Tonight, I wrote a long post about my obnoxious neighbors.
I posted it for about five minutes. I looked at it. I looked at it some more.
I rewrote a few things. Then I looked at it some more.
A lot of my neighbors are POC, and many of them are non-natives full-stop. To me, this is a perk of living in the neighborhood. That’s what I was accustomed to growing up outside Washington, D.C., after all. For me, there is a kind of marvelously comforting equilibrium in a multicultural, polyglot community. If I wanted to be surrounded by other white people, I’d move to Cary.*
Now, I get pissed at/discomfited by any prolonged period of noise. I don’t care who’s making it. But the thing is, my annoying neighbors’ annoying habits are shaped by their cultures and upbringings. I have to be careful about how I express my enmity—because one can’t really talk about an objectionable stimulus without suggesting something objectionable about the person making it.
Basically: if someone can interpret your shit as racist, it’s probably kind of fucking racist.
The post got maybe 11 unique hits in the time it was up. But nothing on the internet ever REALLY goes away, and I’m too aware of my privilege not to want to apologize for wielding it irresponsibly. That’s the thing about privilege: your ignorance keeps you ignorant. Privilege lets us say terrible shit while claiming that we mean well, or even while ACTUALLY meaning well, without any context for what constitutes meaning well, for what is and is not okay.
Like, I related how once I had a neighbor I nicknamed William Hung, the guy on American Idol who sang “She Bangs” REALLY BADLY and we all made fun of him but we all also kind of loved him for his badness. I named my neighbor William Hung because he, too, was an endearingly dopey guy who couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but who would sing AT VOLUME to cheesy K-pop or whatever. To me, all that I really noticed was my ears bleeding. But I didn’t name him “Ashlee Simpson” or “Chad Kroeger.” I named him William Hung. This singles out his Asianness and, however well-meaning** or apt, this is basically textbook racism.
There were other examples, ones I only really started thinking about once the post was up and I’d kind of stepped away from the process of writing it. I wanted to analyze them all, but the thing is, if you’re ever in a position to say, “That’s not what I meant,” you’ve already lost. Just own your shit. Apologize. And try not to say it again.
So. That was embarrassing. And stupid. And I’m sorry if I offended anyone.
Truly, I want ALL kids to get off my lawn.
I am still fantasizing about goading my neighbors with a passive-aggressive list—a list that I would never actually share, except, well, okay, maybe I might, like, the day I move out, a day I hope is coming soon because I am looking into a mortgage because finally I have a full-time job again and seriously, enough of this rental shit, I CAN ADULT DAMN IT—to let them know that we share walls and I Can Definitely Hear You and Your Precious Shitty Kid.
The list might look like this:
- I once fisted a banshee, too. #college
- Kate Middleton’s farts are louder than your kid. Try harder.
- Sorry, I couldn’t hear your doors slam over the sound of two mimes coming. Are you serious about this or aren’t you?
- Never let anyone tell you your indistinct DUGGUDA DUGGUDA DUGGUDA isn’t good enough.
- Please speak up, I really want to nail this recording for the “People We Can’t Strangle” episode of This American Life.
- Never thought I’d get so close to the Bowlympics!!! Would love to see your balls ;)
- That Kardashian’s not gonna throw HERSELF down the stairs 30 times.
I welcome your contributions. Make me proud, misanthropes. Make me proud.
*Don’t even TRY to deny it, Cary.
**Racism is almost always delivered blithely and in earnest, as if there’s no reason why there should possibly be anything wrong. If people actually thought what they were saying was fucked up, they wouldn’t say it.