That’s So White!

I know,  by the title of the entry a person will  automatically think I will be writing on race.  A touchy subject, at these times.   Some may even find the title to be offensive.  Should I change the title?  Maybe. But no.  I have to say there are things that happen from time to time that I just consider to be SO White. 

Let me try to explain.  

I find myself using this expression quite a bit when I return home to NY to visit my family and friends.   I would be out and about and all of a sudden a situation would occur that would cause to think,  “wow that’s so white!” At times, I even say it out loud, and of course my family looks at me in disbelief and I get the comment that I am racist.  

But I am not. 

Recently the “so white” thought happened to me again, and I am not even in NY.  Hmmm…

What caused me to have this so white reaction was an email from Melissa, a customer service rep, who works at a company in Massachusetts. I have been waiting for a book order and I have been after the company to find out where the books are as its been almost a month since I purchased the books. The exact line from the email that triggered my thought of “so white” was, “Call your local post office to find out where it is.” Now at first, one might think, well, what’s the big deal?! Call the post office and your package will be delivered. Ummm sure, if I lived in US, that is how it might work, but living outside the US things don’t work the same way as they do in the states. Hello!? Get a clue and stop being so white! You see, here, where I live, we have something called a post office but it’s not, nor does resemble the one in the US. So when I read “call your local post office,” that triggered me.

I shared this with my husband and he asked me is that a “so white” thing or a “so American” thing?  And that got me thinking.   What do I mean by “so white?”  Is it a race thing or a cultural thing or is it a mix of the two? 

 I thought about it for a bit and came up with this…

When I say,  something is “so white”  I am referring to the lack of cultural awareness or knowledge that is happening at the moment, not necessarily a race related issue although I am sure some of thing that happen can be stereotyped as being white.   In this case, an email written by Melissa who seemed  to lack cultural awareness, or have an egocentric view of the world and its workings, that caused my reaction.    

In the age of Globalization, and the fact that the US has immigrants from all parts of the world residing within its borders, along with technological advances and communication, how is it that people are still so culturally unaware or insensitive? I mean the world is “smaller” in a sense. You really don’t have to leave your home or your country for that matter to experience the world. So why is cultural awareness or lack of it still so abundant?!

I am bicultural, and I find people who are raised bi-culturally seem to be more aware of these differences than those who are are raised mono-culturally. There just seems to be a lack of understanding and empathy, among mono-culturally raised individuals. It is this monoculturalistic upbringing in my opinion, what contributes to my “so white” or “American” reactions.

When I look around, I see groups of people, Latinos, Asians, Indians, Blacks,  Jewish, Christians, and so on.   People seem to stick together, gravitate to their own kind.  This sticking together has many individual and community benefits but it also contributes to the “so white” phenomena.   The non mingling of groups of people creates a lack of understanding,  stereotypes, intolerance, and racism.  Not mixing with other cultures actually creates closed minded people.  

I remember when I first discovered this.  I was in high school.  I had attended a private catholic school.  One year I told my mom that I no longer wished to attend the catholic school and wanted to go to the public school.  So she switched me.  The public school in my area was 95% black and the rest of the population was either Italian or Greek.  When I transferred into the school, I hung out with the “white people”  the Italians and Greek .  I ended up having a Greek boyfriend.  One day I went to his house,  which happened to be my birthday,  and my Greek boyfriend gave me a ring,  opal ring, beautiful, I still have it.  But what I remember most about that day was what his mother said to me.  “ Nice ring but you two can never get married because your children will come out deformed because you are not Greek.”  And that, my blog reading friends, is when I realized that race or culture was an issue.  

I have heard, that when you travel a lot internationally for business you get a crash course on cultural customs and differences of the country you are going to, so that you don’t offend clients or business partners. I am not sure how true this is, but these types course offering should be given in schools. This could a small step in helping raise the level of understanding amongst people that there is a world out there that is different in thinking and in ways of doing things that is no better or worse than your ways or ideas, just different. Maybe if we could teach and learn this fundamental idea, things could stop being “so White,” “so Latino,” “so Indian,” “so Asian,” or so Jewish” and create a better understanding, acceptance or sensitivity to those things and people that are different.

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