Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Why are the temps all so racist? Part 1.

For those of you not familiar with what I'm doing for money while out here in NYC, I'm working as a contract attorney. While lauren tries to encourage me not to sell my self short and be more positive about what I do, I'm nothing more than a glorified temp. I work on short term contracts with other utterly replaceable attorneys doing chimp work for more money than anyone should be paid for this soulless work (though, maybe we get paid well specifically because it's soulless... another topic for another day).

Perhaps because they couldn't hack it in the world of permanent jobs, or perhaps by some other force, the people who temp are a curious lot. Much more could be said about them than what I will share today - yet another topic for another day.

Today, I shall begin to discuss My Racist Coworkers. MyRC #1, with whom I am currently working, is a difficult breed of racist. You see, whether justified or not, it is difficult for me, as WASPy as they come, to call any one of minority status a racist. Which obviously is not true - people of all races and creeds can be racist. However, when one speaks in very broad generalizations about a race, and frequently in negative tones and connotations, one can begin to identify that person as racist.

Example one: Today, MyRC had some snippy phone conversations with the store owners of a place he needed to stop off at on the way home from work. Later in the day, he was talking about these shop owners, and referred to them as "Gruff Israelis". Inevitably, the one Jewish woman in the room (not shy about her opinions, which frequently are a little over the top... though i side with her on this one) gets upset about this comment. Here's my conversation today with lauren (playact) about this:

playact: i don't understand people who antagonize people and don't care. maybe i'm a pushover, but i think its nice to be somewhat respectful every now and then

me: yeah... i mean, maybe he really is so clueless that he didn't realize that saying that would be at least borderline. the thing is, i can understand how that kind of comment can be seen as hypersensitive... but seriously, why did he need to include the nationality/race of the shopkeepers?

first off, who knows if he's even correct about their nationality?

secondly, it's not like you would off the cuff say that it was run by gruff irishmen... or polocks... or aussies

playact: you might, but you shouldn't if you know there is someone in the room of that same identification

and doesn't have a sense of humor about it and already thinks you're a shit

but then again, its okay to make fun of aussies or the irish...

Example two: I was asked today to give a sort of evaluation of "Norwegian chicks" - I wish that I could report that he was interested in their strength of character and moral fortitude, but predictably he was more concerned with how they fill out a bathing suit. I apparently an expert qualified to give my opinion on this topic because, as he put it, Norwegians settled in the Midwest and Northwest when they moved to the country.

I have objections here on several practical fronts -
  1. It's not as though Norwegians walk around with big flags and name tags that identify themselves as Norwegian, and I defy you to identify by sight alone a Norwegian as opposed to a swede or a dane or any other scandanavian...
  2. We're not talking about folks who just arrived in the states and have yet to assimilate into our country - it's my understanding that the large wave of Scandanavian immigration to the US happened in the late 19th and early 20th century.
  3. Speaking of large waves of immigration, guess where the largest majority of Norwegians settled. That's right - Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. Three states that are each well over 1000 miles from where I grew up in Washington. In fact, i'd bet that Minnesota is closer to his home in New York than mine in Washington.

Another issue is can you really expect someone to give an assessment on an entire race? Can you say that because someone is X race, they are hot? Or that they are likely to be hot? Maybe i'm making too much of an inane comment, but seriously, who thinks like that?

Basically, my question is what are these people i work with, supposedly enlightened people living in the cultural capital of our country, if not the world, so small minded as to make needless comments about people's race in such offensive and/or perjorative terms?

I'll follow this up hopefully tomorrow with tales of another MyRC... if you've read any of my blog on MySpace you've encountered this guy... he's a gem.


BitterBill said...

As a dude married to a hottie of Norwegian decent I feel particularly qualified to address your co-worker's questions. In my experience, just because someone is of Norwegian decent does not mean that they are hot; take my wife, she's hot, but her brother (obviously also of Norwegian decent), though a very decent guy, not hot.

Why's that guy so dumb? He must be white, huh?

Benjamin Gorman said...

I read about a Democratic Congressmen who's an African American saying the the best thing George Bush has done is put the myth of white supremacy to rest forever. I'll bet this co-worker of Zach's is a Republican, too.

Oh, and Bill, what are yout talking about? Your brother-in-law is dead sexy! (Wow, if any of my students read this I'm gonna' get flack for that comment.)