On my way in to work there is normally no end to the ineptitude and sheer stupidity that I encounter in the form of my fellow motorists’ lack of driving skill. (I’m certain that my fellow motorists think the same about me). This past Thursday morning was no exception.
Jahnke Road, in the Southside of Richmond, Virginia is a secondary artery that intersects with the larger Forest Hill Avenue, a route that hits a primary route straight into the City of Richmond. I take it when the Powhite Parkway is backed up with bumper to bumper traffic.
Prior to intersecting Forest Hill, Jahnke becomes one lane just after Blakemore Road. As you approach this change from two to one lane, there is a shopping center that includes a Food Lion on one side of the street. On the other, there’s a newly expanded school. At this intersection you wind up with three lanes from the two, so it is quite misleading until you get there. The middle lane is the only lane that keeps down Jahnke. The right lane is right-turn-only. The left lane is left-turn-only. There is no warning of this change from two lanes to one at any point until you actually get to the intersection, but locals seem to do OK. Others, not so much.
As I was approaching this intersection, I could see that the traffic ight was red. In these instances, I usually enjoy slowing down. That way, I can come to the prescribed stop. I had noticed, though, in the right lane was a late model BMW, silver in color. I frequently am wary of cars in that lane at this point on Jahnke since invariably, if they are the wiser local driver, they are trying to beat the traffic and cut into the middle lane. (The speed limit here is 35mph, by the way, which is easy to ignore since most automobiles are made to idle at that speed. But, I had been doing my best. At no point had I seen the BMW driving much faster than that either.)
But, as I am slowing to a crawl, the BMW speeds up and cuts in front of me. Then, to my surprise (without any blinker to indicate any of these manuevers), the Beamer cuts over to the left turn lane.
I was going slow enough that this was not a cause for brake-slamming and horn honking. I had nearly expected at least the move to my lane. So, I made my casual stop at the prescribed location on the asphault right up front, right at the paint. Then, curious, I made a casual glance over to the driver of the BMW.
Maybe it’s not a sly local at all. Is it an elderly person who may just be a little bit confused? Is it a young punk who thinks he owns the road? Is it an elitist yuppie who thinks the same? Is it a teenage driver who just doesn’t know what they’re doing behind the wheel?
None of the above. The BMW driver was, as near as I could tell, a 20-ish African-American woman and she was ever so politiely presenting her middle finger while mouthing the words ‘white trash’.
Now, I understand the confusion of this fine woman. I drive a pick up truck. A Ford no less. It’s not a fancy one either. No ‘King cab’. No extra accoutrements that borders on SUV equipment. It’s an ’04 Ford Ranger, red, and it’s a little on the sporty side, the ‘Edge’ model. She wouldn’t know it, but it has a six-CD in-dash stereo system that is quite nice. But, the casual observer would look at it and say — ‘pick up truck’. And that would fit.
So, score one for the ‘white trash’ interpretation. Because, you know, obviously poor white people drive around in late model pick up trucks, or just pick up trucks in general. Sure, I wasn’t hauling large bags of aluminum cans to redeem for cash. No, in fact, the bed of my truck was empty. Certainly someone in this woman’s shoes, a young, clearly affluent person has her tastes influenced heavily by the media. So, really, I’m sure her opinion would be even further justified if I had been driving a beat up old clunker or, I suppose, anything without a BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus imprint attached.
Also, to her credit, I am sure she did not get a terrific look at me either. Otherwise she would have seen that, rather than the stereotypical flannel and baseball cap (being the dress code of all ‘white trash’ ), in fact I was wearing a white dress shirt and a tie. But, I suppose she saw ‘white’ – both the shirt and the color of my face… or, wait. Hold a sec.
This just in… my face isn’t white at all. In fact, the more I look at it, it’s closer to a washed out pink/orange combination. Pale, for sure. But white? I would beg to differ. Anyone who has looked for house paint will understand that white actually is not a color you can buy. In fact, a fellow blogger that goes by ‘Crooked Eyebrow’ has identified no less than five distinct varieties of the color that is known as ‘white’, including Abby white, Abode white, Parchment white, Milk Cream, and Butter milk.
Discerning artists also know that ‘white’ is more of a stock color mixed with others to form actual, usable hues. It’s a utility color, functional on its own surely, but with more prevalent use to liven other mixes of other stock colors. MAX Grumbacher, a maker of fine oil paint, have a tint called ‘Flesh Hue’. It is clearly not what I or Microsoft Paint would consider ‘white’. But it is more the color of someone with my skin tone, which, I have to admit, is paler than most. Being a redhead and all, I also have a multitude of dark brown freckles and spots on my body. So, in fact, as a whole, if you blended the colors on my body, it would be more of a tan color.
Skin tone aside, we can confirm, though, that our lady of the BMW by using the word ‘white’ could clearly have been referring to one of the peculiar, binary ‘race’ designations our country has chosen to focus on as somehow important. Again, a creature of the media, ‘black’ and ‘white’, to her, mean types of people rather than actual tints, hues, tinges, dyes, shades, colorations, tone, finishes, or washes. In this logic, we round up to the nearest binary value. There is either black. Or there is white. If the complexion of someone is nearer to one or the other, we round to the nearest one. This is sort of like using a number system that is either 5 or -5. Everything must fall into one of those values in order to have any meaning. You can see the trouble this woman was in. She was using an inexact system that is poorly constructed and of little use. The struggle for equal rights and the dream that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of so eloquently forty-five years ago this month, was a call for the dissolution of skin color as a measure. There is no ‘black’. There is no ‘white’. There is only us. The people. She apparently only believes in the dream for people of her skin tone, which is, of course, divergent from the point of the dream itself, but I digress.
When we look at the situation apart from the essential systemic context of this young African American woman’s media-soaked viewpoint, we do have to interpret her language as, at worst, perpetuating classic skin-color-based racism. At best, she is merely a reprehensible, pig-assed elitist. What she was saying is, ‘I am better than you so my actions are justified regardless of the situation. I take precedence because you are inferior and the idea of race and socio-economic condition are intertwined to form my ideal insult – ‘white trash’. You are disposable because you do not belong in my space. I can invade your space because I am your superior.’ This is a prevalent societal attitude, so I can’t blame her for being confused. Everyone is in a ‘competition’. Clearly, she wants to be a ‘winner’.
Now, I have no idea if the BMW princess is paying for her ride herself or if her daddy bought it for her or her baby daddy bought it for her or her pimp bought if for her. I have no way of knowing. All that I know is that she is headed for a life of frustration with the ‘princess’ attitude. While racism is a well-established, though misguided tradition here in America, there is another tradition that transcends the boundaries of skin color – that is, we have no tolerance for royalty. That’s one we founded the country on.
Of course, her royal highness, if she had intelligent advisers to guide her opinions (rather than the mainstream inanity that passes for media) would be wise enough to know that the vehicle one drives is not a reliable marker of a person’s socio-economic status. Many people ‘of stature’ in the world, are smart enough to drive in a sensible car that runs, rather than throwing money away on a fancy car. Of course, if she were a true princess, given her driving skills (or lack thereof) she would be smart to hire a driver due to insurance reasons, but I digress.