Tuesday, October 28, 2008

how's that racism workin' out for you?

For a town that is supposed to be so politically correct, it sure is strange that everybody seems to be a racist. The Law and I found this out the other night while walking from Adams Morgan to U Street to go send off our friend, The Cap'n, who's being shipped off to Iraq next month.

And because we're such good friends, in honor of The Cap'n, The Law busted out one of two T-shirts we had made a few years back for The Cap'n's birthday. Unfortunately, I don't have any digitized photos of these T-shirts, but it's fairly easy to describe: Imagine the I ♥ NY logo, but replace the "NY" with a black-and-white photo of Bryant Gumbel, who happens to be The Cap'n's doppelgänger. These shirts are tight. Sadly, we only had the one. I suspect the other, which had previously been in my possession, remains in a dank corner of a certain basement in Cambridge, Mass., but that is neither here nor there. Moving on...

So, The Law popped on the one remaining I ♥ Bryant Gumbel shirt and we walked out the door. Seconds later we hear:

White dude on the street: "Woo! I like Obama too!"

We paused before swigging out of the classy PBR cans we took along for the road and wondered what spurred him to bestow upon us his unsolicited political persuasions. Brushing it off as just another example of DC tooldom, we continued on our way. Until...

African-American woman from a car window: "All right! Go Obama!"

Okaaay...but then...

Three more hipster-y white dudes across the street: "I'm voting Obama, too! Yeah!"

After the third incident (we're quick like that), we began to think this wasn't just a simple case of DC political obsession. That is, these people weren't giving us metaphorical fist bumps for no reason whatsoever.

"Whoa. I think it's my shirt!" said The Law.

"But that's Bryant Gumbel on your shirt!" I said. "What does Bryant Gumbel have to do with Barack Obama?"

We paused for a second, before our other friend, Juice (I know -- these nicknames keep getting perpetually more awesome), noted, "It doesn't make sense. It's not like all black people look the same."

And then it dawned on me. "Well, I guess everyone in DC is a racist."

(I labeled them so all of DC's racists could tell them apart.)

Seriously, unless you're looking solely from the neck down, the above side-by-side shots of Gumbel and Obama prove these men look very little alike. I guess they're both smiling...

But honestly, if I -- a ghostly pale Minnesotan with Slavic roots -- can point out the differences between Gumbel's features and Obama's, I have a hard time accepting that people in DC -- white, black and pseudo-hipster alike -- cannot.

However, let us not err toward the other extreme. The above observation is not to say no African Americans resemble each other, as the homage on The Law's T-shirt was supposed to demonstrate. Just as I, a 29-year-old white woman, can resemble an 8-year-old white gay boy named Shannon, The Cap'n, a 28-year-old black West Point grad (who's lookin' for his soulmate, ladies!) can certainly resemble a 60-year-old black sportscaster named Bryant Gumbel.

The resemblance is truly quite uncanny.

Special e-note to The Cap'n: We will miss you, your Gumbel visage and your keen one-liners. I'll be checking my mailbox daily for cards featuring pop-up unicorns made by your underlings. Hoo-ah! (And of course, from all your friends and that one guy who said he'd die for you at Local 16 the other night, muwah!)


Skywalker said...

I wouldn't say racist - your tale does presume that everyone in DC believes that BG and BO look alike (and all African American men look alike) - these gentlemen look similar (from pictures shown) but not identical.

Racist denotes negativity. The story doesn't have anything negative about. Single but serving abroad I would hook my friend up. Let us know when he's back!

BAD said...

I don't think it's racism. It's expectations. People's brains (who are seeing this from across the street) just assume it's Obama because why the hell would anyone wear a T-shirt with Bryant Gumbel on it? You crazy bitches!

Marissa said...

You guys are most likely right. Although I will point out that most of these sitings were within mere feet of said shirt. So it wasn't from across the street. Even the woman who yelled from the car was maybe just 6 feet away. But I think she was wasted.

Alas, I hope my probably failed attempt at "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" humor doesn't send the wrong message. I don't *really* think everyone in DC is a racist. Hmm, perhaps this is a signal that I should stick to rape jokes...

But think about this: Had that been, say, Andy Rooney on her shirt (now, *that'd* be crazy), would people automatically assume it was McCain? I doubt it.

Although I guess all these incidents may just say more about Obama supporters and their wont for his face on a T-shirt rather than and any deep, dark, hidden social schism.

Marissa said...

Addendum on the hipster fellows who commented from across the street: They originally started off on our side of the street next to us but only said something when we crossed the street to split off. So they should've gotten a close enough look to realize that it wasn't, in fact, Obama.

John Foster said...

That we are discussing two of the whitest men in history while strolling through chocolate city explains all the confusion. It's not like it was a "I Heart Doug Williams" shirt and people made that mistake. Now THAT would be an injustice.

Peter said...

I actually see Gumbel first whenever I see a picture of Obama. Weird huh?!!

FoggyDew said...

Not everyone watches Sunny (like me), and everyone enjoys a good rape joke now and then. Just ask Lauch Faircloth.

And, seriously, BG and BO look remarkably similar in the pictures you chose.

jheisel said...

this should amuse you...one of my russian colleagues was telling me that on brighton beach, using the word "negr" is verboten, as an actual negro may hear it. so what do the russkies use instead? "shakter". ha!

Marissa said...

mr. foster--

It's like that one time when someone made that I ♥ Marissa shirt and everyone's like, "I like Heidi Klum too!" Oh, that was only in my mind? Damn.


That's because you're in the Eastern Bloc where people with brown eyes are considered black. And you're a racist! Biff-bam-zingovich!


But Gumbel is wearing glasses!


Oh those Russians...I'm so proud of my people...