“What I want to know is . . . .”
He doesn’t actually want to know anything; it is a completely meaningless phrase, much like a clearing of the throat, used right before he lobs something incendiary into the conversation. He is usually met with stony silence: my SIL has learned over the years not to react, and the parents are deaf — although if they were not, they would doubtless agree with him.
“Too many Indians,” he says, “time to move to Orange County.” He waits a beat. “South Orange County,” he amends. Like my SIL, I say nothing, and the one-sided conversation dies a mercifully quick death.
He sees no irony in his wish to be in well-to-do, upper middle-class, white neighborhood. Why should he? My brother wants to be as he is, but white. Not any sort of white, mind you, but white in the WASP sense. He believes in segregation — everyone contained within their own neighborhoods according to education, socioeconomic class, ethnicity, and race. He allows exceptions for crossing boundaries: those like him who are affluent, well-educated, and absorbed into the cultural and intellectual traditions of the West. They will not litter the landscape with reminders of previous lives and traditions.
He can justify anything: “I don’t see why I can’t call them Negroes,” he says. “It’s from the Latin for black.”
Try doing that in Watts and see where that gets you, I thought.
He is an angry man, and I don’t know why. It is as though at some point in his life, he believes he has been treated unjustly, as though affirmative action has personally affected him to his detriment. His kids’ failures are not their failures, and definitely are not his failures; there are always external circumstances. No acceptances to top echelon colleges? Why, it must have been because their potential places were given to all the various “colored” people. No jobs after college? Ditto. It is a very hostile world he lives in.
He is my brother, and I find the genetics of our relationship profoundly depressing.