Wednesday, September 17, 2008

conversation

Retirement-age white lady, talking to my cousin’s son who is just turning 18:

WL: Are you going to get registered to vote? You should get involved.
COUSIN’S SON: Well, I think so.
WL: You *really* need to vote this election. It’s important!

BRYAN: Really? Who should he vote for?
WL [incredulously]: Well, NOT Obama!
BRYAN [raises eyebrows and smiles condescendingly]
WL [about-faces and leaves]


And, an excellent wine review...

9 Comments:

At Thu Sep 18, 03:31:00 PM PDT, Blogger blogball said...

Bryan, not to start anything but why is that retired lady described as a retired "white" lady?

 
At Fri Sep 19, 01:53:00 AM PDT, Blogger bryan torre said...

two reasons, blogball:

1) it's quite common when white ppl are telling a story to include the color of the characters if they are "of color", but omit it when describing white people. This can be an unconscious reflection (and perpetuation) of an idea that being white is a natural/normal state (in its most exaggerated form: "real people"), and being of color is not. It suggests that one's color is exceptional, relevant, and worthy of note (ie, one can know things about the individual by her/his color.) For this reason, I (and others) routinely use the tag "white" to describe white people, as a way to make my conversation less white-centric, and to draw attention to the issue.

2) In this case, i'm surmising (and suggesting) that her "Well, NOT Obama!" was at least partly racially motivated, which makes her color very relevant to the story.

 
At Fri Sep 19, 09:29:00 AM PDT, Blogger blogball said...

Bryan, the reason I was a little surprised is that it wasn’t just a reference of her being white; it was used throughout your description of the “conversation”
(“WL” instead of just L) I just think giving her the benefit of the doubt would have been in order and ask her something like “Why, what’s wrong with Obama?” Is it possible she is just a Staunch Conservative and her statement was not racially or partly racially motivated?”
Is it possible that if Condilisa Wright was running against Hillary Clinton this same lady would say “Well not Clinton”

 
At Fri Sep 19, 10:41:00 AM PDT, Blogger bryan torre said...

you're right, it's entirely possible that there wasn't a shred of racism in her statement. i'm basing my guess on her age, who she hangs out with, and the fact that that type of utter conviction is far more often about simplistic things like race than about well-thought-out political positions. she didn't want to talk about it, and she didn't say "Well, NOT the democrats!"
and yes, i could be wrong. but then i wouldn't have a blog post...

 
At Fri Sep 19, 10:43:00 AM PDT, Blogger bryan torre said...

oh, forgot to say:
WL is way better than L or RAWL as a script tag. i don't feel too guilty about that...

 
At Fri Sep 19, 03:55:00 PM PDT, Blogger unca said...

Re:
For this reason, I (and others) routinely use the tag "white" to describe white people, as a way to make my conversation less white-centric, and to draw attention to the issue.
Well, I've been reading this blog for a long time and I don't recall you referring to anyone's color before unless it involves a race issue (as this does) -- so I don't think it's accurate to say you "routinely" do this (at least in print). In any case, the assumptions you make about this lady (whether accurate or not) are certainly unjustified given the circumstances as you present them. I think Blogball called this one right. At least you recognized your own condescension for what it was--the first step in recovery is to know you have a problem. : )

 
At Fri Sep 19, 04:57:00 PM PDT, Blogger blogball said...

Who the heck is Condilisa Wright? I meant Condoleezza Rice.

I’m still trying to figure out what RAWL would stand for.

 
At Mon Sep 22, 11:36:00 AM PDT, Blogger bryan torre said...

unca,
yes, i'm talking about a thing i do in conversation, not writing. And FTR i'm not suggesting WL's position was all about race, just that that was likely to be at least part of it. i don't really feel too bad about that -- it's not like i accused her in person. it feels worth noting how quick u were defend her against slander, given that in this context she's basically the equivalent of a fictitious character -- it feels like you're saying "one shouldn't presume racism without proof, even in stories". but i would suggest that racism is so much a part of us (all of us) that it's actually a useful thing to talk about it. my experience is that white ppl (not talking about you btw) typically operate on preponderance-of-evidence when looking at minorities, but wish to operate on burden-of-proof when it comes to the question of potential racial bias.
btw, my consescension was as much about her knee-jerk, absolute unshakeable certainty on the matter, as it was about the race thing. it's the same way i feel when liberal people act as if GWB is the antichrist and anyone who voted for him must be evil or mentally unsound. either way i win bcz i get to feel superior... :-)
blogball, RAWL = "retirement-age white lady"

 
At Mon Sep 22, 02:21:00 PM PDT, Blogger unca said...

it feels worth noting how quick u were defend her against slander, given that in this context she's basically the equivalent of a fictitious character
Yes, you're right. I wasn't there so to me she's fictitious. You were there and were able to read her body language, inflection, and tone and also to see the burning cross in her hand. It all makes sense.

 

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