2% – No, not the milk. Not my phone battery, but the percentage of black people in Salt Lake City, Utah where I'm currently working. 2% is like two pennies out of a dollar. What can you buy with two pennies? Nothing. It might as well be zero.
According to a report from The United States Census Bureau, millennials accounted for over 40% of all movers between 2007 and 2012, despite making up less than a quarter of the U.S. population. We're moving for work at unprecedented rates, and sometimes, these jobs take us across the country.
When I first accepted my offer in Salt Lake City, my friends were horrified. What's in Utah... There's no men… You're going to become a sister wife! You name it; I've heard it. Months later, and I'm still getting roasted. While Salt Lake certainly isn't NYC by any means, I welcome the change of pace with open arms and enjoy seeing all the extra zeros in my bank account – for now.
Sometimes, you need a change to truly reflect on what you want and where you want to go.
So, if black people only make up 2% of the population, imagine my surprise when men – black men – kept appearing at every corner. Let me preface this by saying that I am not a dating advice extraordinaire, nor am I going out of my way to meet people, but I don't think I've ever received this much attention in my life. My first week in the city, a man literally pulled over his SUV to ask me where I was from and if I wanted to go on a date. He apologized for his forthrightness, but explained how few black women he crosses paths with. Beyond being scared for my life (I watch Criminal Minds, don't play), I was S-H-O-O-K. Coffee shops, convenience stores, CHURCH, young, old, tall, short, diverse nationalities… I keep getting asked out.
They move different.
I find the attention more humorous than anything, but after living in NYC and DC, I can't help but reflect on how completely different the dynamics are. In major cities, the perception is that there are new prospects everywhere, given the huge population. More people, less serious, temporary, casual — you could go on a different date with a different person every day if you wanted to, especially in the Age of Dating Apps. While I know several couples who met in major urban hubs, I know even more ladies who rant about how impossible it is to date seriously in an environment that values quantity. Or that major cities are so big that it's hard to meet people organically outside of work (risky) and bars (ehhh).
On the flip side, in smaller, less diverse cities like Salt Lake City, there is a pronounced scarcity. Don't get me wrong, I have several grievances with the city (no black hair stylists, they think Usher's "Let It Burn" is still in the Top 100, the grocery stores don't sell wine… I can keep going.) But, I wasn't expecting the forwardness that comes with the race and gender imbalance. Gone are the moments of: "Is he interested?" "Should I say something?" "Will he call?" Within one date, they're talking about their interest and intentions, which certainly feels more directed and less "casual" in comparison to the other cities I've lived in. From one extreme to another. Take that as you will.
While attention certainly does not reflect shared interest and mutual attraction nor is my experience representative of all black women in Utah, I feel like Beyonce! Even though I spend the majority of my evenings binge-watching shows on Netflix, it's nice to feel like a snack every once in a while.
I have found that relationships in general take on a more important role when moving to a less diverse city. Building friendships and finding "your community" amidst a population where most of the people may not look like you no longer feels optional, but mandatory. Outside of work, if you are not, you're significantly less likely to organically build a support network, which is necessary on those rainy days when you just want to rant about your failed twist out or reminisce about your life before you moved to the middle of nowhere. If having a social life and community building are important to you, actually consider putting effort into it. Attend company affinity network events, seek out young professional social mixers, reach out to college alumni at your firm, use social media resources – don't isolate yourself.
Here are 5 growing business hubs with budding diverse populations to consider finding your next job and maybe even a ~SO~. Give a smaller city a second look now and then. Your experience might surprise you.
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City ranked #10 on Forbes' "25 Fastest Growing Cities" in 2017. Utah as a whole added 47,900 jobs to its economy since June 2017, particularly in construction and professional services, lowering its unemployment rate to 3.1 percent, which was a full point lower than the national average at 4.1 percent. There are a number of entertainment options despite its size and small black population of 2%. Local residents can enjoy many concert tours passing through the city, Utah Jazz basketball games, very affordable local and international flight plans, and outdoorsy activities (if you're about that life).