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The Courage to Converse: ‘The Girls All Seem Happy’

By Alica Whitmore, SNAP-Ed Educator

How do I fully do my job in a community? A community in southwestern Minnesota that I enjoy, and where I recently purchased a home, but in which I still feel like an outsider?

I feel it when people ask at the hardware store, “Where is your husband? Are you picking up supplies for his next project?” I was tired and had my Extension polo on, so I smiled and walked away.

I feel it as I sat and chatted with participants at a SNAP / Market Bucks outreach event and they causally discussed, "Well, the college was okay. I'm glad it came here, I guess. But then all the black boys came to play ball and pretty soon all the white girls had brown babies. But the girls all seem happy, so I guess it’s okay.”

I sat uneasily wondering how to tell them I was the proud mother of a brown baby, and I was not married.

Alica making faces with her daughter.

I did not tell them! I shifted the topic of conversation to all the great jobs that came with a college in their town. Then I spoke with great excitement for local produce becoming more accessible to all. I am indeed damn excited about Market Bucks and EBT coming to Southwest Minnesota, yet I felt fraudulent in my engagement with them!

Where and how do I courageously tell my stories, when people assume all sorts of things about me and I simultaneously assume loads of things about others? When and how do we invite one another (neighbors, professional colleagues, or strangers) into honest and courageous conversations? When do we stop putting labels onto one another and allow people to simply share their stories and their own labels of choice? How do we help our communities find common humanity despite staggering differences?
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