July 07, 2011

Hipster racism

A brilliant analysis of the "hipster" phenomenon that deserves to be quoted and read in full:

Hipster Racism

By S.E. SmithHard on the heels of my discussion about liberal sexism, I think it’s time to talk about hipster racism. I’m borrowing the term “hipster racism” from Carmen Van Kerckhove over at Racialicious, because it really is a perfect word to describe the phenomenon, and I note that other people are using the term as well. Hipster racism is a pretty pernicious problem, and it seems to be growing.

What is hipster racism?

Hipster racism involves making derogatory comments with a racial basis in an attempt to seem witty and above it all. Specifically, the idea is to sound ironic, as in “I’m allowed to say this because of course I’m not racist, so it’s funny.” It’s an aspect of a larger part of the hipster culture, which wants to seem jaded and urbane and oh-so-witty. Using language which is viewed as inflammatory or not appropriate is supposed to push the boundaries and make someone look edgy, but it only really comes across that way to people who buy into that system. To everyone else, it’s just racist.

The thing about using racist content in an “ironic” context is that it still perpetuates racist ideas, and it is, in fact, racist. While people may ardently claim that they are not racist, the people who engage in hipster racism are overwhelmingly white and middle class, and they clearly have some unaddressed racial issues which are being subverted in their attempts to be edgy. Sometimes, they are actually explicitly racist, and they are using hipster racism as a way of presenting their racism in a way which will be acceptable within their social groups.

Hipster racism often hides under the unassailable guise of satire. People who suggest that something is racist, and not actually funny, are told that they obviously just don’t get it, and that the whole point of humour is to push boundaries. They are told that the racism is so obvious and overstated that it’s meant to be laughed at, and that people are laughing at the racism and the racists, not supporting the ideas which are supposedly being mocked. But, oddly enough, a lot of racist satire doesn’t read that way, and it ends up just being racist, full stop.

Much as people seem to think that having gay friends makes it ok to make homophobic comments, or that having female friends makes it ok to be sexist, hipster racists often draw upon their anti-racist credentials such as “having black friends,” “dated an Asian girl once,” or “really liking Mexican food” to fight accusations of racism. If they even bother fighting the accusations, that is, because most live in an insular world where they will not be challenged.

The other favourite hipster defense is, of course, to claim that people are being “too politically correct” or “too sensitive.” This is supposed to be a pithy insult which indicates that the person pointing out offensive behavior is too uptight, and not really part of the freewheeling hipster movement, but in fact, it’s just silencing. Saying that people deserve to be treated like human beings and that discourse should be respectful has nothing to do with being too sensitive, and everything to do with genuinely believing that people should be treated equally.

The very hipster lifestyle is, in some ways, racist, and definitely not very introspective when it comes to race. Hipsters are a driving force behind gentrification, driving out low income people and people of colour. They consistently co-opt and appropriate elements of other cultures, piecemeal, and often without any cultural sensitivity or respect. They regularly draw upon the work and legacy of people of colour, usually without crediting them, and most of their contact with people of colour comes in the form of the service personnel serving them their food, cleaning their wine bars, and picking their organic produce.

As hipster racism has become more widespread, it’s also crept into more general society. Racist content appears in films and television shows, disguised as “satire,” it’s on the cover of major magazines, it’s in the pages of respectable newspapers. While explicit racism is viewed as socially unacceptable, racism disguised as irony or satire is evidently perfectly acceptable, especially if it comes from middle class white people with trust funds. Indeed, I recently read a New York Times article in which the author suggested that people feel “relieved” when they are no longer “harassed by prevailing cultural sensitivities,” because apparently the idea of treating people with dignity or confronting your own racism is a burden.

I think that this concept is also pretty closely tied in with liberal sexism, because the core defense of practitioners of liberal sexism and hipster racism is “but I don’t really feel this way, therefore it’s funny/acceptable.”

But, guess what? It’s not.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see:

Cultural appropriation on Al Jazeera
The magical power of intent
Cowboys & Findians in The Dudesons
Minorities suffer microaggressions
Why hipster headdresses aren't okay

Below:  Some examples of hipster racism.


Anonymous said...

Oh, on the Israel post, perhaps the ur-"funny aneurysm" moment is just how much the Bible talks about the "holy seed" and how Jews should not mix with others. And God ordering the Jews to kill their neighbors and enslave them; I'm waiting for an alternate interpretation where God's the Big Bad.

dmarks said...
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ziontruth said...

Re: The "Gaza Indian Reserve" post:

Not a people, not a nation, not indigenous. Arab settler-colonist land-thieves falsely claiming the name of those who are a people, are a nation and are the only true indigenous of Palestine—the Jews.

To be an anti-Zionist is to support the injustice of Arab imperialism against the indigenous Palestinian nation, the Jewish nation.

Anonymous said...

How about a time when Jews and Arabs were of the same people? All the religious zeal and historical divisions do not make Jewish blood purple or Arab blood orange. Last I checked, red blood spilled on both sides.

If you expect racism to fade from your communities, start with yourselves!

Anonymous said...

LOL - No hipster would be caught dead wearing a "My Indian name is runs with beer." A hipster would consider that kind of shirt to be tacky and inappropriate.

jaine said...

I wouldn't have thought middle aged show bands and pudgy white guys in faux fur loin cloths fit the bill either (racist yes, but not hipster) but then what I know of hipsters fits in the small end of nothing

dmarks said...

Yeah, and "runs with beer" is firmly redneck, not hipster. But I think Rob was just giving a sample of modern stereotype images, without spefically requiring them to be 'hipster'.

Anonymous said...

TO ziontruth:

Both Arabs and Native Americans have both been labeled as terrorists but if you recall on October 11, 1985, Alex Odeh, the West Coast regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, was killed in a bomb blast when he entered his group's office in Santa Ana, southern California. The previous evening the Palestinian-born Odeh had appeared on a local news show to present an Arab perspective on the Arab-Israeli conflict. The FBI announced that the Jewish Defense League (JDL) was responsible for the murder of Odeh, and at least two other terrorist incidents. The three JDL associates who were suspected of carrying out the killing fled to Israel to avoid punishment. No one has ever been tried for the murder of Alex Odeh.

The powerful Jews in Hollywood and American media networks have also never curved the anti-native sentiment in films and TV shows, yet, we are supposed to be understanding of their plight for regaining their homeland. Too bad they work against the plight of the American Indian in regaining his homeland, muchless the degrading depictions we are still trying to fight?

dmarks said...

The anonymous antisemite says "The powerful Jews in Hollywood and American media...."

And once again the time-worn Nazi idea of Jews controlling the media rears its very ugly head.

"Too bad they work against the plight of the American Indian..."

Of course, neo-nazi. To the uncritical racist mind, there's a conspiracy among these evil Gnomes of Zion to keep the Natives down along with everyone else.

Anonymous said...

When you resort to namecalling Dmarks, it only appears you are backed into a corner and have no reason to respond with resolve or insight to comments that spark your emotion, but stop your brain in its tracks.

We can sit here and racially pinpoint all of the racism and discrimination at an ambiguous color labeled "white", but when we get specific about prejudices from the Irish, Jews and even within our own tribes, it gets offensive and disturbs.

I got that info quoted from an interview Marlon Brando, an actor with extensive Hollywood experience that spoke Yiddish, was accused of being anti-semitic as well, but Brando, the people who knew him closely and his autobiography clearly credits his Jewish friends for shaping much of his life in a positive way.

It is too easy to hide behind labels and name-calling. It looks desperate and reactionary, but when you offer more intelligent responses and factual historical accounts documented to back you up, no amount of verbal tag and anger changes things.

Get angry at Hollywood Dmarks and do something about it instead of ventilating your emotion from a corner. It makes you look like a dunce!

dmarks said...
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dmarks said...

"When you resort to namecalling Dmarks"

Sorry, I resorted to facts. The 'Jews control the media' myth is a deplorable staple of Nazi thought.

You might also want to research this bit of deplorable Nazi ideology which you have said as your own view, and continue to support.

"it only appears you are backed into a corner"

Nope. If anything, it is Nazis that are "Backed into a corner" so they toss out logic and lash out with racial hatred. If I were backed into a corner, I would make false accusations, instead of properly identify the strain of racist hatred which you have embraced.

Rather than use enraged insults, I used accurate terms to describe the type, and origin, of the views presented here.

"but stop your brain in its tracks."

Perhaps you are backed into a corner, as you are using a version of the "brainless" insult to shift the subject away from having been proven so very wrong.

"We can sit here and racially pinpoint..."

I have news for you, I oppose all racism. Against any race, or sub/ethnic group there of.

"[Brando]... was accused of being anti-semitic as well"

It wasn't a matter of name calling or "accusation". . It was a factual identification, as Brando mouthed the Nazi myths of Jewish control as his own beliefs. A very accurate description. If you look into the account, it's very clear that Brando was antisemitic. No doubt or "accusation".

"but Brando, the people who knew him closely and his autobiography clearly credits his Jewish friends for shaping much of his life in a positive way."

So? Many people engage in racial hatred in "generalities", of entire groups, while boasting that they can't be racist because they have individual friends who are members of the group that they are racist against.

In fact, this is a kind of cliche. Look into the history of the phrase "some of my best friends are Jews"

"It is too easy to hide behind labels and name-calling."

True. So I deal in facts, which includes properly pointing out when someone deals in deplorable stereotypes. As for labels in general, they have specific meanings, and I am very well are of this.

"but when you offer more intelligent responses..."

I'd like you to try. Instead of backing away from your own antisemitic claims, you chose as support another antisemite.

"no amount of verbal tag and anger changes things."

Exactly. You need to let go of the hatred. Nazi "logic" and "history" is devoid of logic or fact. So calm down: the Elders of Zion are not out to get you. Jews do not control the media or banks.

And yes, Anon. The Holocaust did occur.

dmarks said...

"Get angry at Hollywood Dmarks and do something about it instead of ventilating your emotion from a corner. It makes you look like a dunce!"

Again, properly identifying antisemitic views is not a matter of "name calling". It is a matter of being accurate. The real problem here is rabid hatred of Jews. There is no problem at all with accurately identifying it.

So here ... I stick to the facts, and you call me a dunce and say I have a stopped brain for doing so. And no, I am not angry at the evil mythical Jewish cabal in Hollywood. That's your problem.