Innocently, two friends of mine who are here with me in Albuquerque this week walked into a shop in old town Albuquerque. They encountered, of all people, Joe the Plumber. Imagine: he’s here in Albuquerque and…get this: he was in the CIA! Here was their conversation (Z and K are my girl friends):
White man (aka Joe the Plumber): Whazzzzzup!
WM: You know where that comes from?
White man: So you heard that comedian before? I went to high school with him. Where are you from?
White man: Ahlan was ahman fiki! Ateeni bawsa min fadlik!
Z: Where did you learn Arabic?
White man: In Lebanon.
Z: Well I’m Lebanese.
White man: Really?
Z: When were you in Beirut?
White man: 1984. I was an “information technician” (he says with a wink)
Z: What is that in real life? The CIA?
White man: Yeah, I gathered intelligence for the U.S. military.
Z: So what does that involve?
White man: We would scope out which cab drivers had walkie talkies; which political factions had antennas up; what kind of surveillance or control each party had. When I finished work each day I went to the jebel to (he gestures) smoke hashish. What are you doing here?
Z & K: We are at the American Studies Association conference.
White man: What do you think about Americans?
Z & K: Well, what do you think about Arabs?
White man: Well this is what average Joe the plumber thinks, not what I think. When we see an Arab and his wife with a scarf on, walking down the street, and he’s darker, and they’re not holding hands, they must be Muslim because it says in their religion–it says anyone who isn’t a Muslim must be killed. All we have to do is get out of there because we might be killed. So we haul ass outta Walmart.
Z: Haram the white people!
K: Wow that’s crazy! That’s what they’re think of you because they are worried they’ll be reported to the FBI.
White man: That’s not what I think. That’s just what regular people think. I’m college educated. And I knew you weren’t Americans because I noticed you weren’t fat–you don’t have the big buts. Americans need sugar, comfort food.
Z: Okay, so where did you think we were from before we told you were Arabs?
White man: I’d say French or German–or I’d think you were from Sardinia. When we were kids we used to read National Geographic esp for African ladies because they were all bare boobed–and we used to be able to tell different tribes apart in Africa because of what they were wearing or weren’t wearing, but mainly because of ritual scarring. So if you were scared one way you’re from one place and if you’re scared in another place then you’re from another place.
Z: (At this point, Z gets mad and wants to leave.)
White man: African women have bigger/smaller buts depending on areas. African tribes who used to work in the field have huge buts and they function like air conditioning because all heat is sent to their butts. I wish i had qahwa to offer you.
At this point Z & K make a clean escape.
And this is a snapshot into the racist mind of Joe-the-plumber-the-CIA-guy.