I wrote awhile ago that Peace Corps volunteers make good bigots. Generally, statistically, we’re privileged white people traveling to all the poorer, browner, and yellower parts of the world. We arrive in classes of universal inexperience that serve as crucibles for culture shock and adjustment frustration. All of our angst and anxiety bouncing off each other in conversation after conversation. I want to get into that bigotry. My bigotry.
I’ve brought up volunteer chats as a mechanic twice now, and I’d like to explain. Imagine that you’re at a big weekend party with all of your friends, and after two solid days of debauch, one of your hosts sits down to tally what everyone has contributed so you can split costs and share the burden. It’s going okay, but then one of your friends starts complaining about how little she drank compared with everyone else and makes a scene over her bare-minimum contribution while the rest are happy to round up and pay it forward. You think about it for a couple of minutes after it happens and then you let it go.
Now imagine you’re one of the last to leave. It’s you, your hosts, and a couple of other stragglers. One of them says, “Can you believe how cheap whatshername was just now?”
“Yea, what an asshole,” another friend chimes in, and suddenly you’re thinking yea, she was an asshole, and you spend the next ten minutes consumed by breaking down how and why and what a total culera that chick was. Prejudice grows between us like this, through nasty little circlejerks when we aren’t paying enough attention to what we’re doing to each other.