St Peters, MO.
I grew up in the part of the suburbs that’s sort of a demographic limbo. You’d know what I meant if you saw it: no longer new enough to be “really nice” as the older home builders die off, slowly moving through the “hoosier” phase on its way to “ghetto” and decades away from gentrification making it hip to live there.
By high school the hallways were filled with Black, White, Asian, Latino, and Hispanic of multiple flavors and degrees. You had to count faces in the yearbook to say who was the majority. We were just entering that sweet spot where no one cares: the honors classes had faces from varied backgrounds, the sports teams had started to be less racially stereotypical, and the fights in the hall are about hormones, not colors. But you could still feel divisions. No matter how well we played together to ace the group project or win the big game, like still sought out like once we stepped off school grounds. No hard feelings, it’s just how it often was. Not always, but often. It was an apathy more than avoidance, sticking to those we gravitated to on the grade school playground. Habits are hard to break.
It was in my first study group at a Midwestern, hidden-in-the-cornfields, university that someone first assumed I couldn’t relate to them because of our different skin. I don’t remember ever feeling strange about race before then.