The Land of White People


I know I’ve told people before, but I’ve landed in the land of white people…again. Not that it necessarily has anything to do with the color of their skin. It’s really a culture thing, and it just so happens the majority of people settled in the Inland Northwest are “white.” Culture, that strange flock mentality of replicated behavior among certain groups of human beings, is a concept I’ve ruminated about for years. Why do we create it? Where does it come from? The thing itself doesn’t allow for borders, yet we find it changes from region to region, bleeding and blending across arbitrary boundaries. And sometimes it’s something so elusive I can only barely express the experienced change through language.

The people in SE New Mexico are brusk, sort of like a soft version of New Yorkers. Something on your mind? That person sitting across from you is doing something you don’t like? Just tell them how it is! Once it’s out in the open, we can deal with it; it’s better that way. To an outsider, this attitude is as harsh as New Mexico sunshine, and I’ll be honest, I hated it when I first arrived. But, after the culture shock wore off, I adjusted. I acclimated and learned to be more assertive. In many senses, Roswell was good for me.

Many people are afraid to criticize culture. It’s as if the Prime Directive bled into reality and we feel as if culture is sacred and untouchable. This is a sad perspective. Human beings are flawed creatures and we create flawed cultures. The only way we can become better at creating culture is by identifying such flaws, snipping away the cancerous bits, and sewing everything back together.

Let me preface by saying that most of my coworkers were Hispanic and I noticed a certain “machismo” among the men around me. Again, culture is hard to put into words sometimes. I’m sure many of you thought very different things when you read the word machismo. But it was a mannerism, a way of talking about women in particular that bothered me deeply. I was good friends with a lot of women at the agency where I worked. My boss was a woman. And the men, even though they were the minority most of the time, still talked about women as if they were just objects of either desire or lack thereof. (Again, language in this instance is quite limited. There is more to it than what I just said. Perhaps it was a certain bravado, as if the women they talked about were somehow inferior.) I don’t even think they knew how they sounded. This, again, is culture, a negative aspect certainly, but still culture. I don’t know how you fix that. The women tolerate it, which is another strange thing about culture. People tolerate the bad because it’s so ingrained and normalized they almost believe it to be good. Or, maybe not even almost. And confronting the bad when it is so obviously accepted by a majority is not popular.

I’ve not been in the “land of white people” long enough to put what I’m feeling and noticing into words. Every time I move to a new region I experience a certain culture shock. Once I’ve settled, once I’m fully immersed in this new (old, really, since it was only three years ago I lived in this) culture, I’ll be able to possibly describe better what I see. Until then I’ll keep writing to you, dear reader, and maybe you’ll notice me become more “white.”

-Benjamin Mattice


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