Friday, June 08, 2007

Do you surf?

I admit it, I tend to stereotype regions of the country and don't have the best impression of the South. I'm trying really hard not to do it as much, especially since I have met a lot of really nice people from south of the Mason-Dixon line. But there are definitely times when those stereotypes are reinforced. Case in point:

Yesterday when I was waiting to get into a Senate Committee Markup on habeas corpus restoration, I was surrounded by staffers, war protesters, reporters, and many interns, including an intern from Arkansas with no volume control. As we were all slightly irritated by waiting, we all really rolled our eyes upon hearing his very loud conversations with people who really didn't want to talk to him.

Intern: Where are you from?
Girl 1: I work for the Canadian Embassy
Intern: Wow! Are you from Canada?
Girl 1: Yes
Intern: Cool. Do you live by mountains?
Girl 1: Um...I guess, there are mountains near me.
Intern: Cool. So what do ya'll do in Canada for fun? Like, do you go see movies and stuff?
Girl 1: Well, it's really not that different from here.
Intern: What about hockey, do you like hockey?
Girl 1: Not really?
Intern: Oh. Since you've come here, have you started to like Football Americano?
Girl 1: Um, sure.

After a little bit, the Canadian left because she didn't want to wait anymore. So the Arkansas intern moved on to someone else (not me).

Intern: Where are you from?
Girl 2: California
Intern: Cool! So, what are the fashion trends coming out? In Arkansas, we're like two years behind. The only shop in our town is Wal-Mart. Bright colors, they're getting popular right? And those plaid pants?
Girl 2: Um, yeah.
Intern: So does everyone in California wear Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana?
Girl 2: Not really. California's a very diverse place.

This conversation reminded me a lot of one I had with someone from the South at a law conference 6 years ago. He asked me, "How do your people know, Middle Eastern people?" Once I corrected him, he felt the need to summarize: "So you're Vietnamese, via Minnesota, via California. Do you surf?" Wow, so dumb.

This is why I'm glad that I've met people from all over the country and world through travelling or going to school in DC, where everyone is from somewhere else. Because while we all might have general stereotypes in our mind, meeting people from different places usually does remind us that countries or regions are very diverse, and people defy a lot of misconceptions that we have. Not at all Californians surf. Not all French people are snobs. Not all people from Utah are Mormons. And not all people from the South are ignorant...just some.


James said...

Well, you are from SoCal... :P

Mike W. said...

This post completely reminded me of the Model Arab League I participated in. Trying to describe it to others was super difficult, and even once I was there, people had severe difficulties understanding the difference between generalizations and actual facts about countries of the Middle East.

oh, and I do contribute to the rumors about Southern Californians, sorry my surfing addiction makes it difficult on you... lol.