Transferring lines in the subway yesterday, I noticed another white man puzzling over a subway map. He looked American enough, so I boldly asked, "Can I help you?"
"No English," was his reply in a Russian accent, a bit self-conscious.
"어디 가요?" I asked.
"Ah," he said with a word of recognition. He showed me where he was headed on the map, and I gathered he wasn't sure whether to turn to the left or to the right in transferring.
Carefully surveying the situation for a moment, I pointed to the right, he thanked me, and we moved onward on our respective paths.
One lesson my friend Matthew reported understanding better after his band's European tour this summer was that,
America just doesn't fit into the cultural spectrum of "white people" as they exist in their homeland, Europe. You have to go to countries that are actually ethnically "white countries" to understand that America isn't a white nation any more than it's a black or a Hispanic or an Asian nation.The above encounter, combined with meeting Sergei from Ukraine on the street last week, has taught me a bit about how this is so.