I Want to Speak to the Manager!
Why memes about white people crying to the authorities are so popular right now.
By ROB DOZIER
AUG 21, 20185:45 AM
Maybe you’ve seen this clip from 2013: A white woman with a stroller in tow stands in a Los Angeles Apple Store berating a black employee, her voice echoing through the store and attracting onlookers. “I was told by AppleCare that I could walk in the store and get the part!” she yells. …
Clearly, it’s racist to try to get the world’s first trillion dollar corporation to live up to its promises to you. Ask Tim Cook. He’ll tell you that white women with children who spent extra money to buy an Apple product should think about their White Privilege instead of hassling Apple.
In the past few years, some on the internet have tried to develop a language for describing the specific kind of entitlement that the Apple Store Lady embodied—one that seems to be tolerated only from white people. The best example is a collection of seemingly unrelated images: a white woman with a short, spiky, blonde haircut (reminiscent of Kate Gosselin’s famous do), a minivan, a pair of Bermuda jean shorts, and two white children in the midst of a physical altercation. The caption for this collage reads, “The ‘Can I speak to the Manager?’ starter kit.” It’s a digital caricature illustrating a particular kind of white person—one who would see no problem asking to speak to the manager over a minor inconvenience or for receiving service that doesn’t meet her standards.
Corporations have much more important things to worry about, such as Diversity and boosting profits (do you realize that there has never been a company with a quadrillion dollar market cap?), than living up to their pledges to white women customers who aren’t just white, they are breeders.
Through images and posts like this, the phrase “Can I speak to the manager?” has emerged as a shorthand for the excesses of privileged whiteness (a look at Google Trends points to sometime in 2014 as to when the phrase became popularly used). But why does this particular sentiment feel so salient right now?
… The fact that “Can I speak to the manager?” has so quickly become a part of internet vernacular suggests that the experience of white people acting wildly entitled—and appealing to, presumably, other white authority figures—is fairly ubiquitous. Whether you’ve worked in the service industry or retail or not, you know what this sort of eruption looks like. A white woman screaming at a cashier is just a very visceral manifestation of something that exists in every part of our lives: white privilege.
… The meme-ification of “Can I speak to your manager?” then represents a release valve, a way of working through the frustration of being a victim of white entitlement while laughing at it, a small but entertaining effort at “punching up” at the social dynamics at work around us.
How dare a white woman with a baby stroller punch down at Apple Corp.
But I don’t think that’s the only reason the phrase has gained such purchase of late. Headlines from the past few months have seemed to one-up each other in more ridiculous situations where white people have felt it necessary to call the police on black people—things like taking a nap or going to the pool or mowing a lawn. Out of those headlines, characters like BBQ Becky and Permit Patty became memes of their own …
But Murdered Mollie is not a meme.
For a contrary opinion on which demographic is most demanding of retail clerks, here’s the late Patrice O’Neal: