I lived for several years in Tegucigalpa, Honduras operating a small non-profit for children. A friend, Kathy, and I often met for a cafecito* at one of the coffee shops in the capitol. We were two Americans who happily shared conversations about our lives in Honduras.
One aspect of our coffee klatches was speculating on the occasional sighting of white people. The presence of white people in the sea of brown faces that passed in front of us was not an everyday occurrence. We would speculate if the rare pale-faced newcomers were missionaries, embassy workers, or even rarer, hapless tourists. After all, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, was more known for murders and violence than photo-ops and cultural landmarks. It was not, and is not today, a tourist town.
In order to not embarrass ourselves or startle the unfortunate white souls we spotted, we had a code.
“Do you see those RWPs ordering coffee?” I would say to Kathy.
Or, she would say to me, “Do you see that RWP trying to hail a taxi?”
It just seemed nicer to be overheard saying “RWP” rather than the non-political correct moniker, “white people” or “white person.” Also, it was entirely possible we would see the RWP again, and perhaps, be introduced formally at a church gathering, missionary meeting, or at an embassy social event for other Americans in the capital. I didn’t want to be remembered as the idle coffee shop wag who singled out unsuspecting white people as objects of speculation.
Now, I live near New Orleans, Louisiana. I still see RWPs. But this time, the tag doesn’t stand for Random White People. No, I live among Rich White People. My home is in an affluent pocket of citizenry near Lake Pontchartrain which sits on the opposite side of the lake from New Orleans.
There is a veritable sea of white people in this community. The population here is overwhelmingly white, wealthy, and have a taste for luxury brand of automobiles. When I am out and about town, I speculate on the person or persons who steps of the Lexus SUV or Cadillac Escalade. Are they stepping out to attend hot yoga sessions or pick up sushi for dinner? Remarkably, even their luxury vehicles are usually white.
No matter where I live, I am bound to see RWPs.
*Cafe = Coffee. Central Americans have a tendency to add -cito or -ito to the end of nouns, signifying small.