Professor Hunk has a visiting professor colleague, a Jewish guy with a thick accent from the kind of European country where most people drink a glass of antisemitism at breakfast. So Professor Hunk was talking about civil rights and Jewish guy says, “The blacks have not suffered like the Jews.” Professor Hunk replies, “Come on, is this the oppression olympics?”

Jewish guy did not know this, but “oppression olympics” is what smart liberal Americans say, to make you feel stupid and to make you shut up. But there IS an oppression olympics going on. American racial minorities—blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and Jews—all get shit from white folks, different kinds of shit, but shit still. Each secretly believes that it gets the worst shit. So, no, there is no United League of the Oppressed. However, all the others think they’re better than blacks because, well, they’re not black. Take Lili, for example, the coffee-skinned, black-haired and Spanish-speaking woman who cleaned my aunt’s house in a New England town. She had a great hauteur. She was disrespectful, cleaned poorly, made demands. My aunt believed Lili didn’t like working for black people. Before she finally fired her, my aunt said, “Stupid woman, she thinks she’s white.” So whiteness is the thing to aspire to. Not everyone does, of course (please, commenters, don’t state the obvious) but many minorities have a conflicted longing for WASP whiteness or, more accurately, for the privileges of WASP whiteness. They probably don’t really like pale skin but they certainly like walking into a store without some security dude following them. Hating Your Goy and Eating One Too, as the great Philip Roth put it. So if everyone in America aspires to be WASPs, then what do WASPs aspire to? Does anyone know?

(Americanah, page 253)

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