It's really interesting with a very differnet perspective, and I've been rethinking my own assumptions in light of the fact that it's not just that I'm white, though obviously, yeah, but also because of my reasoning when I first read it.
This was my answer to her in her LJ:
Here's my context on that one, since you're correct; there's no way to know for sure on this one.
This is fairly specific, because I'm from Texas and the South, and rural Texas at that--I don't tend to feel comfortable giving the benefit of the doubt because how I read it corresponded to how racist remarks were coded in conversations (when people bothered to code it). My family disinherited my aunt for a short time for marrying a black man, and even though I was very young, I can remember being uncomfortable with the conversations about it, even if now I don't remember them.
I mean, I can totally admit possibility and likelihood of her really getting the reference, and it's possible it was cultural carelessness; but (again, my experience and no one else's) I remember enough of how racism among (white) acquaintances/family members/etc would verbalize that it reads more likely that direction in my experience. That said, she could just be that dumb. The other part is, even if she didn't mean it as it is culturally, as in, she really didn't get the reference at all, the association she made with 'white hope' and 'white men' and 'smart', 'light', etc aren't really all that much better.
(Not that I am saying my superpower is translating coded white racism here, though that would certainly be a weird superpower to have. More the pattern was familiar.)
I think my own background clicked in hard on this one, so honestly, its pretty possible I'm weighing against her for that.
Thanks for writing this out so completely. I've been coming back to re-read and think since you posted.
The reason this particular 'white hope' thing hit me is because the more blatant racism that shows up masked in 'dunno' presents, to me, differently. Again, this is not my white superpower of interpreting racist conversation--this matched pattern familiarity in casual conversation where I grew up. Blatant racism wasn't rare when I was a kid--seriously--but over my childhood to adulthood, it was also coded into conversation in non-blatant ways. On one hand, I guess that's encouraging that it moved to shorthand code--it was less acceptable to be a proto-KKK in public, whee, let's all feel better about ourselves as human beings. On the other, the progression was noticeable if you lived with it, and it was and can be invisible, especially in semi-isolated groups in certain areas who socialize together too much.
It isn't new that I recognize it; again, rural fucking Texas. It's new for me that I'm going back and trying to recognize it bleeding into normal human conversation, narrow down what it is, and get rid of it. Most of it in my life I heard and didn't pay attention to, was uncomfortable with, tried to not notice, but that doens't mean I didn't memorize and internalize it. It just means I was really good at pretending that I was above that sort of shit and if I wasn't doing it, it didn't matter and I have done my duty to society.
So this, which felt to me pretty much like a lot of what I heard from the age of reason up, didn't ping as "accident" or even "stupid" (though also stupid) but it pinged like a not very subtle psuedoclever sekrit public racism. It's entirely possible I'm wrong in that, which I don't deny. But that does tend to make me react with a lot less suspension of disbelief when it's defended as an accident or ignorance.
I still can't believe it wasn't that, but a part of that is also, if it was in fact pure stupidity, a sad lack of knowing anything about our culture, and everything else, even if that remark was somehow stripped of context, it's still language coded to identify 'white' with 'light' and 'hope' in context with a black President.
It's two and holy God do I hope that made sense. YMMV; I'm still thinking through how to separate out what I remember growing up in a racist state, area, world and how to lessen that influence. I'm just not sure it's, for me, a good idea to give white people making really blatantly questionable remarks the benefit of the doubt when in general, there's another instinct that really does make me want to autodefend because I don't want something to be racist. A part of me kind of wants to zero tolerance it in others because I'm trying to do that with myself, and if I'm going to slap myself around for expressing racist attitudes even by accident, I don't see why I should let other people slide on something I'm trying not to let myself slide on.