Thursday, March 15, 2012

That White Girl’s Dilemma

Having the last name White is sometimes more worry than it's worth. Sure, it makes giving my information over the phone super easy; probably the most convoluted conversation has consisted of:
Operator: Last name, please?
Me: White.
Operator: Like the colour?
Me: Yup.
Sometimes, just to mix things up, they ask "With an "i" or a "y"?" instead; both variations of the question require simple one word answers. But for every 10 instances where it has saved me the hassle of having to spell it out in full, it has caused a very awkward, or hilarious, conversation to occur.

For example, several years ago, I was looking for a place to rent. I did the walk through of the suite, had the interview with the landlord and filled out the application. The landlord quickly scanned over the application to make sure all the fields were filled in; he asked to see my driver's license, so he could write the number down (and verify my identity, or so I thought).

But it became very obvious that he didn't read my application at all; when I handed him my license, he gasped and said "They're putting this on licenses now?!". I peered over his shoulder to see if there was something on my license that I hadn't noticed before...
drivers license

Everything looked in order to me, so I questioned his reaction. He pointed at my license and said "White! What does my license say? Chinese?!??!". I politely informed him that it was my last name while trying to maintain a straight face. It was difficult considering how comical he found it. I thought it was funny too, the first couple times anyway, but he kept bringing it up again and again. By the end of our visit, I wasn't sure if he was drunk, or borderline retarded.

A few years later, I was discussing my mechanic situation with a friend. I told him how my mechanic was a good friend of my uncle and worked out of the garage at his house. I wasn't sure if he had all the new fangled tools, since he's a home mechanic. And sometimes small jobs take longer than they should, since he's pretty much a raging alcoholic. If the car doesn't get there before 3pm, it probably won't get worked on until the next day.
Brain: So why don't you take it to my friend's garage?
Me: Because I like taking it to him.
Brain: But... you just said...
Me: I know, I know, but I get the White rate, so it's worth the hassle.
Brain: You might not want to say that out loud... *looks around crowded restaurant*
Me: *oblivious* What? It's not like it's a secret, he gives everyone in my family that rate...
Brain: Well, say that then...
Me: But that seems like a lot of words... White rate is easier.
Brain: Well, at least add "family" into it!
Me: *still oblivious* What? Why?
Brain: Just say "the White family rate"... it sounds... ... better.
Me: *light bulb moment* OH!
Brain: *face palm*
That's not the only time it has been the source of an unintentional racial slur. Very recently, I was having a drink with Thailand, before he went to Thailand. In an effort to keep in touch while abroad, he asked me if I was on facebook. When I said yes, he pulled out his phone; while navigating to facebook, he asked me for my last name, never taking his eyes off the screen. I told him. His eyes shot up to meet mine. I looked at him. He cocked his head to the side and said "Seriously?". I said "Yes... Don't I look White to you?" with my "I'm a jackass grin" on my face. He said "... Yeah... of course... ... I just didn't think... nevermind... ... So... White, eh?".

He typed my name into the search field and pressed enter. I peered across the table at the screen. Nothing showed up. "Does it always do that?" I asked. He said "Maybe it'll take a minute... sometimes it's weird searching on the phone.". "There are a lot of us with that name..." I suggested. After preventing it from going into standby-mode several times, he grew frustrated. "Oh, come on! ... ... ... Gawd... why does there have to be so many White people on facebook?!?!".

He immediately recognized his slip; his eyes shot up to meet mine once again and he started back pedaling furiously. "I mean... why does there have to be so many White... ... fuck ... White people... ... shit... Ummm... why are there so many ... people ... with the last name White... on facebook?". He looked at me with a mixture of regret, fear and "If I was white, I probably could have gotten away with that...".
I smiled and said "The results are up...". It took a second for what I said to sink in. A quick glance at his phone and it all registered. Relief washed over his face and he said "Okay... let's try and find you..." I'm not sure if he was more relieved that I wasn't offended or that he had something to distract him (me?) while he re-grouped.

*Update*I can't believe I forgot my favourite one...

 I used to work with an Asian girl with the last name Hong. At some point, we started with the racial-slur-nicknames; she called me Whitey, naturally, I called her Honger. At first, it was really funny; after awhile, it became such a regular thing that we started forgetting how ignorant it sounded. One day, I was walking past her, there was a new person in the lab, who also happened to be Asian.

Honger: Hey Whitey!
Me: What's up, Honger?!
The look on the new girl's face was complete and utter shock. This is where I'm working?! Honger immediately started explaining. The explanation made sense, and the new girl accepted it, but the fact that I can't remember who that new person was just goes to show that she didn't stick around for long. Oooops.


  1. My initials spell JEW. You don't see that written on a lot of stuff here in the redneck south, so when I initial something, it gets noticed.

    Your renderings are adorable. I may have to burn your blog down.

  2. That's hilarious. And you certainly can't have a family reunion where you all proclaim "White pride". And I bet the electric company has a giggle when they come to turn on your electricity essentially giving White power. It could be worse, your last name could be "Honky" or "Cracker" or a super offensive racial slur.

  3. Cracker is a racial slur that White slave owners propagated in to the Blacks' language, having the Blacks believe they were slagging their "owners". Fact is, Cracker meant "person who cracks the whip", so it wasn't really derogatory against scum-sucking slave owners.

  4. Oh, my! I'm sure that you have plenty more stories to tell about your surname's mishaps.

    -Barb the French Bean

  5. Your drivers license is hilarious Heather!!!!

  6. Handflapper - I imagine that would get noticed! Burning? Oh no... please don't! :) *applies fire retardant*

    Pickle - ha ha - White Power... good one!!

    Brian - and here I thought it was because we are so pasty... the things you learn on here.

    Barb - I think this is a post that could get updated half a million times, if I was so inclined.

    Dave - it's true to life, I tell ya! :)

  7. Ahaha, I was hoping the one from work was going to make it on here =)

  8. My last name isn't nearly that awesome and fun. My last name is Pedas, pronounced Peddis. It was originally Perez, and when my grandpa came over from Spain, the man at Ellis Island asked what's your name? My grandpa said Perez in his thick accent, and the guy wrote down Pedas.

    Meanwhile, people always pronounce it PEEDUS, which is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Mostly because it sounds like you're saying "penis" with a head cold.

  9. Haha, this is the longest blog post I have ever seen, but it's good.
    That's funny. I'm Indian, and we don't 'do' last names here. Lol, and after your post, I'm glad. :)

  10. Gorm - well then, I'm glad I rememebered to include it!

    Beer - that's an interesting side story to your last name. The origin of my last name probably went like this: "Do you know that girl?" "Which girl?" "That white girl..."

    Sunny - I'm glad you made it through the whole thing!


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