Angry Letter: WASP = racism?

In my review of “The Ant Bully,” I cracked a joke about how the wasps “should have had snooty New Hampshire accents — you know, WASPs.” I shouldn’t be surprised that EVERYTHING can be offensive to someone, but I wasn’t expecting this kind of response….

Dear Eric,

Thank you for writing the review on this movie. It was helpful.

However, I resent your comment made about those “snooty New Hampsire accents.” Please, this was really not necessary. Make your review and stick to that, as you do well. However, when you throw slander, bias and prejudice to an entire state, you just offend people.

As you pointed out in your review about that movie, there were certain elements that didn’t even need to be there. Do the right thing and remove the crass remarks about the people who live in the state of New Hampsire. They just don’t need to be there.

Thank you,

Wakefield, NH

Dumbfounded that someone could actually be bothered by such an innocuous remark, I replied:

This is a joke, right? You weren’t ACTUALLY offended by my reference to “snooty New Hampshire accents,” right?

Bill from New Hampshire responded:

Offended? To be honest, it takes a lot to really offend me. So I’m not going to say I was offended when I really didn’t take it personally. But, I did think it could have gone without saying. I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. So given that you write a public article like that, and me not knowing the author well, I just thought it was a out-of-place. Any link of a general population as ‘snooty’ or to a click of people called “WASP”s is just not really needed. I don’t like that association personally.

Please consider this nothing more than a friendly request to remove or alter those remarks. There are no threats that I would ever attach to such a request or ever will. It’s completely in your court to do anything as you see fit.

I personally would just like to see the comments removed.

Thank you for your response and your consideration on this. And thank you for the movie article. I hope to see this movie with a couple of special young girls in my life this week.

Bill seemed like a nice enough guy, but I just couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. I responded:

Well, I was going off the fact that there ARE a lot of snooty WASPs in New Hampshire. That’s not to say all New Hampshire residents fit that description, just that it’s a common perception with some validity. The reader will read it and think, “Yeah, I know what he’s talking about.” Someone might make reference to a “hick Kentucky accent” or a “surfer dude California accent.” And the people in those areas, if they are honest, would say, “Yep, there are a lot of people around here who talk like that.”

I guess it just goes to show that no matter how benign a joke is, there’s always someone, somewhere, who will be bothered by it…

His next reply began to shed light on what the big deal was:

In your comments, you mention WASPs, as the acronym to associate to the insect. Clever association, but you linked in my state there with the acronym. Do you understand what WASP stands for and what they did? The acronym stands for While Anglo-Saxon Protestant. It was a group that frequently touted that the “white race” was the supreme race. They were racists. They also had ties with the KKK.

Although I may fit the physical description of WASP, I certainly don’t care for anything this group stood for. Put in the word “NAZI” v.s. “WASP” and the connotation that goes along with that, and you get the feeling a New Hampshire person might get by being associated with that group.

Ahhhhhh. I replied:

It sounds like the whole problem here stems from a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word “WASP.” I don’t think the general association most people have with that term is the same as yours, i.e., the racists, KKK, etc. I think most people, when they hear “WASP,” just think of white, upper-middle-class Americans. I can see why you would object so much to the term if its connotation for you is racism, but truly, I don’t think that’s how most people take the term.

And his reply:

I assure you that I have no misunderstanding of the meaning of the word wasps as in “W.A.S.P.”s. Which is the association you make in your review. You are a little younger than myself, and so for your generation, that may be the case. Ask the opinion of those you may know, who are 10 years older or more than you, if they would mind that association, and you might get a different viewpoint than the one you have.

It is an acronym as I have already stated for this group. And although to your generation, you may not be aware of this group, those older than you are very much aware. There are some people that still adhere to this belief system.

In any case, I promised that I would not really put anything further on this request and I am not. You have made your decision. Just adding more to the dialog and information.

On a side, it may prove to be an interesting social experiment. To see who reacts in what way to this verbiage. In talking with a younger lady last night, she had no idea what WASPs meant. This adds to your viewpoint, and also to mine.

All right, folks, I’m putting it to you. When you hear “WASP,” do you think of racism or the KKK? Or do you just think of Eleanor Roosevelt? (Well, maybe not her specifically, but that type: white, upper-class, maybe snooty.) I’m perfectly willing to be wrong about this. If the term has a different connotation, a much more negative one, than I’m familiar with, I’d like to know about it.