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I know that what I am writing is not original, but I have to get our Friday night dinner conversation with the parents of one of our kids‘ friends off my chest.
My family and I were invited to share pizza with the family of some friends of my daughter. Over pizza, we discussed the second home they are buying, the renovations they want to do, and other decorating ideas, and it was very interesting, especially between the wives.
This other family has a lot of family money, very good jobs, very international and affluent; true globalist pedigree.
One of the things I have noticed about these kinds of people in my time living abroad is firstly the perfect English with no accent and the Correct Politics. One couple my husband and I found ourselves cornered by at a birthday party for a 4-year-old were typical: a German woman with an American husband newly arrived in Paris and working for an international thing. Bland beyond description, the woman is German by nationality, grew up partially in Brazil, several languages, perfect colloquial unaccented English, and no soul whatsoever. Nothing German about her at all. About as interesting as a white wall in some modern glass tour institution, like where she diligently spends her days. I don’t know what he does. They have one kid that she had when she was about 47 years old. (I joke, but only sort of.) When we were finally able to liberate ourselves from an interminable discussion about IKEA and the Horrors of French Administration (individual countries have these LAWS, you know? And they’re different from the rules in other places! The world is not some giant IKEA that you can access with a MasterCard! Crazy, i know…) and escape, I said to my husband: “you realize that she runs the world, right? You realize that THAT’s the future They want for us plebes. One kid at 47, right-on politics. Nothing vernacular or local or particular. No accent or hometown or belief system besides Theirs?” They only meet each other, never local people, in neutral settings like airports and hotels and IKEAs and so naturally Germans and Pakistanis and Americans are all the same…
But I digress. The pizza conversation moves onto the lockdown, which that family spent in the countryside holed up in an Airbnb, since the mother couldn’t imagine being locked down in a city apartment, even a large and comfortable one as theirs is. It’s very expensive to rent an Airbnb for two months, even in some little village (where housing prices are very, very low – you can get some massive grange for 100k). So the mother wrote to her landlord asking for a rent reduction because of the lockdown. The landlord wrote back to tell her that her spacious apartment in the center of Paris was ample for a family of four during a lockdown.
She was furious and told us: “Such a typical white man response.”
My heart sank when she said this. I know that the chances my husband and I will share a pizza with someone who doesn’t hate Donald Trump are next to nothing, partly because we are in Paris, but then again my mom’s Midwest Bible studies class wants to talk about social justice and white privilege so there is no escape. I encounter the “white man” thing a lot at work, from non-French. But it never loses its demoralizing effect on me, especially coming from the parents of a nice kid that my kid likes.
And while they are Latin (I will put it that way), there was my husband, whose father is a retired plumber, a white man, a kind man. A fair man. A good tipper. The best husband. Who puts up with me. A quiet person whom people tend to like.
It was the woman who was entitled to ask for a reduction in rent so she could comfortably rent a country house for two months!
I did a deflection and gentle riposte technique, offering up my reminiscences of the female HR head landlord we once had, who wrote us weekly emails and made me scrub calcaire build-up off the faucets of our tiny 1 bedroom under her stern gaze when I was 7 months pregnant, and then withheld our security deposit. “It’s not a white man thing,” I said with false innocence.
It reminded me of a meeting I had at work with four people (I was the secretary), three older white men from various countries, and one white middle-aged or older American woman who ranted about white men in the course of the day. She has a great career, great diplomas, widespread respect, except from me, after that meeting. What a whiner, I thought. The white overlords have been kind to her. The men all kept their heads down.
We listened to Trump’s 4th of July speech yesterday and I explained to my 7-year-old that we judge people by their character, not the color of their skin or their appearance. We are proud of our history and heritage. France too has soldiers toiling around the world, thousands of people take refuge here from all over the world. Let us cease to self-flagellate. Let us be proud and patriotic, and appreciate the sacrifices our forefathers made so that we could enjoy prosperous lives in free Western Democracies.Published in