Over the years we’ve rarely made specific observations of those people that we might feature in our posts. There have been many of them but we’ve always spoken to what they’ve done, not who they are.
Our first mention of a real other person came in November of 2011. We detailed the exploits of a shopper who startled She of We by screaming across a rather large store to a companion shopper. We mentioned the shopper was screaming in a foreign tongue but we didn’t identify it and didn’t have to. That wasn’t the story as much as the volume and not knowing the language therefore not knowing whether the scream was because Shopper #1 found a real bargain or a raging inferno. (See “Clean Up on Aisle Ten,” November 10, 2011)
Throughout the next three years we visited waiters and waitresses that made our day (our favorite can be found at “How would you like your toast?” August 2, 2012), engaged couples becoming married couples in various culture settings (“Weddings Gone Wild…well, sort of,” July 1, 2013), and plane-mates with oversized (!) carry-ons (“We’re On Vacation, Part 1,” September 3, 2012).
In none of these stories did we consider the featured guest’s ethnic or racial background. It didn’t seem to matter to the story. And if you speak to most people in the world, it doesn’t matter to them either. Oh but when it comes time to complete a survey or an application for something, those authors delve into backgrounds that would be challenged as politically incorrect if they were to speak thusly in a lunch room of a company doing business with the government.
And there seems to be no consistency to their descriptions. They may ask the survey taker if he or she is African American, Hispanic, or White. That gives us one in an uncertain familial background, one as cultural descriptor, and one that’s a race identifier. What does the white South African who grew up in Chile answer? Is someone from the Black Sea village of Poti in Georgia just as Asian American as someone who grew up in Da Nang overlooking the South China Sea? There is no good way to answer.
Is the term White used for those one cannot readily discern an ethnic background? European American brings us back to a non-descript description but how much difference is there between an Italian American, a French American, and a German American other than what side of the Alps are the coffee shops? And do any of these people get to use the description if they themselves actually spent no time in the called upon country or is that only available for continents?
We think we have the best idea. If one is living in America one gets to be an American. If you’re living somewhere else please check with your country’s version of the ACLU for guidance, then ignore them and do what we say instead. When you read one of our posts you can’t tell if of whom we are speaking has a particular color skin, speaks with a certain accent, or is good at making ravioli at home. You can tell if of whom we are speaking makes us smile doing the things that race, color, or national origin can’t control. Like asking, “How would you like your toast?”
Now that’s what we think. Really. How ‘bout you.