I’m sure you read the title of this article and figured it would have to do with the MANY diversity and racial issues going on in the United States right now. However, this is more so a open letter or venting session of how hard it is to be a Black woman living in Montana sometimes.
I haven’t had any aggressive or negative run ins with people of any color here in Montana due to my skin color. This, unfortunately, is not the same story for my husband, but that’ll be a topic for another day. If anything, Montanans have been genuinely some of the nicest people I’ve met in my 27 years of life. People smile and speak when they walk by you, and most even stop to ask you how your day is going, and expect a response! Crazy, right? This is still something I’m adjusting to coming from living in Chicago prior to living here where people don’t even make eye contact with you let alone truly care enough to speak and ask you how you’re doing. I share this information before getting into what I want to vent about because I don’t want to paint Montana as some unfair, terrible, place to live, when in reality…my life in Montana isn’t too bad. But at the end of the day, I still live in Montana, and as I’m sure most of you know, Montana isn’t know to be home to many people of color or much…diversity.
Montana lacks diversity so much that when we go out to eat people usually automatically apply the military discount to our bill because we’re Black, dining in Montana, and the only explanation of us being here is the military LOL. I’m reminded every time we go visit another city or state how much I miss seeing people of ALL colors on a daily basis. When we first moved into our house here on base and met our first set of neighbors, apparently she shouted to her husband (who is Mexican), with excitement, “WE HAVE BLACK NEIGHBORS”! Hahaha! To this day this is one of my favorite stories, but one of the saddest at the same time, because seeing a Black person in Montana is like seeing a unicorn. I have a handful of other stories like this one from run-ins with other people of color who were happy to see another one of “us” lol.
However, the hardest part of living in a place that lacks diversity, are the lack of culturally different activities and lifestyles around us. I sometimes get jealous seeing my Facebook friends and Instagram and Twitter followers post pictures of RSVPs to concerts and events I know I wouldn’t be able to find in the entire state of Montana. Some examples are R&B/Neo-Soul concerts, blues/jazz lounges, festivals, upscale evening lounges, restaurants, etc. When you live in a place where diversity is lacking you miss out on all of these amazing things to do, and see, which add appreciation and cultural value to our lives. Do you all know how much I took having authentic Thai and Caribbean restaurants within 10 minutes from my apartment in Chicago? Do you know how much I appreciate walking into a Mexican restaurant and seeing a menu in Spanish and seeing an all Mexican staff cooking my food? Do you know how much I would love to go to a Jill Scott concert for a date night with my husband instead of the two options we have here of dinner and/or a movie? Do you know much it means to walk down the street, through a store, or drive by people of all colors, ethnicities, shapes and sizes? For my friends who live in places that offer all of these options and then some, take a minute to just soak up the beauty that is diversity surrounding you.
As a military wife I try my hardest not to complain to my husband (in a non-joking manner) because I know he is/we are here because it is what is needed for our family at this moment. I also try to remind myself of the countless military spouses whose loved one is overseas or died serving this country before I complain. As upsetting as it is some days that I’m not surrounded by everything I want I remind myself I have everything I need. I know there are plenty of people who would trade places with me if it meant being with their loved ones everyday. Sometimes it’s hard to not be selfish and think about what I want, but I’m human. However, I feel it is important, no matter who you are, what you do, or where you live to be exposed to life outside of your little bubble. It’s much harder to understand someone else’s life and experiences if you’ve never had the opportunity to explore their culture and lifestyle.
As much as Montanans love their bejeweled flare legged jeans, cowboy boots, country music, hunting, rodeos, and cowboy hats…I miss professional sports, multi-cultural authentic food, big name concerts, date night in a little black dress, and round trip plane tickets for under $200. But the upside of being a military wife also means this won’t be my location forever, but man, it sure does feel like forever when diversity is missing.