Monday, January 12, 2009

Just because you're white doesn't meaning I'm calling you a racist

I just missed my bus, and I'm bitter. Mostly because I've been up since 5:45am--that's right 5:45am. And I know I'm playing the smallest violin in the world for a lot of you folks because I'm sure many of you regularly wake up early to commute to work. But part of the luxury of being a college professor (and I should note that I don't have children--for all you parents out there with kids under four, I think you know all too well what it's like to wake up at 5:45am, or earlier), anyway, as I was saying, the luxury of being a college professor who teaches in the afternoon is I do NOT have to wake up at 5:45am--the only reason I did was so I could catch a 7:37am bus so I could attend a breakfast meeting on campus as a favor to another professor.

[Why I missed the bus is a great question--I think it has to do with the fact that the bus came on time, and my kitchen clock is three minutes slow -- something I just discovered and probably never noticed because the bus is always late, except at 7:37 in the morning. UGH]

So I'm feeling a bit snarky and I know I haven't blogged in a while, so what is going to follow is a bit of a rant, that I may not have time to fully flesh out because I need to catch the next bus at 8:17am, and I've got my eye on the clock (with its now accurate time).

So what am I talking about today? Oversensitive white Americans.

Normally I try to be very careful about qualifying my remarks--because I'm not trying to make a claim that "all white people are this way"--which is ridiculous and bigoted and no one would take me seriously.

But there are some Caucasian Americans who, in my opinion, are quite oversensitive about topics of race and who are reactionary to boot. In other words, we may all be oversensitive to issues of race, but the subcategory of people I'm talking about is the Euro-American who claims to be left-leaning and liberal and then misinterprets a comment that someone says, and then gets very defensive and ruffled believing that s/he has just been called a racist. And they are OFFENDED and CANNOT BELIEVE that you would dare to MAKE SUCH A VEILED ACCUSATION.

I've recently had an odd number of run-ins with "OWA"s. And it always leaves me taking a deep breath and trying to rein in my frustration. Because in the instances I'm talking about, I was NOT talking about race or racial issues and NOT using veiled racial language.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar--sometimes I'm talking about diversity, and I really mean that people have a variety of life experiences--I'm not using "diversity" as code for "people of color."

I'm now VERY CRANKY because I just saw another bus go by my house (the bus stop is across the street from where I live) which means either the 8:17am is early by 17 minutes or the 8:37am bus is VERY LATE.

That's it. A cranky Monday. And now I have to figure out when I should try to find a new bus schedule!

[Update: 10:59am. I ended up driving into campus and pleading with the parking attendant at the on-campus hotel, where the breakfast meeting was, to let me park there until the afternoon -- even though you only get validated parking for 3 hours. We actually made a deal where for $6 I got to keep my car there until I'm done with all my afternoon classes. And this is a SWEET deal because normally parking is $3/hour. So thank you to the parking attendants at Southern U.'s historic hotel! I owe you guys one! As for the bus schedule, I have no idea what was going on--but hopefully I won't have to worry about taking the 7:37am bus again this semester.]


dance said...

I walked to campus at 6:40am. It was really pleasant, especially the part where there was no traffic and so I could read a student's scholarship essay on my phone while walking and not feel like I was going to run into things.

It was still dark.

However, I have found that I would rather get up at 5am and prep for class than do it late at night. Also, I like sending email to students at 6am and impressing them with how hard I work.

Currently I am writing a letter for a student of color, applying for a scholarship that asks me to write about her community involvement with diversity, which I don't know much about, but am trying to spin the letter to say something that boils down to "she did well in a class with me that talked about race a lot."

Jennifer said...

Hi Dance,
You know how some people say they are morning people and they are night people? I'm really neither--I'm really an 8-12am gal who likes 8 hours of sleep.

So I'm really impressed that you WALKED to campus while it was DARK. I start to feel resentful anytime I'm awake and the sun isn't.

But I know what you mean about trying to impress the students with how hard I work. I have actually burned the midnight oil on occassion and sent email messages to students at 2am--and they've commented on this fact to me, and I'm not sure if they think that means I'm the biggest geek or just a hard working professor.

I also find the letter of recommendation to be an art form in itself. I think it's one I'm still trying to perfect, because it's hard, especially when there can be so much at stake (like getting into grad school, law school, getting a tenure-track job...)

Anonymous said...

I can't stand having to modify my language as I'm speaking to ensure I don't get derailed by Oversensitive White People, it's so incredibly frustrating.

Julia said...

I just found my way here from What Tami Said and am happy I did.

Did the bus interrupt your rant about OWAs? I'd love to hear more if there was more...

And so sorry about the bus. I know very well that whole is-it-late-or-have-I-missed-it and should-I-stand-here-in-the-cold-or-go-back-to-the-house-to-wait-but-then-I-might-miss-the-bus etc etc conundrum. It totally stinks. Bus stops need something like the thingy on FedEx boxes: "pick up has/has not occurred"

Jennifer said...

Hi stephiepenguin & Julia,

Thanks for stopping by.

stephiepenguin--I hear you on the frustration front. I feel like there are SO MANY times I've had to choke back a retort.

And Julia, the bus thing did sort've interrupt my rant, although truth be told, I couldn't really go into details because some of the rant has to do with some professional stuff I've been dealing with, that wouldn't be appropriate to blog about.

As for the bus, it turns out that they changed the schedule on my route so that it runs 10 minutes EARLIER now. Something I only found out when I missed yet ANOTHER bus 2 days later.

Anyway, thanks for feeling my pain with public transportation. As much as I love it, I also find it really frustrating...esp. in the winter!

dance said...

Where I live, the sun is almost never awake. I'd be resentful from Nov to Mar. But I deliberately don't send students email at 2am, because I want to pretend to them that I operate on an "adult" schedule, not a "student" schedule. Yes, I put too much thought into this.

Bus stops need something like the thingy on FedEx boxes: "pick up has/has not occurred"

Best idea ever. There are studies that say better information about buses improves passenger satisfaction even when nothing changes---just seeing those little gps-feature "bus 76 is 3 mins away" signs. For the small towns with the bus-every-30-minutes schedules, we totally need the "bus 76 passed 2 mins ago" signs.