Had a conversation with my sister today. She said she thought that there were sub-groups of WASPs. Yes, I said, exactly what I was thinking! She said, our family isn’t Southern golf-playing WASPs or even New England thrifty WASPs. Actually, I said, you are sort of High WASP meets People’s Republic of Berkeley. Yes, she said, I am a hippie intellectual WASP. But, I said, the WASPs in Palo Alto (another Bay Area suburb in case you aren’t familiar with our area) are also sort of hippie intellectual, but different. Yes, she said, they have more money. They have good cars. They care more about the environment, we care more about poverty.
My sister said, it’s almost a diaspora of WASPs. She pronounced the word correctly. Yes, I said, exactly what I was thinking! Except I didn’t know how to pronounce the word. However, she said, diaspora is largely used in another context. So the word needs to be used carefully. My sister meant that when you come from a background of privilege, you really don’t get to coopt certain terms. She’s right. That’s part of post-modern High WASPism. Of liberal North California High WASPism. You know your ancestors exploited all kinds of people. You applaud the flood of ethnic and economic and class diversity across America. You are very careful not to speak openly (except in the privacy of the entire Internet of course) about the privilege you have experienced. But even so you do feel wistful about your childhood, because, after all, as a child you only knew that it was your mom and your dad and your brother and your sisters and your house.
Even if everyone was blond. And the house was, well, big.
So we will just say that sub-species have developed. Originally, high WASPs came from Boston, New York, or Philadelphia. And the distinction between the three cities mattered. Now the WASP archetype seems to have devolved into relative – although fun – trivia. Where to buy cute pink and green picture frames? Should a man wear a faded red sports jacket and call it chambray? Is that the end of the discussion? Does it matter if it is? And what are high WASPs like in Chicago? In St. Louis? In Charleston? In Cleveland?
What I am saying is true. I just can’t tell if it matters.