Categories
Nonfiction The Upper New Review

Taking Root: A Study of Suburban Life

By Monmita Chakrabarti

“I love these roads where the houses don’t change”- Ella Yelich-O’Connor (Lorde)

Picture a white man dressed in round glasses, Dickies, and a patterned sweater that he always makes a point to say he thrifted. He isn’t wearing a beanie but he certainly owns many. He grew up in New York City and we are having a conversation in his car, a very nice car, as he gives me a ride from my parents’ house in Dublin, OH back to our college an hour away. As we drive through the suburb where I grew up, he tells me that it is terrifying, with its pristine lawns and cookie cutter houses. He calls it a sundown town. Of course, New York City is a melting pot, so he notices these things. As if the part of the city in which he lives isn’t also a product of racial violence and redlining, as if a white man implicating a person of color in a white supremacist project isn’t the pot calling the kettle black. I am allowed to say that Dublin is ugly and racist. I would accept it if another person of color said that it felt hostile towards them, but I was hurt when the statement came from this man. If Dublin is a sundown town, what does it mean that I care about it so much? When I was a child I ran wild through the big lawns and played pretend with the other brown skinned neighborhood children. I was so happy. I hold my nostalgia dear and close, for when I was young enough to ignore the small violences occurring all around me.

***

In 1801, the brothers Peter and Benjamin Sells traveled up the Scioto River to what is now Columbus, Ohio scouting the surrounding area. They purchased 400 acres and named it Sells Town, just two years before Ohio became the seventeenth state of the Union, thirty two years before all Wyandot families in the area but one—the family of Bill Moose—were forcibly removed to reservations, and sixty four years before slavery was abolished. In 1810, Sells Town was named Dublin by John Shields, after his home in Ireland. In 2005, my family moved there.