above have become more gentrified.

L-girl said...

It's not our fault, honestly. 29% of the Canadian energy sector's GDP is based on warm air created by feeling smugly superior to Americans. It's been a real growth industry in recent years, of course.

Anyhow, all Americans think it snows year-round in Canada and that we all live in igloos. I read it in Reader's Digest one time. (Canadian edition.)


LMAO, thank you. :)

L-girl said...

And, since most US dramatic TV is crime fiction, there's not much call for portrayals of dynamic, vibrant Harlem.

...

(Aren't you glad you didn't get a letter back saying, "write us when you've got something important to talk about."?)

More good laughs, thanks everyone!

L-girl said...

All I would add is that it isn't just Canadians who have misconceptions about Harlem or who misuse the term Harlem to mean "slum."

Indeed. I think that was part of Jere's point in the original thread.

In fact, it seems to me that the geographic scope of some of what was once Harlem has now been relabeled as more of the Upper East or West Side or some other neighborhood name, as the streets in the 100s and above have become more gentrified.

That's an interesting observation. That re-naming is certainly the norm in cities. Part of our old neighbourhood, Washington Heights, is now Hudson Heights. And the areas of preferred neighbourhoods get magically extended by realtors.

I think Harlem might have a circuitous history in that regard. The "upper Upper West Side", around Columbia, wasn't originally part of Harlem, it was called at various times Bloomingdale Heights (that area of Broadway used to be the Bloomingdale Road) and some other names. And Harlem began at 125 St.

Then the UUWS fell into disrepair, and it became known as part of Harlem... and now it isn't again. I bet if we could trace it back, the boundaries would keep shifting, depending on the population.

TheIronist said...

To be fair, as M has pointed out, it isn't just the citizens of the People's Republic of Canuckistan who have misconceptions regarding Harlem. There are vast sections of the American midwest crammed full of rustics who hardly venture out of their own states, never mind visiting the glorious NYC. I suspect a quick poll of the region would confirm an ignorance of the subject matter far exceeding a similar one were it to be undertaken in the People's Republic.

All in all, I find urban Canadians to be overall as well informed on US affairs as most Americans I know. In fact, my Canadian political colleagues are every bit as up on US current affairs as my former colleagues and friends from Washington, DC were on US current affairs--even as, it must be said, matters Canadian were and are utterly off the radar of just about every American I know (and the extent--complete, total, categorical--to which things Canadian are off the radar of most Americans is something many Canadians I've met have a difficult time wrapping their heads around, taking as they do an interest in matters American).


I marvel still at the attention the current presidential race is gettting among my Canadian friends, even as I marvel still at the utter indifference of many of my American friends, family and erstwhile colleagues toward the same event.

L-girl said...

To be fair, as M has pointed out, it isn't just the citizens of the People's Republic of Canuckistan who have misconceptions regarding Harlem. There are vast sections of the American midwest crammed full of rustics who hardly venture out of their own states, never mind visiting the glorious NYC.

Yes, definitely. This was a big part of the discussion in the earlier thread. Jere and I were pointing out that people who live right outside NYC often hold the same misconceptions. You might enjoy the comments here.

My own observation was not that Canadians are more ignorant of this than anyone else. Only that, as Idealistic Pragmatist pointed out, Canadians generally think they are very knowledgeable about the US - but they may not be.

Amy said...

That re-naming is certainly the norm in cities. Part of our old neighbourhood, Washington Heights, is now Hudson Heights. And the areas of preferred neighbourhoods get magically extended by realtors.

Is it realtors who come up with these designations, or the cities themselves? It is quite interesting. Another example: Harvey grew up in what was then called the West Bronx (after moving from Washington Heights, incidentally). As that neighborhood deteriorated when most of the middle class families left in the 1960s, it eventually became relabeled part of the "South Bronx"---another short-hand term for "slum" or "black neighborhood" or "drug-infested gang controlled neighborhood."

L-girl said...

Is it realtors who come up with these designations, or the cities themselves?

More than one group of people must do it, but realtors definitely do. Realtors have notoriously elastic definitions of neighbourhoods.

Examples are legion, aren't they? My first place in Brooklyn was in Crown Heights. Later it became part of Park Slope. Now it's in Prospect Heights. Same address, of course.

Harvey grew up in what was then called the West Bronx

I didn't even know there had been a West Bronx! Interesting. How about those folks in Riverdale? They don't even use Bronx as their mailing address! Posh Brooklyn Heights does the same thing - the only neighbourhood in Brooklyn (to my knowledge) that does not simply use "Brooklyn, NY".

L-girl said...

I marvel still at the attention the current presidential race is gettting among my Canadian friends

I was talking to a friend and fellow activist last night, someone who also emigrated from the US to Canada for political reasons. We were both noting how, although Canadians and the Canadian media pay so much attention to the US election campaigns, they mostly take a very uninformed view. It seems they accept the candidates' images at face value, and assume the system is a healthy, functioning democracy.

For example, Obama represents hope and change, a Democrat will be elected because everyone hates Bush, Bill Clinton was extremely liberal, and so on.

Amy said...

How about those folks in Riverdale? They don't even use Bronx as their mailing address!

Had to laugh out loud at this one. Harvey moved when he was in high school from the West Bronx (which was the neighborhood near the old Fordham Bronx campus, where I think one of the NYC community colleges is now) to Riverdale. He was not happy to leave his old neighborhood, but all his friends' families had moved also, mostly to Co-op City. Anyway, Harvey has always refused to use "Riverdale, NY" as part of the address. His mother still lives there, and she also uses Bronx, not Riverdale, in her return address.

Jere said...

About "name-shifting." Realtors (or "craigslist-posters," whatever) pretty much call Bushwick "East Williamsburg."

Montauk? "Super Extra-hip-ly East East Williamsburg!"

L-girl said...

Harvey has always refused to use "Riverdale, NY" as part of the address. His mother still lives there, and she also uses Bronx, not Riverdale, in her return address.

Yay Harvey and Harvey's Mom! Bronx and proud. :)

call Bushwick "East Williamsburg."

Oy.