In preparation for my departure from Missoula, I’ve been thinking a lot about the challenges I will face in Victoria. The number one on my mind, aside from stuff like apartment hunting, getting a bike and a job, is making friends. I’m not the best person to make new friends, and I often come on as too strong or too shy. But talking about it with some friends on facebook last night, I got excited about the fact that there would be some real diversity, not the tokenizing type practised in Missoula, which I teasingly referred to as “Mayonnaise white” (which it is, 93% white) I said with a breath of relief that it would be lovely to get away from being a lone Jew among WASPs.
How did I know deep down I couldn’t say that without someone giving me a horrified lecture on how I hate white people? Within moments, someone, whom we’ll call Pearl Clutcher, was all over that statement, complaining about the idea that Missoula wasn’t diverse, and getting irritated at me for daring to suggest that white people are boring, bigoted, small-minded, or undiverse (I never said any of those things, for the record, I merely said “mayonnaise white”, the rest is pure projection on Pearl Clutcher’s part) To which I replied calmly that it was a matter of perspective: I grew up in Hawaii, where there is no solid ethnic majority (Asians make up the largest group at 41 percent) and had been always seriously uncomfortable with being a token Jew here, and was looking forward to living in a place where the contrast wasn’t so obvious and stark. Pearl Clutcher ignored my points, and proceeded to make a list of all the white people she was friends with (She’s white herself, for the record) and all the ways they were diverse, like in political ideologies! Democrats AND Republicans! Fancy that! Some of them are even gay! Isn’t that neat!
Completely missing the point aside, there’s something utterly remarkable about the ability of white Christians to hijack the conversation and make it all about them and how precious and special they are as individuals. Bless them, they’ve always been able to see themselves as individuals, whereas suppressed and marginalized groups have always been compelled to be the representative of their group. I’ve been an Ambassador of Jewishness for four years now, and it’s taken a toll on my mental health. One of the reasons Victoria is so exciting for me is getting a chance to relax on that a bit, and just be myself. I can’t be myself entirely when I am among a white Christian majority, because there is always that discomfort and gap in experience, that prevents me from relaxing. Call me paranoid all you like, but it’s true. Which makes it even more irritating when white people get offended at me expressing the wish to live in a more diverse place. They make it all about them and their feelings, their perspectives, and, without knowing it, prove to me just why I need to get away from being in such a mayonnaise place. Because it seems they can never get over themselves long enough to listen and learn as to why maybe people don’t want to always surround themselves with their wonderfulness and “diversity”.