April 27, 2012

hipster racism

Filed under:, — cwage @ 1:21 pm

This is a good article. The tone and subject matter border a bit on what I find annoying about stuffwhitepeoplelike (the overly self-aware self/race-loathing), but a lot of it hits pretty close to home.

I just saw this exchange on twitter:

[radleybalko] Acoustic covers of rap songs? Racist. And most jokes. And visiting ethnic neighborhoods. You're keeping a list, right? http://t.co/lJKvvcDZ
[@GeeDee215] @radleybalko eh, i think she's referring to the mocking tone that those covers so often take.
[@jbouie] @GeeDee215 @radleybalko right, quite a few of those covers come with a weird sense "isn't this so quaint?"
[@radleybalko] .@jbouie @GeeDee215 Sure. But it's hardly racist. It's like when a punk band covers a country song. Or a bluegrass band does Slayer.

The problem here, as I pointed out on twitter, is that it's not quite the same thing because the phenomenon is far, far more pervasive than a bluegrass band doing a quirky cover. There's practically an entire genre of white people being oh-so-hilariously not-black.

I had a conversation recently with someone about the similar/intertwined phenomenon of white girls throwing gang signs and acting mock-gangsta (as observed in the above jezebel article). I was finally able to narrow down what it is about this that makes it so incredibly annoying. Basically: it's racist as shit. But it's a very insidious and clever sort of racism. It's racism couched in the language of self-deprecation. Ha ha, look at me! I'm so not black! It's hilarious self-deprecation, so it's okay, right? But it's not, really. All it is, really, is a clever re-hash of overt mockery of an Other -- in this case, black people and culture. And this whole phenomenon is inextricably linked with the mock hiphop/gangsta thing. It was sortof funny, possibly, the first time a white person covered NWA with an acoustic guitar, you know, in 1996. Maybe. Now it's a horse that's been beaten to a pulp. A racist horse!

I'm not saying anyone that has thrown a gang sign or imitated Tupac (i do a really good tupac impression*) is a sheet-wearing cross-burner, but you should think about what you're doing anyway and maybe not do it.

* No I don't.