Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Flavor of Diversity, Miami Style!

All this talk about gentrification and race in Anacostia got me to start thinking about other relatively successful attempts at the clashing of class and cultures. And it just so happened that I found myself in South Beach, Miami.

DC can learn a few lessons in Diversity 101 from Miami. Of course, my Utopian view was heavily influenced by my many hours spent thinking and drinking on the beach.

Lesson 1 - Mix it, But Don't Mash ItMiami has an overwhelmingly Latin flavor but it is also fused with memorials, museums, street names and buildings also named after members of Miami's Jewish community. Here, culture is historically preserved and woven into the landscape.

These memorials and museums give honor and respect to the other cultures that help to build the community.

Lesson 2 - Spice It UpWhile tensions may flair between different groups, food always tempers the storm. This beautifully decorated Haitian restaurant, "Tap Tap" offers up cuisine, music and artwork for those seeking a more Afro-Caribbean flair.

Lesson 3 - Preserve The Past Before Cubans, Haitians and tourists, someone had to build the city. Not only did they build it, they used Miami as way to cement an architectural genre. The Art Deco architectural backdrop of the 1920's speaks to the American historical design and influence.

Lesson 4 - Keep it CoolOf course when all these spicy flavors mix together, there are bound to be guts bubbling. The heavy police presence put a damper on my idealistic view of diversity but realistically addresses the high crime in South Beach.

Lesson 5 - Throw in Some Green
The one color that most South Beach inhabitants can agree on is green. The very wealthy and affluent seem to leisurely enjoy the best while those struggling are at the whimsical mercy of the tourist dollar. Where else can you see a "Rent Me" sign on an Aston Martin or a Maybach perched up on the corner?

Miami is far from perfect and has a tumultuous racial history. Yet, this large city with millions of tourists, immigrants, cultures, ages and income levels can somehow make it work. Our little Anacostia can find a way to use our emerging diversity as a strength and not as a tool for divisiveness.


Anonymous said...

I love your blog, but I think you're getting or giving an idealized view of race on Miami Beach. The cool, trendy South (Miami) Beach of today is a far cry from it's racist and antisemitic roots and history.

Much like D.C. and Anacostia many people's knowledge of the "history of the place" seems to be only a generation old; you need to dig a little deeper to find out more.

Please keep writing and I'll keep reading (when I get a chance).


Anonymous said...

With changing economies and migration, places change.

For most of Miami Beach's early history and development prior to World War 2, the developers of Miami Beach (lead by multi-millionaire Carl Fisher) envisioned Miami Beach as a white Christian only vacation spot. It's interesting that a place perceived as being "so Jewish" in the 1970's (I believe the 1970 Census showed that almost 80% of residents were Jewish), but the original City of Miami Beach charter (from when it changed status from a town) specified that Jews may only reside South of 6th or 7th street (I can't remember which) on an island that ends at Biscayne Street just South of 1st street. The only reason the charter didn't ban Jews all together was Jews already owned homes and businesses on the South end of the island. Even through the late 1940's most hotels on Miami Beach were "Gentile Only" and openly displayed (large) signs proclaiming so. One hotel notoriously published the following slogan on their advertisements in the Northeast: Great Views and No Jews.

As for African-Americans (Blacks), until at least World War 2, or even through the 1950's and early 1960's, they were not permitted on Miami Beach at all, except during the daytime only, and only if they worked there and had a special Work-ID card issued by the police department.

Here's a link to a book that gives you some more example and background (start at the bottom of page 20):

AnacostiaYogi said...

Thanks for the history and a real view of Miami. How does a community transition from an "ugly" past into a more egalitarian present? Can a town with an ugly past ever redefine and re-brand itself without creating tension and "pushing people out"?