Sunday, 12 March 2017

Educating Addison White

[Media prompt] Latina students at Pitzer College ask white girls to take off their hoop earrings … “If you didn't create the culture as a coping mechanism for marginalisation, take off those hoops.”


Educating Addison White

Addison White could smell the paint before she saw it, so she knew someone had been tagging something. But it was still a shock when she turned the corner and saw what they’d written. She stood for a moment, not quite believing it, but thinking also that it made perfect sense. If you half fill a half-wit’s head with the notion they’re a victim, and then top it up with hare-brained theories about gender and culture, then this is what you get; “White girl, take off your hoops!” sprayed in a childish hand across the dormitory wall. It was a perfectly logical outcome of a college education.

Naturally, it was all anyone could talk about all day. Wearing hoops is an everyday act of resistance for Latinos, one of her lecturers said in class. And when white people wear winged eyeliner, or line their lips, or wear hoops, they’re appropriating styles that belong to the women who created that culture. To be honest, she said, pausing dramatically as though she was about to say something she shouldn’t, if you didn’t create the culture of resistance as a coping mechanism for marginalization, then take off those hoops. Addison thought about this for the rest of the day, and after dinner she knew what she was going to do.

She’s right, you know, Addison said to her friend Bunny later that night. Cultural appropriation is as bad as genocide. Perhaps it even is genocide, she said, looking up at the ceiling to think about it. Bunny, sitting on her bed cross legged, sorting through her jewellery box, was busy adding to a growing pile of hoops on the counterpane. I guess I’ll have to throw all these out, she said. Addison put on her backpack. Sleep on it first, she said, closing the door behind her.

The next morning, dormitory residents were awoken earlier than usual by a scream. Campus security were on the scene quickly, followed by the police who cordoned off the area. Addison lay in bed, listening to the escalating howls of terror and outrage, then tired of the noise, dressed and walked to the dining hall. 

She was the sole diner, and a large black women serving behind the counter looked at her askance, asking her how she could bring herself to eat. Addison looked at her. Oh my God, the black woman said, haven’t you heard? Addison shook her head. Someone’s gone done and duct taped a whole mess of Mexican ears to the dormitory wall, the black woman said, where they painted on. That’s terrible, said Addison, scooping some muesli into her bowl; I guess nobody'll be able to wear hoops now. 

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