Sunday, January 20, 2013

Snowbird, Week 3 - Why not diversity?

We continue to love the sun as first-year snowbirds in Tucson.  Last week I danced too much, I guess, and pulled a muscle in my leg, so I'm taking it a little easier for a few days. I couldn't resist going to another dance last night, though, so I'm slowing up my own healing. Oh, well.

I'm continuing with my exploration of who my fellow snowbirds are, why they're here, and why they're almost all non-Hispanic whites. I've figured out that most of us are from the northern states where it's either cold or wet in the winter - and dark. Our homes are rarely east of Ontario in Canada or Michigan in the States. I think that's because the people more eastern go to Florida, a closer warm destination for them. Though I have met a few people who tried Florida, didn't like the humidity or the bugs, and were willing to drive a little further to Arizona.

The ethnic issue is more complicated, I think. When I ask people their opinion on why almost everyone spending the winter at this resort is white, I get a variety of answers. Here are a few examples:

1. In the 60s, when people in the north started their careers with big companies that provided good salaries and pensions, those companies were hiring mostly whites. This was before the big changes that came from the civil rights movement. People retiring now with pensions or investments have enough money to afford to rent here in the high season or to own spaces year round even though they're only here with their RVs for a few months a year. People living on Social Security or more limited income sources would find this place out of the reach costwise.

2. "Black people probably don't seek out the sun."

3.  Some cultures hold family in the center of their consciousness, so the retirees are still extensively involved in the lives of their parents, siblings and children in a community, and don't see a need to get away.

4.  "The Pakistanis are busy working and buying businesses. They own an awful lot of property in our city."

5. "I guess this is just what older white people like to do in the winter."

I'm interested in your thoughts on this. Actually, I'm working on an article about the subject. I want to talk to more people in the park, do a little more reading, get some input from fellow bloggers.

I talked to a friend yesterday about this. She said one definition of community is "a shared culture, a shared past." How do you think that might contribute to what I'm observing here?

I hope you'll leave comments to help me with this project.


Meryl Baer said...

I think you need to investigate the possibility that certain places were off-limits to minorities. Years ago discrimination was common and some people were not allowed to buy/rent/live in some communities. Things have changed, but sometimes it takes a long time to change local customs and peoples' habits.

1NurseRatched said...

I'm having a hard time with this one. Not sure about how people with darker skin (than white people's) get their requisite Vitamin D if not for the sun and haven't heard anything about studies revealing that honkies are the only people who suffer from SAD. I like the culture thread. It's nice. I'd like to explore the political angle's the mix down there?

Linda Myers said...

Alyx, I think mostly conservative, which would make sense considering where people are from. I'm in a couple of discussion groups and have used my mediation skills a couple of times to neutralize conversations that were heating up.

I am exploring the political angle, but carefully.

Barb said...

Well, an awful lot of hispanics are government employees and ex military. Both those groups have decent pensions to say the least. not living in Arizona (and not trying to malign those who do) it would seem that there are some strong racial divides in part of the state-I realize that is a short term thing. That said,we do have many hispanics retired in the south of texas at all those nice condos and florida and the eastern seaboard retirement areas are fairly diverse-just saying. I've never known my hispanic or black friends to avoid the sun, actually most of them like warmer weather. I CAN see how the central family thing might apply, but to me that would be more asian. That said, I'm a left wing radical hippy who wants the warm weather and diversity. Life with people just like me is extremely boring.

DJan said...

I can't help but think that it's probably economic more than anything. I hadn't considered the discrimination issue, as MerCyn said, and that might also be part of the reason. Is it changing anywhere, or is it the same now as it was a decade ago? Or two decades? I'm curious now. :-)

Linda Myers said...

We are renting a park model in Tucson. I doubt there is any discrimination in rentals in this resort. And Tucson is a very diverse city. Just not this 55+ RV resort.

Out on the prairie said...

As an Anglo you are about 11% of the population with about 9% Black. The rest is latino so they already live there and don't go to a local resort perhaps.

Teri said...

You have received some very strange answers from the resorts part time residents. I agree with the thoughts about the older residents receiving "defined benefit pensions" from the big corporations and also they probably did a lot more saving than spending and now can enjoy their retirement.

Olga said...

The 55+ park where we are in Florida is mostly midwestern white folks with a smattering of easterners--all white. No one would say it is racism, but I suspect there is at least o covert component of that. Actually, although Florida generally seems to have a diverse population (certainly for more so than Vermont) the city of Venice itself is something like 98% white. Even when I go to the UU church--diversity means that there are openly gay people there. A white person with a tan would stand out! I will follow your research with interest.

Janette said...

I have to start that this is a first for me--Defending Tucson---as a Phoenician it is rare :>) You are living in one of the few truly racially mixed cites in the country. Tucson is a very "liberal" city as well---considering it is the home of Mo Udall. My question to you is: why did you choose to live in a trailer park rather then a condo in town?
I have watched "snow birds" since I was a little girl. I do not see most of the people fleeing to be in white only communities---but seeking the Vitamin D that is lacking in their existence. It used to be farmers during the crop rest. Some people come because their health has failed in the pollution of the industrial north. In general they accepted living in small box houses (the old Sun City) or trailer parks---that in "their home town" would be inhabited by the very poor people. They left Arizona in April and returned again in October.
Now my African American friends tend to buy in the mid central Atlantic states for retirement. My Hispanic friends (those from the Western part of the US) tend to head to beach areas of California. The few Northwesterners (all of whom are white) I know hold cities like Phoenix and Tucson as a Mecca. Maybe we all just buy into the marketing myth that is put out for us.
And that "racial divide" that Barb talks about is the constant struggle for border towns to keep hospitals up and running. If we really had universal health care, many of the divide would disappear. University Hospital in Tucson works hard to that end.
I am sorry that you seem to have found a community that is not diverse. Was the community that you come from that greatly integrated? Maybe it was---but that would be in the North west-- wouldn't it? Diversity is all around you. It just isn't "black and white".

Janette said...

*would be rare in the Northwest

Linda Myers said...

Janette, we are here for only two months. We chose this RV resort because we have friends here and because of the many activities activities available.

We attend weekly events in Tucson - outside the park - where we see the diversity of the city. My comments are about the snowbird park itself.

Janette said...

I contend that the park is not "white" for sinister reasons as implied in the post and especially in the comments. You do not actually know how many people are Hispanic- "they" come in many shades as well. You also do not know if there are a few or even many lesbian or gay people living with you. Tucson has been integrated for many, many years.
I don't like it when sinister intent is placed on people--who like you---probably followed their friends and are just enjoying the sun. They did not go thinking---"this is a good place to get away from 'those' people."

Linda Myers said...

Oh, Janette, it's not my intention to imply a sinister reason for the lack of diversity in this park. I'm sorry if that's the tone. I'm curious about why it isn't diverse.

The quotes I provided are just that - comments from people I talked to. My own comment, if included in the post, would be "I have seen very, very little ethnic diversity, and I wonder why that is." Those comments certainly are diverse, aren't they?

I know this park is not typical of the "year-round" Tucson population.

You are right that Hispanics come in many shades. I could be missing that among the midwesterners I have come in contact with in the park,

So far, I have seen only male-female couples in this park. You could be right about that as well.

Ms Sparrow said...

Seems to me it's mostly because "birds of a feather, flock together"!

Tom said...

I think we have pretty much the same phenomenon on the East Coast. I'm taking the overnight train to Florida in a cpl of days. Have done it before, and have observed that probably 80 percent of the passengers are over 60 snowbirds, and probably 98 percent are white. I'd guess it's the economic factor more than anything else -- for all the obvious reasons, there just aren't very many well-to-do black people over age 60.

Sally Wessely said...

I am viewing what you wrote as being a sort of ethnographical report. I think what you found in your observations is fascinating. I too wonder why the makeup of the group is how it is. This would make the basis of a fascinating ethnographical study. You go girl.

Barb said...

I know that you had no sinisber ojbectives Linda, however I did find some of the comments you quoted a bit odd, if not sinister, and it's certainly a fair question. I was actually wondering if it's the "park model" thing perhaps? I'm sure we have plenty of those in the south of Texas but I've never seen them and the coastal so called retirement towns are very diverse. I suspect that if this group is mainly "snowbirds" that may a cause in and of itself somehow, but I dunno. Im more interested in your political issues, honestly, being a left wing hippy in a sea of red state, lol.

Linda Myers said...

Barb, this RV resort, including park models owned and rented, has a population of about 3,000 in high season. More than two thousand are snowbirds. About 800 people live here year round.

Lynilu said...

Interesting post. I have visited Tucson several times in recent years, albeit, not in an RV park. Therefore, my responses would not particularly relate directly. As I read the comments you cited, I was struck with a thought .... "I'm not surprised." I found so many I encountered to be highly opinionated (like I'm not, of course). My Hispanic friends there are cool, but I've found a lot of remarks from others (Anglo) that rather took me aback. I suspect 1NurseRatched might be onto something. It tends to fit with my own experiences.

Grandmother Mary said...

I actually don't know the answer to this important, thought provoking question, but I will say that diversity matters. Perhaps because of my grands being bi-racial, bi-cultural and staying for 2 months here in Trinidad, the most diverse of the Caribbean Islands, this diversity is our future and the experience of it is enriching and mind- expanding. I like it and I like myself in it. And- it's our future so why not build it in now?

Bob Lowry said...

As a 28 year resident of Phoenix, and Tucson for 3 years before that, I am not surprised at your findings. Without real evidence to back me up, I tend to believe the economic factor is primarily responsible for a lack of much diversity. Thirty years from now things might be very different.

I also believe the typical retirement community model is losing favor. More folks, like you and Art, would welcome a better mix of people, cultures, and ages.

When I visit my dad at his retirement community in a suburb of Phoenix, it is instantly obvious that everyone is white, rich, and remarkably similar in dress and attitude. I find it boring and dull.

My experience is that most retirement communities in the sun belt are all the same as your experience in Tucson.

But, as has been mentioned, Tucson has a very extensive Hispanic and native amerian culture. It is the only democratic-leaning city in the state and much more liberal than the rest of the Grand Canyon State.

Galen Pearl said...

I so admire you for raising this question and exploring it. I think people tend to stay with what they are familiar with.

For example, there are not too many Southerners in the Pacific Northwest. The South is not a very transient culture, generally speaking. Many people in the South who want a different climate for retirement head to Florida.

Compared to the South, the Pacific Northwest is very White. Yes, there is diversity here, but not like back home. I think if you look at what groups migrated where, there is some sense of where different groups have ended up even generations later.

Regardless, it is a fascinating topic, and I look forward to reading more of your thoughts and discoveries about it.

Dee said...

Dear Linda, the first comment you provided seems to me to have a great deal of truth in it. Very likely, many people of color did not have the jobs back in the 60s and 70s that provided the type of pension or even the amount of Social Security that would allow them to vacation for a month or so in Arizona.

Actually, I don't have that kind of money because I was in the convent for much of the 60s and remained single, always working as an editor or teacher and so not making a great deal of money for many years. It was only when I became a freelancer in 1985 and began to work 18-hour days that I earned enough to get a good Social Security check each month. Still, I have little discretionary money.

For so many years, women didn't make the salaries men did. (And many still don't.) Add to that being single and perhaps that might explain a little about the amount of discretionary money available for someone like myself.

That first comment made a lot of sense to me. Many of the other comments seemed so uninformed and unaware. But that is always true of any subject among a diverse group of people. We all have our own opinions that have been informed by our own experiences.

Linda, I've been away from reading and commenting on blogs for about six weeks. I enjoy your postings because they usually explore something like the one today. You are a seeker.

So, if you have any posting for the last six weeks that you'd especially like me to read, please send them as URLs in an e-mail to me or place them within a comment rectangle on one of my blogs. Thank you. Peace.

b+ (Retire In Style Blog) said...

My husband and I are at Rincon East. We have one hispanic couple in the park and they are an integral part of the community. They work as do a lot of people here in the park.

Lupe and Victor are in the business of washing our park models and exterior windows as well as doing odd jobs. Other people attend the gate and some volunteer to park RVs, cook etc.

Like the park that you stay in, we are mostly of European descent and we have many Canadian. I love to hear the Scottish and Irish accents.

Honestly, I had never really thought about it. It could be that the park owners have a lot to do with the people that stay in the parks. They have subtle ways of keeping a mix they like. I am not saying it is a good thing...I am just telling it like it is.

We did have a prostitute working in the park a few years ago. Does that count? :)