Monday, April 6, 2009

Hipster Racism Strikes Again

Happy Monday! You might be thinking, gah there she goes again with the heavy hitting (depressing) stories about racism and I haven't even had my coffee yet. Oh well....grab a muffin and dig in!

The writers at the very excellent blog Racialicious began using that term to describe amongst other things, "ideas, speech, and action meant to denigrate another’s person race or ethnicity under the guise of being urbane, witty (meaning “ironic” nowadays), educated, liberal, and/or trendy". Really it's describing the less blatant, non-KKK cross burning but still just as ignorant racism and exercise of privilege amongst a younger generation of non-people of color (i.e. whites). Though there's often a few colluders of color in the mix.

Samhita M.A. wrote a post about her experience at Burning Man and it practically started a flame war. Her piece was rather mild and non-confrontational in its tone to be honest. The overreaching responses are from those who wish to keep their privilege status intact and unexamined. You should read the comments attached at the bottom of the linked post based on passages like this - which was the hardest hitting portion I thought:
The search for making a culture of their own, the majority white constituency of BM have created a culture of dramatic appropriation, elitism, consumption and lack of inclusion all within the guise of freedom.
Now having lived in San Francisco since 2001 I am very familiar with Burning Man but have never felt this burning desire to attend. The main reason why I've had no interest in attending is I don't do drugs and couldn't imagine being stuck in the desert in some makeshift community as being a relaxing experience. If you're not high or that into trance what are you gonna do for a week? Did I mention it's in the desert i.e. lack of toilets and showers?! I don't even have to mention the lack of participation from enough people of color do I? As Samhita so aptly wrote, the space created seems so overwhelmingly geared for the pleasure and comfort of whites, I know I'd be pissed about it. The rest of my life has to be navigated within a white construct that I don't want to have to integrate 24/7. Yes I know if a white person said that it would generate some raised eyebrows and a bit more probably, but when you are part of a minority population you deserve a space reserved for yourself. 

Coachella is about all the desert I can take because I am just not an outdoors, woodsy type gal. I don't like extreme weather conditions be it heat or cold. The cost of attending was also something I didn't wish to partake in, not to mention taking time off from work to do so. I'd rather travel outside the United States and broaden my horizons than hang out with a group of strangers trying to "escape it all". By the way I'm still not sure what people are escaping from.

The East Bay Express has covered a burner party with racist overtones in the article, "Burners Torched Over Native Party". I know there's supposed to be some irony in the title but I even found some elements of a condescending attitude in the way it was written. 
More than fifty Bay Area Native American rights activists converged on the historic East Oakland property at 9:30 p.m. to ensure the shutdown of popular Burning Man group Visionary Village's "Go Native!" party. The fired-up Hopis, Kiowas and other tribal members spent more than four hours lecturing the handful of white, college-class Burners about cultural sensitivity until some of them simply broke down crying.
You won't find Blacks throwing a "Going Native" party - sorry. First of all I believe we'd think it was pretty stupid, secondly since so many Blacks like to claim Native heritage (or have it) that would be pretty redundant. A bring your light-skinned or white girlfriend party - yes - but that's another kind of discrimination.

So some burners decide to throw a party with offensive themes and don't want to back down. Crying ensues when directly confronted with their racism. Crocodile tears for sure! There are also some who claim Native heritage who are in agreement with the racists. That's called "approval of white supremacy hoping you'll get to be the exception". 

Here's one such comment which typifies hipster racism and the rejection of the rights of the offended party: 
Reading these comments I keep seeing "these people..." and divisions into sides of these issues. I'm not reading that there is validity in both sides (which there is). No there isn't! Yes, it's perfectly understandable that any indigenous people who have had their land and lives upended, stolen, etc. by another group will feel once again abused when the very fabric of their culture, once attempted to be eliminated is now being appropriated. Completely understandable and anyone who doesn't understand that is wrapped up in their own desires.

But it's also understandable that some kids are throwing a party and choose a theme that may allow for some exploration they haven't felt and that they are not the most capable of thinking past their own fun - they're kids after all. See how the use of "kids" absolves them of their responsibility? It's understandable that in a culture that has gone astray they are looking elsewhere for inspiration and ways of being that help them to see something more than money and fame as ideals. And anyone who doesn't empathize is too caught up in THEIR own issues as well.
How dare we the oft-marginalized group demand equality, a set of standards and repercussions for violating them? We're supposed to understand how hard it is out there for (insert your dominating group) and let them have their way!! Doesn't this remind you of something? If you were reading my blog back in November you may recall the posts I did on Princeton Theological Students publishing racist and sexist writings in their newsletters - specifically attacking Dr. Yolanda Pierce. There's still work to be done and your participation is welcome.

Boy my blog hits jumped as the guilty parties checked sometimes as much as 50 times a day to see what information I'd post or who had responded. I still have your IP addresses!! They whined, denied and protested the exposure of that little ditty all the while ignoring the last few times Princeton students have published racist writings in numerous newsletters/papers. They also pretended to be sympathetic but were secretly trying to gain my trust and get information to give back to their friends. But because some non-whites participated in the hate mongering it was supposed to be okay (i.e. not racist). Yeah right! If a woman leads another woman into a situation where she's raped, wouldn't that woman be in collusion with the person who carried out the act and just as responsible? Legally isn't that referred to as "conspiracy to commit"?

Plus the idea that the mostly Middle Class white participants get to do this with little police interference speaks volumes. Last time I checked the drugs du jour that people bring to the party are illegal. Of course not everyone does drugs who attends. Before somebody accuses me of being a prude or worse a McCarthy wannabe let's flip the script. Do you know of any annual events where a majority group of Asian, Black, Latino or Native populations go off to throw a week-long party that would NOT be raided by the police or investigated? I've yet to hear of any busts going on or any difficulty in obtaining licenses for such an event when it has a majority white population participating. It smacks of class and race privilege that people even get to have these types of events and remain unscathed by law enforcement. 

So those people who complain about having to be responsible for their actions and acknowledging their privilege are typical closed doors to progress in my opinion. Their discomfort is in being confronted - not about struggling through a growing self-awareness. They'd rather deny and lie than face the truth of the situation. Even after confronted they don't want to face any repercussions or make amends. They'd rather just blow off the learning opportunity. With their race or class privilege still intact they don't have to.

By the way we're still wondering what the Princeton administrators are doing about those students. Well..not really...we know they've been mostly been let off the hook. The fight is far from over though. Perhaps it's time to reapply some public pressure. I couldn't help but notice the deafening silence from the typical feminist brigade on this as well.

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