The White People Are Coming!


So I’m calling people to collect debts now for a living, which is strange considering I owe some myself. (As Jenny put it, “We can think about marriage when you call yourself.”) Here is a funny collections story from last week that makes me feel racist even though I am not consciously although I am liberal and modern enough to realize that I am unconsciously and I have White Privelege and Some Crap.

I called a household, let’s dub it the Johnson household. (Names have been changed to protect people who have forgotten the names.) The phone is answered by a little kid, maybe 5 years old and therefore of indeterminate gender. “Hello, I’m looking for Bill Johnson,” I say in my debt collector voice, which is where I try to sound like a lawyer. (Though sometimes I try to sound like a young Southerner if I’m calling the South. Sometime I’ll tell you about the guy next to me who absolutely nails the Mexican Irish accent.) I don’t get a response from the little kid, though. Instead, he/she/it clearly turns to his parents and yells, “White people, white people!” “Hang it up,” a parent answers. Click.

Discussion questions:

1. Is sounding like a lawyer also sounding white? What does that say about class and race?

2. Are neighborhoods so segregated that people can tell their kids to just hang up on someone who doesn’t speak the way their race speaks, knowing it is therefore not someone they know?

3. Is “White people, white people!”:

  • A) Analagous to “The British Are Coming!”?
  • B) Like those scenes in the 70s version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” when the aliens recognize a non-aliened-up human?
  • C) A great new catchphrase/in-joke I’ll use from now on whenever racism rears its ugly brown head?
  • D) Both All And None of the Above, like an SAT Question designed by Schrodinger?
  • E) I’m not sure I had any real insights into racism to begin with, but clearly they have been exhausted.  Good-bye.

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