A bit too american-centered but a beautiful read with so much to reflect on and compare with here..
There's been a lot of talk these last couple of weeks about "hipster racism" or "ironic racism"—or, as I like to call it, racism. It's, you know, introducing your black friend as "my black friend"—as a joke!!!—to show everybody how totally not preoccupied you are with your black friend's blackness. It's the gentler, more clueless, and more insidious cousin of a hick in a hood; the domain of educated, middle-class white people (like me—to be clear, I am one of those) who believe that not wanting to be racist makes it okay for them to be totally racist. "But I went to college — I can't be racist!" Turns out, you can.
People benefit from racism—hell, I benefit from it every day—and things that benefit powerful people don't just suddenly get "fixed" and disappear because Halle Berry won an Oscar or whatever. Modern racism lives in entrenched de facto inequalities, in coded language about "work ethic" and "states' rights," in silent negative spaces like absence and invisibility, and in Newt Gingrich's hair. And in irony.
When people are trying to be sensitive about race but they don't know what to say, they usually go with, "Well, race is a complicated issue." Except, no, it's not. Race is one of the least complicated issues that there is, because it's made up. It's arbitrary. It's as complicated as goddamn Santa Claus. Oh, that guy's mom was half-black, which makes his skin slightly more pigmented than mine, which therefore means that he's inherently 12.5% lazier than me? Science! Um, no. What's actually complicated is our country's relationship with race, and our utter ineptitude at talking about it. We suck. I mean, I work on it every day, and I'm still a total fuck-up. But this new scheme someone came up with—where we prove we're not racist by acting as casually racist as possible? Not our best, white people. Not our best.
Racism is like a wily little bacterium. It doesn't just roll over and die once we swallow our antibiotics—it mutates and evolves and hides itself in plain sight, and then all of a sudden, fuck, my arm fell off. Dickhead bacteria. (Sidenote: arm for sale!)
A long time ago (not really!), it was socially acceptable to own people. Then it wasn't, but it was socially acceptable to murder people if they looked at your wife. Then it wasn't! Yay! But it was still okay to say that people whose skin color you didn't like weren't allowed to be around you. And so on. Eventually we arrived at the point (now) where it's socially unacceptable in mainstream culture for white people to say denigrating things about people of other races. But just because the behavior has been suppressed, that doesn't mean people's prejudices have simply disappeared. And white people haaaaaate being told what to do in our own country (fun fact: not actually "ours")!
So racism went underground. Sure, you can't say racist things anymore, but you can pretend to say them! Which, it turns out, is pretty much the exact same thing. There are a couple of strains of "ironic racism" making the rounds right now, and a couple of typical defenses.
1. "Tee-Hee, Aren't I Adorable?"
2. "Recreational Slumming."
3. "Ummm, I'm a Writer and I'm Trying to Write in Here!"
4. "God, Don't White People Suck?"
5. "No, don't you see? I'm just showing how I'm so down with [minority group] that it's totally cool for me to make jokes at their expense. Because we are just that kind of tight bros now."
6. "But it's a JOOOOOKE."
7. "So I'm not allowed to have a genuine interest in another culture?!!?!??!"
8. "Yeah, but we have a black president! Isn't racism over?"