Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Endlessly Reverberating Patronization

I walk into a Hispanic or Latino restaurant. I speak decent Spanish, and my order demonstrates that I know the cuisine (see the "Ice Breaker" headers in my app, "Eat Everywhere"). I'm friendly and engaging, and it's clear that I'm familiar with their culture. And, obviously, I'm, like, there, downing the rice and beans or whatever like a champ. Not bologna sandwiches. And the waiter/manager/owner, with whom I've developed a rapport, baits me with an anti-immigrant statement. Not quite testing to see how I'll respond, but just as a wee bit of patronizing ugliness.

This has happened twice now. The first time, I cringed in horror and hastily disavowed any such sentiment on my end. This is an unfamiliar scenario for me. As someone who's misunderstood 1,000 times/hour, I've lost all interest in huffy disavowals. Whatever you're concluding about me is likely wrong, but completely fine by me. But this time I went through the rigamarole, and it worked, and the worker started (hilariously) skewering "el cerdo" (the pig) of a president and his bigoted supporters.

Gratuitous disclaimer: I am outraged by how immigrants have been made to feel by our government's statements and actions. The abuses and affronts are entirely real, and dig deep. I support full amnesty, open immigration, and am pro-immigrant in almost every respect. I do whatever I can to make immigrants feel comfortable and respected (while also understanding that the assimilation process isn't - and probably needn't be - perfectly gentle and nurturing). As someone who's lived, worked, loved, and hung out with more legal and illegal immigrants than anyone I know, I completely understand why they're freaked out right now.

But I don't feel I should need to disavow the cerdo. I certainly didn't need my Muslim friends and neighbors to state their disapproval of Al-Qaeda. If we all must disavow awful behavior by those who look like us, that's some messed up onus placement! In a civilized society, we ought to assume we're all decent people unless proven otherwise. Especially when chatting in Spanish as I keenly devour the hipper dishes of your cuisine. If every member of a group is assumed to typify that group's worst members, doesn't that validate Trump's characterization of Mexicans as criminals and rapists? Doesn't it validate the whole damned thing?

Same with black people. As I once wrote, I talk like a jazz musician....though I no longer look like one. And nearly every black person I meet gives me The Look: here's another damned white guy patronizing me. It's given me such a complex that I usually make an effort to talk the whitest of whitey white when I meet black people (say a hardy hello to Morris Morrisblatt CPA!). I do Richard Pryor's imitation of white people. It makes things go smoother. But it's sickeningly crazy. It's profiling. It's stereotyping. My skin color doesn't tell you who I am, nor my background nor motivations. You know nothing about me, so why snap to conclusions? Doing so represents a far worse sort of patronization (and, yes, I'm aware that my whiter-than-white shtick is counter-counter-patronization, though entirely self-deprecating and harmless). 

When a group feels misconstrued via caricature, their impulse, as they strain for justice and clarity, is generally to reciprocate. They caricature back, seemingly aiming for a zero sum re: justice and clarity. I just don't get it. Will we human beings ever learn to react to extremism with enlightened moderation rather than with reciprocal extremism?

Next time I'm baited into revealing my stupendously-well-concealed anti-immigrant bigotry, I'm going to take the person at face value. What? You don't like immigrants? Bring me the damned check, I'm out of here, and not coming back.

There is a solution. It's out there, and billions profess to admire it. Maybe one day....

1 comment:

Display Name said...

So sorry this is happening Jim. As an older female gamer I get it unfortunately. Cooking up some scrapple and don't want to burn it but your new plan almost made me do a spit take.

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