Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Welcome Diversity To The Neighborhood

Earlier this month, a new Indian restaurant opened just minutes from where I live. There never was anything like it in our neighborhood before, and its arrival is a pleasant surprise to me. Having an Indian restaurant nearby means more than just the food of course; it means more diversity and choices in our area, and that is a very good thing. The owner of the establishment told us that an Indian grocery store will be opening next door, which lifted my spirits. I don’t always have to drive more than a half hour to other parts of New Jersey or take the bus into New York City to get a good mango lassi or buy amla oil. Soon, both will be available in my neighborhood, and it is both reassuring and convenient on so many levels.

Sure, we have President Obama and the Civil Rights’ Movement is decades old, but I never forget that there are elements of racism and ignorance all around me. Once, my family was the only one of color on our side of town; there was another Indian family who lived on the other side. Now, there are numerous Indian families living on every block. I also see more orthodox Muslims moving into the area, and they go about their lives wearing their traditional dress without being bothered by anyone. Large communities of Hasidic Jews, Hispanics, and African Americans all live in a nearby town, and it makes me feel good being around everyone in the local park. I know that perfection doesn’t exist, and there are simmering resentments felt by people that I don’t know about, but I believe that those generations who went before us and wanted what we have now would be glad to know how far we have come.

So while most people think of the Indian restaurant as another place to eat, I see it as a good omen. Is it a stretch to think so? Maybe, but I think the future looks brighter with its arrival in the neighborhood.

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