Friday, May 16, 2008

Euphemistically Speaking

"Hard-working, non-college, white voters."

I've been reading and hearing that phrase a lot since the West Virginia primary -- mostly from Hillary Clinton's own mouth -- and I know this puts me in the minuscule minority, but.... do we really think she meant "racist?" I'm not sure she did. I'm pretty sure she wasn't intending to imply that the people of West Virginia were racist. I wasn't really sure how to take it.

So, I turned to a friend of mine for a translation. Having been born and reared just outside of Wheeling, he actually speaks "hard-working, non-college, white" as his first language, so I knew I could count on him to help me. He asked not to be identified by name, since his family still lives there, and he has no wish to hurt their feelings, should they be Googling him one day and run across this blog post. And, believe it or not, I actually have more than one male acquaintance who was born and reared in West Virginia*, so even if you know me and you think you know who it is, you have a one in three chance of being utterly wrong.

Did she mean "racist"? I asked him. Probably not, was his response. It was probably, he speculated, an innocent slip on her part, as she tried to tie in with the lower-middle class working poor of "non-color". Then he added after a brief hesitation, "But just because she didn't mean to imply it doesn't mean they're not racist." As in, I suppose, the speculation that, just because you're suffering from paranoia, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

Are they racist? I asked him. His answer came in two quick words.

"Hell, yeah." And he said it as if he knew, as if I should know, that it was just a universally accepted truth.

Here's my worst case scenario with the nomination of Barack Obama. That white guys will start telling tales of how oppressed they've been, what with all this freeing of the slaves and women's suffrage and civil rights and separation of Church and State crap, and "how come y'all don't believe what ah believe," and "from mah cold, dead fingers." I don't want to have the argument anymore that Christian white guys just can't get a steady break in this country, thanks to all the preferential treatment that affirmative action gives to "them coloreds and spics and gooks and such, and why can't we just line our borders with landmines and blow the wetbacks up when they try and get in, instead of letting them come over here and give birth and steal our services and our jobs scrubbing toilets and all?"

If this is in argument that media is trying to dust up, then I really don't think I'll survive until November, no matter who the ultimate winner is.


* More than a coincidence, the sheer number of ex-West Virginians in my acquaintance can be accounted for by what more than one of them has indicated was a deeply held and strongly embraced desire to leave there and go live somewhere else as soon as possible. Sorry, WVa, but it's what I'm told. My artist/musician/actor friends were kind of not particularly welcomed with open arms in WVa, and so they left to go live someplace they wouldn't have to get the snot kicked out of them by redneck bar patrons on a regular basis.

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