Sunday, July 6, 2008

Whiteness


When in doubt, slap a new coat of paint on an old idea and hawk it as something brand spanking fresh, as in the case of the folks who started up the site Stuff White People Like .Well, yeah, I laughed at this, recognized the material things we as a light skinned privledged gather about us, and then wearied of the whole notion of this satire. It's a riff that's been played into submission, like hearing the umpteenth posthumous live version of Hendrix playing "Red House" or the final "must-see" episode of the current season of Law and Order; try(and lie) as you might, there's nothing especially surprising at this point in Hendrix's drugged guitar fumblings, and the unexpected twist or turn of the legal scenario of that L/O storyline, the one that would simply stun you even though this show has been on the air for 18 years, is simply a hyped -up run through of old plot lines, old outrages, with the twists arriving on time, on schedule.Making fun of white people has been a dependable staple of comedians for years, a safe haven for those times when you have a need to deride, insult or stereotype an entire population with the most reductionist jibes. 

The sweet part of the deal is that one can indulge this stale diversion with impunity, as no one will muster the nerve or umbrage to yell foul; Richard Pryor through Dave Chapelle can mock the doings of the lighter hued race sans a protest, and white comedians will do it to their own kind because the current tone is zero toleration for a discouraging word said about anyone, on any terms, for any reason. Except white people. It's lopsided, yo. Gore Vidal remarked in the Sixties that homosexuals were the last minority group that one could make fun of and get away with, but times, attitudes and the strength of group pride changed all that. There remains the need to mock someone. White people are it. It may well be our turn in the barrel to many people's thinking, but that sort sort defeats the purpose of judging people by character, not skin color. This is progress?


"Post-racial" is a preferable state for the world to fall into, but meanwhile racial and ethnic matters are as touch as they've ever been. Ethnic cleansings are a very recent memory, and the GOP's hard right flank isn't shy about unloading racist stereotypes in their opposition to Obama's policies. Still, there remains , codified in our ethics, our laws, and our basic sense of decency, the notion that invective aimed at blacks, hispanics, gays, women, Asians and others is "wrong" , and evidence of a disturbed mind. I wouldn't argue against that; racists have to be censured, the message that it's not okay to denigrate anyone for matters of race, gender, sexual preference is unacceptable. My point though, is, that making fun of those of paler skin and European heritage is okay. No one in an official capacity, or any level of cultural influence, will arise and advise the rest of us , indeed remind us, that reducing a population to the sum of their stereotypes is not the way a more just and tolerant culture is created.

6 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:53 PM PDT

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  3. Nichtsnichts2:44 AM PST

    Welcome to the "post-racial" world, in which we are supposed to believe that the first non-white president of the United States was elected despite the colour of his skin, whereas it is pretty obvious he was elected because of this physical "detail", symbolic historical moment, etc. Post-racial indeed.

    As for the ideological trend of making fun of "categories" of people which has forever existed (that's how friendships and closeness between people appear : by stigmatizing others - entre autre), it's always easier to hit on people who are unwilling to defend themselves. Whether it be because they are a minority or because they themselves believe they have things to be forgiven for and consider the backlash to be deserved.

    Problem is: how far will it all go? How much hate is really hidden behind "sly" remarks?

    The problem today is that people who have never done anything bad (other than being born white) are apologizing to people who have never suffered anything bad from the people who are apologizing.
    (I don't know about you, but I've never actually owned a slave).

    Apologies always arrive too late anyway.

    Other than that, funny-ish site, although am not sure "white people" is the appropriate term. In case some may not have noticed, we Europeans (who also happen to be White in most areas - true fact!) don't tend to have tattoos with American flags (or any other flags to be honest). The rest is probably true though.

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  4. "Post-racial" is a preferable state for the world to fall into, but meanwhile racial and ethnic matters are as touch as they've ever been. Ethnic cleansings are a very recent memory, and the GOP's hard right flank isn't shy about unloading racist stereotypes in their opposition to Obama's policies. Still, there remains , codified in our ethics, our laws, and our basic sense of decency, the notion that invective aimed at blacks, hispanics, gays, women, Asians and others is "wrong" , and evidence of a disturbed mind. I wouldn't argue against that; racists have to be censured, the message that it's not okay to denigrate anyone for matters of race, gender, sexual preference is unacceptable. My point though, is, that making fun of those of paler skin and European heritage is okay. No one in an official capacity, or any level of cultural influence, will arise and advise the rest of us , indeed remind us, that reducing a population to the sum of their stereotypes is not the way a more just and tolerant culture is created.

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  5. Nichtsnichts10:58 AM PST

    Yes indeed.
    The "post-racial" comment was of course ironic since I was pointing out that Obama's election, instead of showing that colour was no longer an issue, proved that colour was an issue, especially if you happen to be the first "black" (or at least biracial) president. And of course the massive "black vote" in all its symbolical dimension proves that we are very far from a "post-racial" world.

    As for the stigmatizing of "white culture", or of "white" people more generally speaking, I see it more in the street, in the humourless world of hate where racism is condemned severely (as it should, as long as it doesn't become hysterical...) but where side remarks about white people, pale skin, the "colourless" population (without speaking about the more insulting vocabulary) is too often condoned, as if, in a way, it was the price to pay after all the discrimination "we" perpetuated in the past.
    I remember the time, about a year ago, when someone said to me in the street that I was "too white". Just imagine replying back to him that he was "too black", how racist would that make me sound? Whereas the "too white" remark didn't seem to shock anyone.

    So yes, my conclusion would be the same as yours, although I do believe "post-raciality" is utopian seeing the world as it is today. Some countries seem to be tempting the "let's mix all the different "races" together to get a uniformly coloured population" trick. Call me a conservative but I'd rather have different races living together (in peace if possible) than people who all look the same...

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  6. You have to admit that white people eat most of the Miracle Whip that is out there and probably consume a majority of the mile after mile of bad pizza that is crowding this planet.

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Say something clear and smart.Lets have a discussion.