I was driving through downtown Boise the other day and saw two bumper stickers on the same car that really captured a tremendously smug self-righteousness. No, it didn’t attack homosexuality or socialism. I think we can say with some certainty that the owner of the car wasn’t a member of the religious right.
On the right side of the bumper was the sticker that has become de rigueur in Boise, near Boise State University: “Blue Girl, Red State.” (What? Not “Blue Woman, Red State” or “Blue Womyn”? I’ll be nice and assume that Idaho Democrats aren’t quite as crazy as those on the coasts, and so they can use an un-PC term like “girl.”) On the left side of the bumper was a sticker that gave me my marching orders: “Don’t Assume That I Share Your Prejudices.”
This is a bumper sticker breathtaking in its arrogance — and it has so many layers of arrogance that it deserves a careful dissection. (I would prefer to perform a vivisection on the phrase, without anesthetic, just to hear the underlying smugness screaming in pain, but the SPCA — the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Arrogance — would come after me.)
The first level of arrogance is that the assumption that anyone who lives in Idaho is likely to be prejudiced. Huh? One of the great surprises that a lot of people receive when they move to Idaho is how really unprejudiced this place is. One of my wife’s students adopted a black child several years ago — and no one here has ever expressed any suspicion, discomfort, or even surprise that a white couple would adopt a black child. (When he went to Atlanta some years ago, there was a lot of negativity — from black people.)
I am also quite pleased at how little in the way of prejudicial remarks about race or ethnicity I have heard, especially compared to living in California. I’ve lived here since late 2001 and I’ve heard one person express a stereotype about blacks and one person express a stereotype about Jews. When my daughter was working on her social work degree, one of her professors described her considerable research on Idaho attitudes and was similarly surprised at how free of racial and even sexual orientation prejudices this state is. There may well be a lot more prejudice that people keep to themselves. But if no one expresses those feelings, is it like the tree that falls in the forest, but there’s no one there to hear it?