Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Accidental Racists

G overheard me talking recently with a local friend about how the Parisians dress almost exclusively in dark tones, especially black.


In fact, the city itself is dressed in shades of black, and gray, and beige. It's very easy to imagine yourself in an old photo by Robert Doisneau or Henri Cartier-Bresson: the buildings are gray or tan; the sky is gray (and even when blue, it's a soft blue-gray that doesn't approach the blue of California); the cobblestones and roads are black and gray; the Seine is silvery, or black. It's a beautiful city, but beautiful in the way of a black-and-white photo. One of the few things I already miss is the vibrant color of San Francisco.


On the subway today, G pronounces loudly, and in French, "They really are all black!" The train happens to be filled with African immigrants at the time, so it takes me a moment to make the connection back to the recent conversation on wardrobes. Since the Earth does not, as hoped, open up to swallow me whole, I have no choice but to reply loudly, "Yes! Their clothes really are mostly black... and brown, and gray! Nobody's wearing red or pink except us! Black clothing, ha ha!" At this point, the only thing redder than my jacket is my face.

(An aside: Last year, P came home from school in San Francisco and proclaimed, "I only like white boys!" This was met with horrified silence from myself and Anthony until I suddenly realized, "Oh, you mean the boys from your class?" Her school had four kindergarten classes -- called Blue, White, Red, and Yellow. "The boys from the white class?," I repeated. She nodded, and said earnestly, "Yes. Yellow boys aren't as nice. I only like white boys.")


Steve said...

I must be a European at heart - I love to wear blacks/greys/blues/beiges.

Jeremy said...

Years ago when Julie and I were in Paris we only packed dark clothes (having read in Fodor's that Parisians dress in dark colors and aren't fans of the typical American tourists wearing sneakers, jeans and ballcaps). Our attempt at integration was revealed as a success when a French couple asked us for directions.