A Complete Guide to ‘Hipster Racism’

There’s been a lot of talk these last couple of weeks about “hipster racism” or “ironic racism”—or, as I like to call it, racism. It’s, you know, introducing your black friend as “my black friend”—as a joke!!!—to show everybody how totally not preoccupied you are with your black friend’s blackness. It’s the gentler, more clueless, and more insidious cousin of a hick in a hood; the domain of educated, middle-class white people (like me—to be clear, I am one of those) who believe that not wanting to be racist makes it okay for them to be totally racist. “But I went to college—I can’t be racist!” Turns out, you can.

What’s actually complicated is our country’s relationship with race, and our utter ineptitude at talking about it. We suck. {snip} But this new scheme someone came up with—where we prove we’re not racist by acting as casually racist as possible? Not our best, white people. Not our best.

So racism went underground. Sure, you can’t say racist things anymore, but you can pretend to say them! Which, it turns out, is pretty much the exact same thing. There are a couple of strains of “ironic racism” making the rounds right now, and a couple of typical defenses.

1. “Tee-Hee, Aren’t I Adorable?”

This category includes things like wide-eyed acoustic covers of hip-hop songs, suburban white girls flashing gang signs, and this Tweet from Zooey Deschanel: “Haha. :) RT @Sarabareilles: Home from tour and first things first: New Girl episodes I missed. #thuglife.” See, it’s hilarious, because we aren’t thugs—we are darling girls, and real thugs are black people who do crime! {snip}

{snip}

2. “Recreational Slumming.”

Wherein privileged people descend for a visit inside the strange, foreign spaces of othered groups. Like, I don’t know, IHOP. Or that “scary” bar in the south end. Then they go home again. Catchphrase: “It’s soooooo ghetto, but I actually totally like it!”

4. “God, Don’t White People Suck?”

Okay, I get what you’re trying to do here—having some fun at the expense of the oppressors while setting yourself up as one of the “cool” white people—but mainly what you end up doing is implying that black people don’t like informative radio or TED talks. Stuff White People Like: having the best brains! Isn’t it great that we can make fun of ourselves while still reminding you that we’re better than you?

And the thing is, when these things get called out, there really is no defense. But they try:

“No, don’t you see? I’m just showing how I’m so down with [minority group] that it’s totally cool for me to make jokes at their expense. Because we are just that kind of tight bros now.”

No. You cannot unlock some secret double-not-racist achievement by just being regular racist. Otherwise Bill O’Reilly would be president of the NAACP.

“But it’s a JOOOOOKE.”

Here’s the thing about jokes. They only work when they’re aiming up. I wrote this in another piece recently, but I’m just going to plagiarize myself: People in positions of power simply cannot make jokes at the expense of the powerless. {snip}

“Yeah, but we have a black president! Isn’t racism over?”

Okay. That’s probably the most racist thing you’ve said all day, imaginary amalgam of all the careless hipsters in the world. You know how you can tell that black people are still oppressed? Because black people are still oppressed. If you claim that you are not a racist person (or, at least, that you’re committed to working your ass off not to be one—which is really the best that any of us can promise), then you must believe that people are fundamentally born equal. So if that’s true, then in a vacuum, factors like skin color should have no effect on anyone’s success. Right? And therefore, if you really believe that all people are created equal, then when you see that drastic racial inequalities exist in the real world, the only thing that you could possiblyconclude is that some external force is holding certain people back. Like . . . racism. Right? So congratulations! You believe in racism! Unless you don’t actually think that people are born equal. And if you don’t believe that people are born equal, then you’re a fucking racist.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Share on Facebook

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply