Azure brought two Obama shirts with her this year. If you know anything about how we travel, you know this is a little ridic because we try to keep our possessions to a minimum as we have to carry them on our backs for four months. I brought four t-shirts last year, total. But we knew it would be a conversation piece and we’re newly proud to be Americans so she indulged.
A restaurant hostess on the Lincoln pedestrian street stopped us yesterday and started talking about the Obama shirt. She said, “I saw you can get one that’s glow in the dark!” Apparently it’s on eBay, god bless them. The girl (who looked 16) said that she voted for Obama. She had a thick accent. There’s more Spanish spoken here than English and often I’ve wanted information or a sandwich and found that the person I was talking to spoke no English whatsoever. Aviva told me once that if we’re going to talk about race, then we need to talk about what it means to be white to get the whole picture. This is a place where you question what it means to be not only white, but English-speaking. I take for granted the fact that I speak the language in which most of our national conversations take place. So, what happens when I walk up to someone in the US and they don’t speak English and I don’t speak Spanish? Who concedes clarity?
There was another Obama shirt ice-breaker. Azure asked a man what his Spanish shirt said. “Laborers for Obama.” He’s a construction worker and I said I was impressed by how many buildings were still going up despite the recession. He said that it was nothing like before. Up until about 9 months ago you could see hundreds of cranes from the tram we were in, all across the city. We didn’t see any, looking out today, but I’d seen some at the beach. He said things were way slower, but he was still working.
The similarity between him and the Spanish population is language. He’s an African-American man and when he was on the phone earlier I’d noticed him speaking in a way that sounded foreign to me – “he be” was one of the things that stood out, among others. I can’t remember the last time I heard that kind of sentence construction, which indicates either my lack of interaction with the Af-Am community (which is definitely the case) or the difference among Af-Am regional dialects. Either way, can a person achieve conventional professional success in our country if they speak in that dialect? What does it mean that I fluently speak the same dialect as the most (professionally) successful people in our society?
The Adventure School – Aviva & Cori’s business.