Oh man. Last week, whilst your correspondents were preoccupied with the 2012 NFL draft, the bloggernets blew up over a very interesting, if flawed, post on Jezebel by the lovely Lindy West regarding the state of race relations in Amerika (hint: they’re not great).
By now, all three of our loyal readers should have gathered that the editorial board of this esteemed publication likes nothing more than RAYCESSM , but we were too busy agonizing over the annual sporting drama in which a few hundred (mainly black) athletes are systematically denied their right to make the most of their immense (but fleeting) talents by negotiating the terms of their employment on something approximating a level playing field.
So I guess that’s our iteration of the always awkward whiteboy declaration that “I’m not racist you guys, I totally have black facebook friends LOL!”. Except that while Magic Sam, Vincent Casablancas, and I are aware enough to recognize this violation of the spirit (and possibly the letter) of Our Failed Nation’s anti-trust laws and the disproportionate impact it has on young black men, we still watch the draft without fail, every year.
As Our First Kenyan President Barry Obama is so fond of saying: let me be clear. I have a large and growing brain-boner for Lindy West (mainly for slaughtering the 3D release of Titanic, but everything she writes is smart and violently funny) and I applaud her willingness to take on the issue of race. Howevah, as with most anything not written by Christopher Hitchens there were a few points that could perhaps have been argued better.
I think it is important to recognize what racism is, and what it is not. False accusations of racism trivialize the real thing, which I am quick to admit still exists (whether in code or out in the open). It’s like when politicians and pundits trip over Godwin’s Law: Nazis were bad, like really bad, but Those Gott-damn Heathen Libruls are not Nazis, whatever else they may be (godless soshulists, mostly).
So is real racism trivialized when a blogger conflates racism and casually “ironic” racialist speech as an objection to other people trivializing important, ongoing racial injustice? My brain hurts, you guys.
Paraphrasing Lindy: “Being racist is wrong because it hurts people”. True enough. But who exactly is harmed when some vapid celebrity retweets a facetious #thuglife hashtag? The feelings of bloggers do not count here, because if you enter the public discourse without being prepared to be put off, you’re just disingenuous. “Taking Offense”, however sincere you may be in your moral superiority, is not an argument. And I came here for an argument.
Racism is wrong because it hurts people in a specific, tangible way. Implicitly racist policies like the war on drugs and the self-perpetuating ‘Merican prison state do tremendous damage presently (now that overt racism is discredited) so it’s important to call out reflexive racism and its insidious effects.
Hipster racism, howevah, is not that. When it comes to the ambiguities of what is or is not accepted in polite society, shouldn’t writers and other creative people insist on a severely, uh… discriminating test? Anything less and we quickly degenerate into a private thought police, as has already been demonstrated by Gawker contributors cheaply bestowing Lesley Arfin with the scarlet R. This is the intellectual equivalent of Rush Limbaugh’s slut-shaming antics, and it causes real harm to real people. And hurting people, as we have discussed, is wrong.
You could make an argument tying snarky anthropological expeditions to the ‘hood to the actual suffering of specific people, but the mental gymnastics of it are surely perilous and the logical extension of it is that everything is terrible, so let’s just pack our bags and go home (to our racially non-representative neighborhoods).
So, in a world where diversity of thought is tolerated as much as diversity of skin color, ethnicity, or national origin, Gawker Media contributors like Ms. West, Max Read, and Cord Jefferson carry the burden of proof of demonstrating that hipster racism, however stupid and tacky, causes real harm to real people. If it doesn’t, why is anyone wasting the limited editorial resources of Gawker Media and the finite attention span of its audience? There is plenty of unambiguous bigotry out there just crying out to be mocked mercilessly by talented, snarky writers. “Ironic” racism is utterly inconsequential.
And what of RAYCESSM, the dry satire of ignorant xenophobe buffoons we practice so proudly at The Daily Dickpunch? The word comes not from us, but from the mind of a genius: Drew Magary, a contributor at Gawker Media properties such as Gawker and Deadspin. A reader with a hyperactive sense of what is prejudiced might not take too kindly to our casual references to the Kenyan Prime Minister and his Zulu Reserve Army of Unemployed Brown People or to That Damn Messican, Mitt Romney.
If anything, Lindy West’s analysis is incomplete because it doesn’t contemplate fake racism as satire of the real thing. HowEVAH, by her own description of hipster racism, RAYCESSM seems to be lumped in with the skinny jeans-wearing dumbasses of Kings County, NY and their continual failure to say anything intelligent about anything, let alone race.
This is the first entry of Daily Dickpunch Race Week®. Interested in contributing something of your own? Let us know: publius1981 [at] gmail [dot] com