Living in a new city has presented a series of challenges. Obviously learning the geography is tough, and I’ve gotten lost more than a couple times. I’m also living with my girlfriends parents till August, in a much more ethnically diverse neighborhood, which means that I find myself in a series of situations that are new to me, or that I haven’t developed schemas for.
I used to live in Charlestown, in Boston, which is a vast majority white neighborhood. South Minneapolis is very diverse, which is a neighborhood with a large population of Somali and Latino immigrants, as well as a large African American population. I realized last weekend that I’ve never been in a situation in the United States where white people haven’t been the majority of people in my immediate vicinity.
I realized this because my girlfriend and I had to run an errand. She had rolled up her change and had to drop it off at the bank, and while she did that I sat in the parking lot and waited in the car. As I was sitting in the parking lot, with people of different ethnicities walking past, I began to feel isolated and alone. I started to understand that an environment where I was in the racial minority made me feel uncomfortable. I looked around, and I realized that while I couldn’t point to any one individual that made me anxious. The part that I found unsettling was the fact that I had never been in a situation where I was in the minority. I didn’t have a schema to deal with that case, because I’d never had to before.
Something else happened this week which made me see the importance of attributional judgement versus situational judgement. I was coaching a crossfit class, and during the class one of my athletes pointed back to the speaker and said she liked the music I was playing. I don’t usually play music that I like during class, mostly because my gym is an older crowd and I don’t think explicit hip hop is what they’d like to be listening to. But I was happy for the complement. A couple days later, this same athlete was in a different class and she remarked that the coach who was running that class had better music than I did. I checked the playlist after class, and just like me the coach had been playing one of the generic Spotify “gym” playlists.
This made me realize that people are making a couple assumptions when they hear the music we play in class. First, they assume that we’re playing our own music, and not just choosing music that we feel best suits the situation. Second, they assume that we’re playing music that we enjoy, not the music that we feel the class will enjoy. I have a strong distaste for Bruno Mars, but I know people enjoy his music so I tend to play playlists that feature him. I never thought that people would assume that my behavior at work was determined by my preferences out of work, but it seems that that’s the type of attributional assumption we frequently make.