I have spent my life straddling two worlds, perhaps more. Born in Cuba, grew up in Puerto Rico, came to the United States for college, married an American girl - a mutt herself but oh so white - stayed and made my home in one of the whitest cities in the US, Boston, where we pretend we are color blind but you never see a brown face unless you go down Blue Hill Av to Mattapan.
I am extremely lucky for many reasons, but here are two big ones: I am white and I own a house on Martha's Vineyard. I am also lucky in less visible ways: I went to an Ivy League school, I was heavily involved in minority organizations and was one of the founders of the first puertorican organization on campus.
Though I like music from any genre and era, I grew up in the dead center of the disco/funk era and my biggest social currency was that I could dance salsa and merengue all night as well as all the "american" stuff, motown, R&B and the aforementioned Disco and Funk.
Martha's Vineyard, like the rest of Massachusetts is incredibly - shockingly even - segregated: Oak Bluffs is traditionally Black and Edgartown is preppie white with a vengeance. The villages are separated by no more than five or six miles, but they may as well be on opposite ends of the moon. In OB you see African Americans enjoying themselves, at Inkwell Beach, standing in line for Backdoor Donuts, having some whisky at Twenty by Nine in a way that reminds us of Ta-Nehisi Coates'description of The Mecca. Part of this landscape is a restaurant serving haute soul food that also has dancing every night, aggressively old school only: Lola's.
Dancing at Lola's for me is something of a homecoming, well to do, educated brown and black faces as far as the eye can see - packed like sardines and rocking in unison - sometimes quite literally, to Chic, Chaka Kahn, Parliament Funkadelic, The Commodores, Rick James - well, you catch the vibe. It is as comfortable as sliding into the ocean into a Caribbean sea at body temperature. Yet - there is a catch. I'm white, I usually wear rich white people clothes, I'm usually with my wife - mostly German - blue eyed, blonde, tanned. We stick out, we are accepted, but not included, suspicious since our potential bona fides do not show. We are intruding upon the Mecca.
The Atlantic restaurant in Edgartown, is a completely different story. on the harbor, a place people come to lunch when they catch the water taxi from their Hinkley Yatch, seersucker, boat shoes, Nantucket reds, well, you get the picture. At night they usually have a band, heavy on the dancing tunes, but more Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, etc. - suffice it to say, on a recent evening the last song was Don't stop believing from Journey. No brown and black faces - at all - I mean, zero, zip. Not a comfortable place for me, the music is slightly off - even when they play Donna Summer it feels, well - white, the rhythm washed in Clorox. I fit here, but just superficially - I can laugh at the Journey, but everybody else is taking it seriously, this is their "pride and heritage", for me it is just a slightly goofy song
This my friends, is a palpable, banal reminder of the fact that we are not a "post-racial" society. I am like the canary in the coal mine, super sensitive to the differences, belonging to both worlds and of neither.