Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Stupidity with Sheila

I've had some dim lightbulb moments myself. All through my childhood, I heard people refer to lunchtime as "afternoon", but in first grade we ate lunch in midmorning. So until my upper elementary years I thought afternoon referred to eleven o' clock. In seventh grade I realized Ms. was a separate title than Miss, not an abbreviation, like Mr. for Mister. And I was seventeen before I figured out "Happy Holidays" is the all encompassing term for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, and other sundry celebrations, not just Christmas and New Years.
But luckily for me, I came to these realizations quietly, so nobody had to correct me. Or worse, try and fail to correct me.
I've been in that position a few times.
Here are the top three stupid conversations I've had with another human being. These all involved separate girls, but to avoid naming names, I'll call every last one of them Sheila.
Here goes.

1. The French-American Civil War
Sheila sat in front of me in an eighth grade class called U.S. History. Our textbooks said "American" on the front covers. There was a large map of America on one wall. Everybody in the class, including our teacher, was American.
At the beginning of our Civil War unit, he told us, "Take out a piece of paper and write down the two sides that fought in the Civil War and which one won. You can use the textbooks. You have five minutes."
Like the rest of the class, I ignored the textbook and spent all of five seconds on the assignment
1. North
2. South
3. North
For the next five minutes, I watched Sheila flip through the book. I figured she had finished and was looking through the coming chapter. The moment our time was up, she turned around to me.
"My French teacher told me France fought in the Civil War. But what was the other one?"

2. Goooooo Cancer!
Sheila's purse had a Susan G. Komen pink ribbon key chain on the zipper pull, One day, she and the boy next to her were fighting over the purse when he accidentally snapped it off.
"Look what you did! How am I supposed to support breast cancer now?"
"Um, Sheila?" I said, "You don't support breast cancer."
She turned to me in shock. "Of course I do! I have a key chain!"
"You support breast cancer research or the Susan G. Komen foundation or the race for the cure. Not the cancer itself."
"Yeah! That's what 'support breast cancer' means."
" It's not. I don't support breast cancer."
She was horrified. "You don't?"
"Yeah. I also don't support car crashes, suicide, heart attacks-"
"Guys! She doesn't support breast cancer!"
Sheila and the boy asked me the same question as I walked into class for the rest of the week. My answer never changed.

3. White Family Insurance

One day Sheila walked into my dance class, sat down on the floor, and then turned to me with a question that had been weighing heavily on her mind. "Does Dunkin' Donuts sell donuts?"
I was fairly sure they did. "They're in the name, Sheila."
"Yes, but lots of companies are named after things they don't sell."
"Well..." I said the first company that came to mind. "Does American Family Insurance sell insurance to American families?"
Sheila had a good long think about this too. "I don't know. They sell it to black people."
"Sheila. Black people can be American. That's why we called African American."
At this point a girl sitting near us took pity and jumped into the conversation. "Yeah! There's also Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, European Americans-"
"I know that!" Sheila snapped. "What I want to know is, does Dunkin' Donuts sell donuts?"

4. No Culture For You
Just this Sunday, one of my guy friends left to serve as a Spanish speaking missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Texas. One of the girls (who is not the Sheila here) is heading out to the Philipines on her own mission soon. After the guy gave a farewell talk to his congregation, everyone who came to see him stood in the hallway to chat. We talked about the language and culture barriers they'd have to work with.
Hearing them talk about Spanish things and Filipino things reminded me of how Spain colonized the Philipines. I' said, "Doesn't the Philipines have a lot of Spanish influence."
"No." Sheila One looked me dead in the eyes. "They don't speak Spanish."
"Not the language. The culture. They were colonized by Spain."
"They don't have culture," Sheila Two said. "Just poor culture."
That's right, poor people. You're not allowed to have culture.
No songs.
No dances.
No recipes.
No fashion.
No folktales.
No holidays.
You have to be exactly the same as all other poor people everywhere.
Sheila said so.

And this, my friends, is why we send children to school. Although these Sheilas ranged in age from fourteen to eighteen. By that point, there's not a lot of fixing to be done. Some people are just stupid. Not uneducated, not misinformed, and not out of the loop. Stupid.
Stupid isn't what you don't know. It's refusing to believe that what you do know is wrong.