Columns

Whiteness, A Study

by Laura Jean Moore

Little white girl lives in Georgia and wants her hair to be curly, and the hairdresser says, we’ll give you a perm and do soft curls. You don’t want your hair to be too kinky.

Eenie, meenie, miney, moe, catch a—

Little white girl asks for another Brazil nut and her grandmother passes her the bowl saying, when I was a little girl we called these nigger toes.

—in the woodpile.

Little white girl on the front porch with evening biscuits in the oven. Tea in her glass and she is sitting on a green glider with her friend’s grandfather. Hey darling, I hear you and your folks are living in Decatur these days. Yessir. Do the niggers give you any trouble? No sir. Well, you must have a different kind than we do. Little white girl drinks her tea.

Get your cotton-picking hands out of my kitchen!

Little white girl is in a department store. The white woman behind the make-up counter pinches her nose and says sweetly, might want to wear a clothespin! Don’t want that nose to spread.

I’m not racist, but come on, she looks like a gorilla.

Little white girl grows up, is a teenager. She goes for a drive and her friend in the passenger seat says don’t flash your lights at anyone downtown. It’s how the gangs decide who to jump. Teenage white girl says, what? Friend says, I’ll forward you the email.

Low-pants-wearing thugs think they have the run of the place.

Teenage white girl goes out on a Wednesday night. At home, the phone rings. Hello? Mary, we just called because we saw your daughter at the roller skating rink with a black man. Yes, we know. He is her age and in her physics class. His name is Chris. Well, I just thought you should know. Thank you for your concern.

These uppity teenagers are getting too big for their britches.

Teenage white girl listens to her coworker at her first job: Coworker says, it isn’t that I’m racist. People should be able to fall in love and marry whoever they want. I just think it would be harder on the kids, you know?

He sold me down the river!

Teenage white girl grows up more, becomes a young adult. She is a camp counselor at a summer camp and the all-white counselors have a pimps and hoes party. She wants to be a pimp, not a hoe. She wears a bandana around her head like she saw Tupac wear before he was killed. She poses with another white woman and they flash fake gang signs and laugh.

One little, two little, three little—

Young adult white woman goes to a costume party. Everyone poses for a big group shot. One of the white men is dressed as Tiger Woods on the front row, in full black face and a green jacket. I’m his biggest fan, he says. Who cares if it’s not politically correct?

This welfare queen at the grocery store bought lobster with her food stamps.

Young adult white woman gets grown, moves to Portland, Oregon. She goes to a house party. Hip hop on the speakers. In the kitchen a white man counterpoints, yeah, but our urban population is pretty chill compared to other cities.

Why do black people have white hands and white feet?

Grown white woman moves to New York City, doesn’t make as much money as her white peers, and moves from poor neighborhood to poor neighborhood. A white friend asks, where do you think we should buy? You always move to neighborhoods right before they gentrify. Grown white woman says Lefferts Garden or Flatbush, and the friend says, I don’t know. We’ve never lived in a neighborhood like that before.

Affirmative action is reverse racism.

Grown white woman still has a Southern accent, says to a white peer, he don’t usually bother to shave before work, so you know he must have an interview today. White peer says, I thought you were a writer. Don’t you know correct grammar? You sound like you’re about to bust a rhyme.

I don’t see color.

Grown white woman has a Black Lives Matter poster on her bedroom wall and posts on facebook about racial justice. She walks by the cops in her neighborhood with impunity and stands awkwardly, watching, speechless, as they hassle a black man—her neighbor—on her street.

It’s not that I don’t think they have a right to be angry, it’s just I don’t think all this protesting and rioting is the right way to fix anything.

Grown white woman gains a little weight. A friend says she looks thick, says, I bet all the black guys holler at you.

America is the land of equal opportunity and anyone who works hard and makes the right choices can succeed. Just look at Condoleeza Rice, Justice Thomas, and Barack Obama.

Grown white woman, young adult white woman, teenage white girl, little white girl is me.

Did you hear the one about Obama coffee?


Laura Jean Moore

Laura Jean Moore

Laura Jean Moore is the 2014 winner of the Cobalt Review’s Zora Neale Hurston Fiction Prize. Her poetry, essays, and stories have been featured or are forthcoming in FLUX WEEKLY, VICE, [PANK], the EEEL, the Brooklyn Rail, ENTROPY, Corium, and Change Seven, where she is a monthly columnist. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Reed College. She is suspicious of most things.

 

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