I recently traveled on the Portland MAX (our version of the subway that’s mostly above ground). Among the various signs posted above us was this one:

max

Let’s forget, for a moment, that people rarely have loud telephone conversations in public anymore; they text each other instead.  Are white women offended by such signs? Of course not – because they know such accusations are ridiculous. Everybody knows that white women are not a major source of annoying noise on urban public transportation. But let’s say, hypothetically, that the sign had the black man yammering away on his phone, and the white woman being annoying. The uproar would be instantaneous. It would be national news, and the City of Portland would quickly grovel in front of the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Representing racial reality the way it actually is, or even displaying a sign that has a basis in racial reality, is offensive.

But we should be offended. The City of Portland could easily have depicted two race-neutral individuals of the same gender. That way, the sign couldn’t be construed as being hateful toward any particular group. But not only did they turn this into a racial scenario, they even made the extra effort to make sure her eyes were blue. Brown eyes just wouldn’t do; somebody might have mistaken her for Mexican or Asian.

Why did they make the offender female? My guess is in order to have the sign include more diversity. This was more important to them than risking upsetting women – which wouldn’t happen anyway in this case. Also, race trumps gender.

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