Friday, June 26, 2009

I suppose we all have our little cross to bear

What a terrible thing it is to be white, straight and middle-class sometimes.

No, really. I mean the guilt alone is killing me. I'm so (comparatively) privileged and out-of-touch with anything approaching a common man or woman that I pretty much assume I'm liable to offend everyone in my immediate vicinity at any given moment. I used the word "eskimo" the other day and spent the next five minutes wondering if the person behind the counter, to whom I had spoken, was now convinced I was racist scum and/or planned to spit in my coffee anyway, just to be on the safe side. It's like a comedy of manners but without the comedy bit.

Anyway, a friend of mine used the word "queer" the other day to refer to a friend who - no shit - was gay. I looked at my feet. "Is that, er allowed?"

"What do you mean?"

"'Queer'. Do you not have to be part of the gay community to be able to reclaim the word?"

"What are you talking about?"

"It's like the n-word-"

"It's not like the n-word."

"It is! Black people are allowed to use the n-word and that's it. We're not black so we can't get onboard: that's the law."

"You're crazy."

Am I crazy? I might be crazy.

Either way the whole thing reminds me of a test we did in first year psych at uni (which I think I've blogged about before) where we had to look at photos of people and guess what ethnicity they were. Being me, I agonised over it, the idea being that I'd prove how right-on I was by identifying Woman Number 3 down to her country of origin instead of offering a vague "Middle Eastern-Indiany maybe?"

To boil it down, the study found that racist people took longer to guess ethnicity than non-racist people because they were so obsessed with race. Shit.

I think there's probably a lesson in there for me somewhere. Perhaps that lesson is that I'm actually, albeit subconscioulsy, a racist, classist homophobe who has deluded herself into thinking she has little-l liberal values. Which actually, now I come to think about it, would explain why I don't really like black people. Or jews. Oh and gays? Don't even get me motherflipping STARTED.

No comments: