Monthly Archives: February 2013

It is true, of course, that white guys do not have a monopoly on appalling behavior. There are plenty of young Black and Latino boys who are equally desperate to prove their manhood, to test themselves before the watchful, evaluative eyes of other guys. But only among White boys do the negative dynamics of Guyland seem to play themselves out so invisibly. Often, when there’s news of young Black boys behaving badly, the media takes on a ‘what can you expect?’ attitude, failing to recognize that expecting such behavior from Black men is just plain racism. But every time White boys hit the headlines, regardless of how frequently, there is an element of shock, a collective, ‘How could this happen? He came from such a good family!’. Perhaps not identifying the parallel criminal behavior among White guys adds an additional cultural element to the equation: identification. Middle-class White families see the perpetrators as ‘our guys.’ We know them. We are them. They cannot be like that.

–Michael Kimmel, “Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men”

(via Lavender Labia)

Babies’ Mamas exists — or would have existed — in a television landscape that is increasingly devoid of shows with black casts, and the term “baby mama” itself makes a lot of people concerned about the number of black children are born to unmarried parents see red. It’s a perfect storm of anxieties about cultural representation and pathologies. There aren’t a lot of images of black people on TV, the argument goes. The ones that appear could at least be affirming, or barring that, not stereotypical.

One of the odd side effects of many reality shows — even those shows meant to paint their subjects as ridiculous or distasteful — is that they can humanize their stars. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’s detractors are myriad, and they often single out the disdain the producers seem to take toward the Thompsons, the family at the its center. But the show’s fans point out that that disdain (which is nakedly class-based) is undercut by the fact that the Thompsons are affirming toward each other and actually kind of boringly level-headed about their strange notoriety.

If unconventional families — polygamists, huge broods, marginal celebrities — are a staple of the reality show genre, Babies’ Mamas would seem to fit neatly within those parameters. What if the show’s subjects were mostly concerned with mundane stuff like carpooling logistics and dance rehearsals? Isn’t it possible that Babies’ Mamas could have also granted some humanity to real baby’s mamas and complicated some simplistic, ugly stereotypes about them?

— Gene Demby, “All My Babies’ Mamas Won’t Be Happening, But What If It Had?”, npr.org 1/17/13

(via Racialicious)

So, okay, I was definitely among those shaking their heads at this foolishness when news of it popped up in my Google Reader, buttttt I have a disdain for reality television in general. I don’t like crass. I particularly don’t like crass when it’s Black crass, because we no longer have a plethora of other examples of Blackness in the media to balance that shit out. In an ideal world where, you know, reality TV is unscripted and ratings aren’t dependent upon making the biggest fool out of oneself possible, then yeah, it would be possible that Babies’ Mamas could have done some necessary complicating of stereotypes. But we don’t live in that world. 

The closing lyric of “The Only Black Guy at the Indie-Rock Show” goes, “I wonder if white folks who like Jay-Z often feel as alienated as me,” which opens a conundrum. Somewhere between the Beastie Boys and Eminem, hip hop became one of the most popular art forms on earth, one socially acceptable for white people to like. Whereas American society quickly co-opted and overtook rock‘n’roll, crafting it into its own (white) image, hip hop remained in the category of “black” music and ultimately became the easiest way to stick it to the Baby Boomer Establishment. Soon, African-Americans were recognized as the arbiters of cool — finally recognized for our contributions to American popular culture, dating back almost an entire century — and whiteness became a synonym for squareness.

The reason why the Stuff White People Like humor genre has so many holes in it is because the vast majority of the things lampooned are not white-specific, they’re creature comforts of the middle class. But the lines between race and class are getting blurrier and blurrier by the day, and there are quite a few people of color being born into comfortable financial situations who will likely never know what it’s like to be poor. Thus, memes like White Person Bingo end up portraying a common theme in popular culture: class stereotyping poorly and tastelessly masquerading as race stereotyping. This is hugely problematic because it implies people of color are exempt from liking or owning things that are associated with the middle class. Sometimes the people who make these jokes don’t realize there’s a not-so-fine line between craft beer and malt liquor, and it’s not a line of color.

There is the implicit notion that indie rock is generally linked to the “highbrow middle class” end of American culture. (If your Average American Joe drew a line that connected NPR, indie rock, and white people, that line would be straight as an arrow.) Critics and fans suggest it’s an auteur’s medium, while areas of art chiefly practiced by people of color are most often celebrated for their immediacy and accessibility. (In layman’s terms, the most acclaimed works by POC are things you don’t have to think hard about.) This line was less defined in 2012 (Channel Orange and goodkid, M.A.A.D. city, for instance), but the topic of race and class frequently come up when an artist of color creates something widely considered “highfalutin’” or “artistic.” And then critics fall out of their seats to praise genres of music they generally don’t care about, they pretend the entire world has changed because a person of color has created a challenging piece of art. “These artists are moving beyond the artistic vocabulary of the environment,” they’re likely to say.

But what about those kids of color born into the middle class? It’s likely that they’re going to be turned onto the culture all on their own, without the cooler older siblings who passes down their Pixies records. Also, what about the kids of color born into poverty, ones who take solace in skateboarding and punk? Couldn’t we safely assume the vast majority of people who regularly read this website have Screaming Females (or at least Screaming Trees) listed after Schoolboy Q in their iTunes libraries?

— Martin Douglas, “The Only Black Guy At The Indie Rock Show,” MTVHive.com 1/16/13

(via Racialicious)

OkCupid thinks one of my strongest personality traits is that I am “less indie” than the average bisexual 23 year old woman. I find that…laughable. It wholly and definitively depends upon whose standards you’re measuring me by. 

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(You can’t buy happiness. But you can buy books, and that’s basically the same thing.)

I’m trying this weird new thing wherein I attempt to read all the books I own before buying any new books or getting a library card. Kindle-pricing be damned.

I’m also on this new thing wherein I try to retain some basic Spanish language ability, so I’m trying to talk to myself in Spanish while I’m doing household chores.