I’m not a racist. Really.
Last spring, my husband and I were at a snotty charity event in Palm Springs. It’s one we probably had no business being at given the ticket price; we were, essentially, two Cinderella’s at the ball, minus the glass slippers and ugly stepsisters. But I do marketing work for a travel company that donated a cruise to the silent auction, and the owners of the company took us as their guests.
Many of the attendees were lovely and fun, of course. And Sandy and I are generally pretty good at navigating the pretenses of those who weren’t.
But at one juncture, as we divided-and-conquered at the silent auction in a hunt for something fun to buy, I found myself standing next to a short, tuxedo-clad guy in his 50’s. We were both admiring a large piece of modern art.
“We have a Wexler,” the man said, apparently burning with desire to let me know he lived in a mid-century architectural gem. (Donald Wexler is one of the most celebrated architects of the Modernist movement.). “It would look fabulous above the fireplace in the living room.”
Inwardly, I rolled my eyes.
Oblivious to the fact that I was not exactly hanging on his every word, he plundered forward.“But you know how it is. We’d have to move another piece into the vault.”
When I moved away from St. Louis in the late 1980’s, part of my desire was to escape a segment of the gay population that thrived on pretension. (I don’t know that it’s like that now – maybe it was an 80’s thing, like parachute pants and cocaine.) I absolutely despise people who either pretend to be something they’re not, or want to lord their money over those with less.
And in that moment, something in me just snapped.
I turned to look at him and said, simply, “White people problems.”
His eyes grew big, and he literally began to huff and puff. I thought he might actually have a seizure and I would have to pull his tongue out of his throat. Without a word, he turned on his heel and stomped off.
Now. I am FAR from any kind of racist. My friends are a Benetton ad. I’m a California liberal. And I was actually using the phrase to comment on the sad fact that material overabundance is and has been for centuries primarily the province of Caucasians in America.
But he clearly took it as a racist remark.
And I should probably feel bad about that. The last thing I would EVER want to do is perpetuate discrimination.
But seeing the smirk melt off his face was worth its weight in gold.
I may not have made my point about his classlessness in acting so entitled. But at least we won’t have to worry about being invited to his house.
Because we’d have to bring a hostess gift, and I’m sure he doesn’t drink Andre.