Woohoo, It’s Friday, Let’s Talk About Racism!*

Never let it say that at Fangs and Clause central that I don’t have fun. Unfortunately, one of my greatest joys is schadenfreude. This is why Yo, Is This Racist? is one of my favorite blogs. It makes me feel like less of a dumb ass. When I’m feeling a little more intellectual, I like to read Crunk Feminist Collective. Instead of schadenfreude, I find incisive, extensive discussions of race, culture, academia, and society. They are not hack bloggers, like myself. Each post is an article. It’s well-thought-out cultural criticism based, often, in personal experience or on current events.

I’m a white, thirty-mumble woman living in a predominately white neighborhood. I have lived in more racially diverse places in the past. I am from the South, where you can’t avoid the fact of racial discrimination. It’s not that folks in the South are necessarily more racist than folks in the North, it’s just that it’s all at the surface. I know that when my parents moved to Hometown in 1965, they made sure to move to Fantastic Elementary School neighborhood, because it was one of the elementary schools that was desegregated. Not all of them were.

I don’t often talk about racism in my daily life. But there are things I notice. (I’m sure there are many other things I don’t notice.) This entire post is really an excuse to post an article from Jezebel today about hipster, or ironic, racism. Now in my more urban past I spent time with people who could rightfully be called hipsters.

I came across a lot of hipster sexism. Naked lady flaps on a minivan is not ironic, it is offensive. Hatred of Joy Harjo in my grad school program was probably racist, with a bit of sexism. She was a shorthand for everything certain MFA boys hated. Frank, vivid poetry that addresses racism. The Jezebel article talks about how people think they can make fun of racism by imitating it. I spent a lot of time “making fun” of a particular regional accent in the place where I went to college. Three months in I had that very accent.

So, be polite. Own your words and thoughts. Listen well. And when you’re dealing with a fraught issue take the extra time to make sure you get it right. And, because you guys are the peachiest (Downith, that is 1950s slang for da bomb), here is a quick, brilliant video guide about how to confront racism in casual conversation.

(My thanks to KVO, without whom most of these links wouldn’t have found their way into my hot-linking hands.)

*Also, please note that it is white privilege that I can write about racism like it’s a diverting and intellectual topic, rather than a dead-serious phenomenon that I have to deal with every day while walking down the street, hailing a cab, applying for jobs, going to the grocery store, sitting in class, or watching TV.

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7 responses to “Woohoo, It’s Friday, Let’s Talk About Racism!*

  1. Ugh, hipster sexism/racism. “But it’s just a joooooooke! You KNOW I’m not being SERIOUS!” Actually, I think you *are* being serious but know that your feelings aren’t socially acceptable, so you pretend you’re kidding when you’re really not. Grrrr.

    On a lighter note, this post reminded me of this image from a Tumblr I saw yesterday, Animals Disappointed in your College Performance: http://26.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m33ln2nCvR1ruyrpjo1_1280.png

    • I LOVE that picture, thanks :). So maybe if the “What you said is racist even though you might not be racist” talk doesn’t work, you can shower them with cute bear cub pictures? Might be more effective, indeed.

  2. I’ve been thinking about this lately, how to treat a subject with respect while being historically accurate, and not coming across as passively racist. The stumbling point for me is when in the prevalent racism of the time someone would have been seen as open-minded, and now they are not at all. I suppose the answer is to write really, really well…the answer to most fictive stumbling blocks.
    Right-o. So I suppose I’ll just do that then.

    • Good call. But you bring in a whole other level to this discussion. How do you manage to deal accurately with historical racism/colonialism in historical fiction without being a total asshole? Any insight appreciated. (The best-written sentence in my entire undergrad thesis, was where I sensitively spoke about bisexuality in Shakespeare’s sonnets, because I had to think so hard about how to be true to myself and my values.)

      • I wonder if the case isn’t to be made that in order to be raw and powerful, it has to be, well, raw. Honesty and ugliness have a place in art and it is possible that under the yoke of political correctness there may be a fear of sanitizing for the sake of what should be right, as opposed to the ugliness that does or did exist.
        Maybe it will have the effect of making the author into an asshole, but does it add to the story, or is it just for shock value. If it adds, if it’s necessary then the asshole label may be the price to pay.

      • I hear what you’re saying, Lyra. I wrote the post thinking about more formal writing. Creative art can be more raw, but you’d have to be damn sure you could stand behind it. Asshole or no.

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