Twitter is pretty awesome. It helps millions of people connect and network without ever having to type more than 140 characters. Although I don’t use twitter, a lot of the trending topics make its way onto Facebook-a social networking site I do use-so I am somewhat aware of Twitter’s trending topics. One trending topic that I have always found amusing is #whitegirlproblems. Babe Walker, the alter ego of the editor of the page, complies “problems” that only matter to white girls. A typical tweet from #whitegirlproblems would say “my base tan is so uneven #whitegirlproblems.” That’s some funny stuff because there are people out in the world like that! The satirical aspect of this twitter feed is indeed entertaining but it brings up a much larger issue–what does it mean for a problem to only pertain to white girls? As a white girl myself (I’m something like 12th generation American on my father’s side and 4th generation on my mothers) who is beginning to get in touch with the world, I am beginning to ask myself what white girl problems are.
I grew up in a fairly affluent area in Brooklyn, NY and had the privilege to attend wonderful, well-funded (for the most part) schools. When my parents bought my childhood home, Park Slope was a seedy neighborhood that had potential. 25 years later, it’s one of the most desirable neighborhoods–and school districts–in the entire city. My father worked the overnight, meaning I barely ever saw him, in order to work at a prestigious television network, while my mother worked hard in whatever job she could find without having a college degree. My peers were definitely a lot better off than me but I suppose I wasn’t far behind.
Growing up in New York City, and especially with parents I have, I never once thought about race or ethnicity. People were people. I knew my friend Jessica was from Puerto Rico, that Simone was from Haiti, and Yakov couldn’t celebrate Halloween because he was Muslim (just to name a few), but this didn’t affect the way I saw them. They had special things that made them unique just like I had special things. It’s weird to admit this though–I feel like these special differences that never were a big deal to be before, have become more present as I’ve gotten older. When I was younger, ethnic identity was never an issue. We were kids trying to have fun. But now, I’m more aware than ever of different ethnicities and races,
When I applied to university, I said that a school with diversity had just as much of a chance to be rewarded with me as a student than a school with less diversity. After 2 years as a predominantly WASP university in Massachusetts, I was out of there. Diversity is something I’m used to and feel comfortable with. Being with that many carbon copy white people was too much for me. I needed New York.
And then I went to CUNY Hunter. I went from 0-60 in 2.5 seconds with Hunter. I went from being one of 33,000 white people to a minority. I won’t lie though, I never felt that I was different until I took this class. I never thought of myself as different or as having a completely different experience as my peers until I was in a class that focused primarily on immigration and the black experience in the United States. I’ve taken many sociology classes (I was moments away from declaring a sociology major) and appreciate evaluating differences and statistics, but this Race and Ethnicity class made me feel like an outcast. I felt pushed to the side. I felt patronized. I felt out-of-place. I felt like I had no right to express my experiences as a part of the native white majority. But what has been so challenging, or character building, by being part of the majority? How has it affected my life?
Presently, I am working in a French Restaurant that I absolutely loathe. I enjoy making money but absolutely hate serving people. Waiting, at least for me, is the most unsatisfying job. For a variety of reasons, I complain, almost daily, about how I feel about working at my particular restaurant. I dislike managers, I dislike the utter disrespect towards scheduling, and I especially dislike foodies and winos who think they know a lot about wine and food but in reality, just look like fools. But what does this all matter? I’m making money, right? There are so many people out there without jobs. But they’ve scheduled me to work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, despite me requesting off, and I’m supposed to work? There are thousands of people out there that would think this obstacle of mine is beyond ridiculous. Are these the white girl problems Babe Walker is talking about? But isn’t reducing my unhappiness to my race, and then dismissing it, just as wrong as any other race-related power struggle? Perhaps my “white privilege” has spoiled me and has made me think I deserve to be fulfilled in a job.
I’m not entirely sure of where I stand on #whitegirlproblems. Problems are problems and feelings are feelings. I am fortunate enough that I can think about the wide scope of jobs out there instead living in survival mode every moment of my life. I respect people who work long hours and aren’t as lazy as me. But I think to discredit me, or brush me off, just because I’m white and may not have such significant problems isn’t right. Do onto others as you’d like done onto you.