The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'race'

2010/9/10

The latest instalment of OKCupid's data-mining blog looks at the thorny question of race again; this time, analysing the text of users' profiles, correlated by self-identified racial group.

One part of the article mines keywords unique to racial groups from profiles and presents them as tag clouds, resulting in unsubtle stereotypes. It appears that white people here are not White People; white males are straight-up bros/bogans, into Tom Clancy, sweaty guitar rock, and petrol consumption as recreation, and the females are into spectator sports and a mess of wild-nature clichés, such as thunderstorms, horses and bonfires. (An Irish-American cast looms over both genders, with "Ireland" and plastic-Paddy brocore band Dropkick Murphys rating a mention.) Meanwhile, black people are religiously demonstrative (they're more than twice as likely to mention religion as white or Asian profiles), and Asian and Indian users mention interests in hard-headed professions such as mathematics, engineering and computers, and literature such as Freakonomics, Malcolm Gladwell and Calvin & Hobbes. That and the usual stereotypes.

Among the take-aways from this post: if you want to know if white dudes will like something, put "fucking" in the middle and see if it sounds badass. Hence "Van fucking Halen" and "The Big fucking Lebowski", but not "Alicia fucking Keys". (Of course, it breaks down if irony comes into it; if you're dealing not with bros but with hipsters mining the battlefront of the pop-cultural goldmine, they can get away with a lot of stuff. Take, for example, Fleetwood fucking Mac, or Hall and fucking Oates. This does has its limits, though; chances are, there isn't a hipster with big enough post-ironic cojones to make "Celine fucking Dion" sound right.)

Further down, OKCupid also ran a reading-level analysis algorithm over users' profiles, and correlated it with race and religion. The results were fairly close, though self-identified Indians and Asians had the best-written profiles, with "Latino", "black" and "white" profiles being in the bottom half. More interestingly, the analysis by religion shows a distinct inverse correlation between religiosity and writing level.

Note that for each of the faith-based belief systems I've listed, the people who are the least serious about them write at the highest level. On the other hand, the people who are most serious about not having faith (i.e. the "very serious" agnostics and atheists) score higher than any religious groups.

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2010/7/21

In India, where light-coloured skin is seen as a sign of status, Vaseline (who sell skin-lightening cremes) have published a Facebook app which lightens complexions in photos.

The technology, of course, has other applications. Anyone want to bet how long until the UK/Europe see an app for tanning photographs?

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2010/5/24

LA Times journalist Joe Mozingo always thought that his family name was Italian, or possibly Basque. Then he discovered that it was Bantu, and the first Mozingo in America was a slave from the Congo, given the name Edward, who bought his freedom and became a free man in the brief period that was possible; over the next few generations, the Mozingo family line bifurcated and spread; the exact details were lost to history, but when the name next emerged, some of its bearers were considered white, and others considered black.

Mozingo then went to track down as many Mozingos in America as he could. Some had discovered the truth and had more details. Others had elaborate theories about why Mozingo is a proper white European names—tales of it being very common in certain Italian cities (whose phone books revealed not a single Mozingo), or of famed mountains named Mont Zingeau in France or Switzerland (of which no geographical records exist), of bogus Spanish etymologies, even an acceptably Caucasian founding myth involving an Italian boy named Moses Mozingo. One self-assuredly non-African Mozingo was a fount of racial prejudice, and spoke of family members—also named Mozingo—who had been in the Ku Klux Klan (making them, in the author's words, the only Bantu white supremacists in the US).

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2009/10/24

The OKCupid people have been running a free online dating service, backed by psychological matching algorithms driven by user-written tests, for many years, and have build up a huge corpus of data about how people interact. Now they have started a blog, where they discuss the statistical findings that may be gathered from comparing people's profiles and message counts.

One blog posts looks at how well different profile attributes predict whether two people will match. Not surprisingly, the zodiac signs of any two people have no effect on their actual personalities, and thus on how well they would get along:

Race has a slightly greater influence (of a few percentage points either way), presumably because of uneven distribution of cultural backgrounds, but it is still fairly small. (Keep in mind that the match scores are computed from how users answer others' questions, and not from explicitly asking questions like "would you date a Virgo/Polynesian/Buddhist".) Religion, however, turns out to be a lot more telling:
According to this, atheists, agnostics, Jews and Buddhists seem to get along just swell (in fact, Buddhists appear to be slightly more compatible with the nonbelievers than with other Buddhists), whereas the Christians, Hindus and Muslims tend to be somewhat more contentious, not only not getting along with other religions as well but also with each other. Additionally, the more seriously one takes religion, it seems, the less likely one is to get along with others.

Looking again at the issue of race, while race doesn't seem to affect actual compatibility scores, it does affect how likely people are to get responses:

Love may be blind, but it also seems that it, or at least attraction, is deeply racist.

On a lighter note, OKCupid have crunched the word frequencies of successful and unsuccessful opening messages and discovered what to write if you want a reply. Netspeak and "hip" misspellings ('u', 'luv', 'wat') and physical compliments are out, whereas mentions of specific interests are helpful. Unsurprisingly, mentioning religion is generally a bad idea as well.

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2009/6/11

Christian lander, author of the Stuff White People Like blog (and book) visits Melbourne, pronounces it to be "white":

'MELBOURNE is definitely whiter than Sydney," says Christian Lander, before taking a sip of organic Fair Trade coffee. "In Sydney, most people seem to spend their days jogging around large bodies of water," he adds. "Melbourne is more chilled. If I lived in Australia, I'd live here."
And the "whitest" part of Melbourne is apparently North Fitzroy, my old 'hood:
We're in North Fitzroy, huddled over a small table in a trendy cafe-slash-grocer. It's the sort of place that sells organic vegetables, bio-dynamic meat and expensive pots of jam. On weekends, it's overrun by couples with babies on their chests and The Age under their arms. It's the perfect place to begin our search for Melbourne's Whitest Spot.
We leave the cafe and wander down Scotchmer Street and St Georges Road. "This place ticks all the boxes," Lander says excitedly. "Organic bakery! Cafe with retro furniture! Vintage clothing store! Authentic Thai restaurant! And old-school pub! Another organic bakery!"
But then we encounter a pub with — oh no! — pokies. "Everything about this place is problematic. It's definitely not white. But, paradoxically, it makes this suburb even whiter because it reminds everyone that working-class people still live here, which makes it more authentic."
Lander has some other observation on the "whiteness" of Melbourne:
We hop on a tram and spend the next three hours strolling around Brunswick and Fitzroy. Lander asserts that Smith Street's grungy vibe makes it slightly whiter than Brunswick Street. But Gertrude Street, with its record shops, handmade toy retailers and natural cosmetics stores, is the whitest of the lot. It is here his wife Jess buys a funky koala doll for a friend's baby. "That koala was made by someone who lives in Fitzroy," the assistant tells her. Big white tick.
(Smith St. is "whiter" than Brunswick St.? I'm guessing that he hasn't encountered its significant Aboriginal community. Or is Brunswick Street by now gentrified and suburbanised and changed to a different colour (perhaps pink, after the SubGenius usage)?)

Of course, by "white", he undoubtedly means "creative class" or "bourgeois bohemian" or somesuch, with an undertone of opprobrium, a hint of latent racism or sharply wielded and insufficiently atoned-for privilege. Note: merely having the privilege of not having been oppressed for one's skin colour doesn't seem to qualify one as "white"; otherwise, why is having a preference for organic food, vintage clothing and authenticity any more "white" than, say, NASCAR racing or country music, or the default option of honestly vegetating in front of a suburban plasma screen with a bucket of KFC? Lander seems to be identifying whiteness as the hypocrisy of pretending that one is something other than an oppressor whilst maintaining privileges derived from oppression. At least people who drink instant coffee, listen to commercial radio and get their clothes from K-Mart are honest, he seems to say.

Landers doesn't put the case directly in this fashion, and doesn't actually level a serious accusation. Instead, he asserts that "white people" here are "hipsters". Which brings us to the question of what is a hipster. Originally it meant a jazz enthusiast in the 1950s (and, coincidentally, Norman Mailer described the hipster as "the White Negro", in reference to their embrace/appropriation of African-American culture). Now it seems the word is used in several ways. It is used by people of low cultural engagement saying "those people are weird, I don't get them, heh heh", sometimes in a pejorative sense. On the other hand, you often get people who are engaged in creative cultures self-describing as "hipsters", in quotes, because it saves having to explain themselves, and in the next breath using the word pejoratively for superficial fashion victims (or perhaps those whose subculture they don't get).

When the word hipster is used in the pejorative sense, at its harshest it becomes synonymous with pejorative uses of the word "gay"; an aggressive assertion of the metaphorical homosexuality of the subject.

Incidentally, this is not the only parallel between hipsterism and homosexuality. Richard Florida, author of The Rise Of The Creative Class, pointed out a correlation between locales with gay scenes and locales with creative activity. As such, Lander's "whiteness" could be a repackaged form of "gayness", and if one can argue that being a "hipster" is latent racism, one could also argue that hipster-bashing is latent homophobia.

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2008/11/10

A few articles about class in Britain today: The Guardian has one looking at what, if anything, constitutes class in neo-Thatcherite Britain:

The idea of class as an expression of wealth was always a misconception. Our modern obsession with its outward manifestations was entrenched at a time when wealth was at its most even level of distribution in Britain, in the immediate post-Second World War era. It was people's relative proximity in money terms that led them to find alternative ways of distinguishing themselves from their neighbours. Before the war, most people knew their place (and outside the political left, accepted it). But an acceleration of social mobility in the Forties and Fifties led to a boom in petty snobbery. It was the era of the 'u' and 'non-u' distinctions notoriously codified by Nancy Mitford. As the solidarity of the war years receded, but austerity kept people's incomes relatively homogenous, it became almost existentially important whether you said 'napkin' or 'serviette'; 'toilet' or 'loo'; 'how d'you do?' or 'pleased to meet you.'
Professor Dorling has a graph that shows what a purely wealth-based class structure looks like. There is a big chunk in the middle - 50 per cent of the population who qualify as 'normal'. Beneath them is a 15 per cent chunk of 'poor' people, and another 10 per cent who are 'very poor'. There is a sizeable chunk - 20 per cent - near the top who are rich. But the remaining five per cent are stratified into ever smaller distinctions of extreme wealth. These are people who, in Dorling's phrase, 'exclude themselves from the norms of society' - the footballers, pop stars, Russian oligarchs, oil sheikhs, hedge-fund managers. 'The top-level people all meet each other,' says Dorling, 'and the thing they have in common is money.'
But there is no agreement on where the boundaries of 'chavdom' begin and end. It is an extraordinarily polyvalent word, which can be used as a slur against the urban poor and the suburban rich. It is a weapon in a petty civil war waged almost entirely within the swollen ranks of the middle class, often between people of equivalent incomes, in houses of equal value.
And The Times has a piece by (half-Asian, though very "middle-class") journalist India Knight, who writes from personal experience about the assumptions Britons have about race and class:
The class/race issue confuses many. I’ve had people pretend I was white since I was a child, despite the evidence of their own eyes. I am café au lait: this means I’ve been asked if I was Spanish, Italian, Greek, Turkish, South American. I don’t think anyone would have asked me if my family ran a corner shop and I had an Indian accent or wore a sari (although it’s always fun to stick one on: if people have only ever seen you in heels and dresses, you can see their bewilderment). I don’t think anyone genuinely wonders if I am Spanish; I think my middle-classness automatically “promotes” me to being manageably European, rather then problematically “foreign”.

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2008/4/3

Momus observes that, far from being centres of culture or creativity, districts which attract "funky" bars are merely centres of drunkenness:

I thought that being in the midst of a district dominated by theatre and retail I'd be living in a refined environment. Instead, I found I was living in a sewer. Brydges Place, of an evening, became an open toilet, used as a slash-wall of last resort by many of the thousands of people who descended on central London every evening to drink... heavily. My friend Thomi, who had a studio above John Calder's publishing house on Green's Court in Soho, had it even worse: people would stand on his step and pee right through the letterbox. Later I moved to the Chinese end of the Lower East Side just in time to see it teeter between a quietly industrious Asian district by day and a burgeoning, boisterous white people's drinking district by night.
Momus lays the blame squarely at the feet of white people:
White people -- if you'll forgive the generalisation -- drink, and the further north you go the more immoderately and self-destructively they tend to drink. Or, to put that a little differently, the whiter your district gets, the more bars are going to pop up, and the more your Friday and Saturday nights will fill up with piss, shouting, boom-boom -boom, swagger and bravado.
Momus' solution to avoiding being surrounded by vomiting revellers is simple: choose an area with a large Islamic population.

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2008/3/26

The Graun has an article on the phenomenon of fried chicken shops in Britain, tying in the class aspect (fried chicken as a signifier of underclass status), the racial and cultural dimensions and the connection with Islam:

The increasing number of halal fried chicken shops in the UK is testament to changing demographic and eating patterns. "The Muslim community here is growing," says Enam Ali, chair of the Guild of Bangladeshi Restaurateurs. "Fried chicken is cheap - [people who eat it] are young, students, with limited pocket money." Masood Khawaja, president of the Halal Food Authority, says, "A great percentage of third generation Muslims are not eating the original cuisine of their families - they want more takeaways, more convenience foods."
"Let's just grasp the nettle here," says black comic Paul Ricketts, whose stand-up observations often turn to this issue. "All black areas have loads of fried chicken outlets. It is a socio-economic thing. Chicken is one of the cheapest birds you can get. When people go on about smelly food, what they really mean is fried chicken, and they're having a dig at the people eating it - we have an era where we don't mention class any more, we just call them chavs or hoodies - it's a term for working-class scum."
At Halal Southern Fried Chicken in London's Brick Lane, they lace their hot wing batter with chilli powder, turmeric, cumin and coriander. Most customers are men in their 20s. The story is the same further down the road at Al-Badar Fried Chicken and Curry Restaurant, where their hot wings are coated in cinnamon, coriander and fresh and crushed chillies. Manager Amer Salim differentiates his product from the nearby KFC, which, he says, caters to another market. "In London's Tower Hamlets, the Bangladeshi community like spicy with more and more chilli," he says. "Fried chicken in KFC is not spicy."
It doesn't mention the iconographic idiosyncracies of these shops, with their varyingly plausible faux-Americanisms (from "_ Fried Chicken" shops named after random US states to shops whose signage evokes images of cowboys frying chicken over campfires on the Rio Grande to the ubiquitous cartoon mascots of chickens in cowboy hats.

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2008/3/11

The makers of Stuff White People Like bring us two more slightly uncomfortable satirical glimpses into race and class in today's America: firstly, Stuff White Trash People Like (including the likes of "boxed wine", "NASCAR", and "High School Sweethearts"):

#1: America

Budweiser, fake tits, the V8, Little Debbies, the Fourth of July, all you can eat buffets, Viagra, yeah, America invented all that shit. Not enough for you? Tell you what, every other country that’s been to the moon raise your hand.

That’s what we thought.

If America’s not the best country ever, then why did Jesus invent it? See, you can’t argue with that logic.

And then there's Stuff Educated Black People Like (like "Getting Dressed Up", "Conferences" and "Poetry Slams" and "Moving To Atlanta").

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2008/2/14

Stuff White People Like ("white people" here meaning "white upper-middle-class Americans"). Includes entries for things like "sushi", "indie music" (and "standing still at concerts"), "Wes Anderson", "Michel Gondry", "Apple products" "not having a TV", "irony", "travelling", "coffee" and "tea", all delivered with a good dose of sarcasm:

So when white people go to concerts at smaller venues, what to do they do? They stand still! This is an important part of white concert going as it enables you to focus on the music, and it will prevent drawing excess attention to you. Remember, at a concert everyone is watching you just waiting for you to try to start dancing. Then they will make fun of you. The result is Belle and Sebastian concerts that essentially looks more like a disorganized line of people than a music event.
White people love to be near a body of water so they can read a book, while sitting nearby. The process of reading is somehow heightened through the process of doing it near some water. Extreme reading!
White people cannot get enough of 80s music, partially out of nostalgia, and partially since it was the last time that pop music wasn’t infused with hip-hop or R n’ B stylings. Artists like Joy Division, New Order and Elvis Costello were all pretty well respected and had solid runs at the charts. Also, less respected artists like Wham, Rick Astley and Cameo are still easy for white people to dance to.
If you find yourself in a situation with a white person, acceptable things to say include “I’m really into tea right now,” or “my favorite thing is to get a nice cup of tea and curl up in a chair with a good book.” But do not remind them about the role of colonialism in tea, it will make them feel sad.

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2008/1/28

As overt expressions of racism become unacceptable, good ol' boys in the US South have adapted by referring to black people as "Canadians":

Last August, a blogger in Cincinnati going by the name CincyBlurg reported that a black friend from the southeastern U.S. had recently discovered that she was being called a Canadian. "She told me a story of when she was working in a shop in the South and she overheard some of her customers complaining that they were always waited on by a Canadian at that place. She didn't understand what they were talking about and assumed they must be talking about someone else," the blogger wrote.
A University of Kansas linguist said that a waitress friend reported that "fellow workers used to use a name for inner-city families that were known to not leave a tip: Canadians. ‘Hey, we have a table of Canadians.... They're all yours.' "
Stefan Dollinger, a postdoctoral fellow in linguistics at University of British Columbia and director of the university's Canadian English lab, speculated that the slur reflects a sense of Canadians as the other. "This ‘code' word, is the replacement of a no-longer tolerated label for one outsider group, with, from the U.S. view, another outsider group: Canadians. It could have been terms for Mexicans, Latinos etc. but this would have been too obvious," he said. "What's left? Right, the guys to the north."
The comments to the Boing Boing post which mentioned this are enlightening as well:
I work with an American who recently emigrated to Canada from one of the "suh-then" states. He tells me our early stance against the "war" on Iraq left a bad taste toward Canada in the rural south. Raw hate and "we should invade those b*stards and kick them out on an ice flow" rage was quite common in his semi-rural area. Using "Canadian" in this fashion would be a logical progression. They're not being ironic at all.
My friend has parents that used to use the word frequently until she married an actual Canadian. When she told them that he was Canadian they went totally ape-shit. She informed them that they were not invited to the wedding. When they found out he wasn't black (oh the relief... you should've seen it), they apologized. They're still bigots, but possibly one degree less so now.
I live in Pennsylvania, where I've heard a similar practice; many of my father's friends use the term "Democrat" instead of "Canadian" for the exact same purpose. Most of these guys are old, white Republicans, and many of them are also Freemasons.
Actually, the term "Canadian" in reference to black people has been around and in prevalent use for years, like seven or eight of them. It can't have taken that long for the mainstream to have figured that out. The new term is "German" because it was feared that black folks were catching on to the "Canadian" thing a couple of years ago.
It is not clear whether "Canadian" started off as restaurant slang for "cheapskate" (presumably due to Canada not having a tipping culture as in the US due to higher minimum wages?) or was a racist euphemism all along.

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2006/5/14

Slate's John Cook looks at the issue of whether disliking hip-hop makes one a racist, and specifically, whether allegations of racism against Stephin Merritt, who has made statements about his dislike of hip-hop, are justified:

[N]o less an influential music critic than The New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones has used that word —"cracker"—to describe him. Frere-Jones has also called him "Stephin 'Southern Strategy' Merritt," presumably in reference to Richard Nixon's race-baiting attempt to crush the Democratic Party. These are heady words, part of a two-year online campaign of sorts by Frere-Jones (also a former Slate music critic) and the Chicago Reader music contributor Jessica Hopper to brand Merritt a racist. The charge: He doesn't like hip-hop, and on those occasions when he's publicly discussed his personal music tastes, he has criticized black artists.
The Slate article concludes that the charges are, if you'll excuse the pun, without merit:
If black artists are underrepresented in my CD collection relative to the frequency with which black people are found in the general population, does that make me a racist? To even begin to believe that it does, you have to first maintain that racial preferences somehow logically relate to music preferences; that racists avoid music made by black people, and that people who aren't racist don't pay attention to the race of the artist when evaluating music. Both propositions are ludicrous. Anybody who has been to a frat party knows that people can simultaneously a) entertain racist attitudes and b) enjoy listening to hip-hop music created by black people. (In fact, Merritt's argument is that the latter tends to reinforce the former.)
The closest thing to a coherent argument that can be gleaned from what Frere-Jones and Hopper are saying is that a genuine respect for our common dignity and humanity requires that we enjoy listening to hip-hop, and that we bend our intuitive aesthetic judgments about music to a political will—like eating our vegetables and avoiding dessert. "Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah" may be catchy and delightfully mindless, but an understanding of its context requires you to reject its charms. And Beyoncé may be trite and boring, but your subtle racist ideology provokes that reaction, so you must find a way to appreciate her music.
And if you can't? Try harder, cracker.
Of course, it depends whether on one's definition of "racist". If one defines racism as any deviation (outside a margin of sampling error) from the ratios in which racial/ethnic/cultural groups are represented in the cultural marketplace, then disproportionately liking "white" or "black" music would be racist; as would, for example, being more attracted to members of one ethnic group than another. However, such a definition of racism would damn almost the entire human race, and do little towards defining more meaningful definitions. And then there's the question (which Merritt himself raised) of whether some present hip-hop, which presents stereotypical images of black criminality for the consumption of predominantly suburban white teenagers, is problematic. Which suggests that this issue is not entirely cut and dried.

(Note the quotes around "black" and "white" music. The definition is a slippery one. Is expensively produced, extensively market-researched R&B, which would not exist in its present form without major-record-label investment and a huge market not limited to any one ethnic group, authentic "black" music? What if you replace R. Kelly with Justin Timberlake? Is Jennifer Lopez (who once considered herself entitled to use the N-word in lyrics) an honorary black person for the purposes of musical consumption? Is rock'n'roll (which is based on the blues) "white" music. And then there's Elvis Presley, Al Jolson and so on. In some ways, what gets classified as "black" music is that whose sound hasn't yet melted into the lexicon of the mainstream. The Spice Girls' first single, "Wannabe" (which, at the time, sounded closer to Salt'n'Pepa than the white manufactured all-girl pop groups from PWL and their ilk), could be said to sound more "black" than much of Prince's 1980s output (which, today, sounds more "1980s" than anything racially or ethnically specific.) And rock'n'roll, once seen as dangerously swarthy by pillars of (white) communities everywhere, is now the very definition of "whitebread", almost as much so as country music.

And in this discussion thread, Steve Albini weighs in on the issue:

Having had a distaste for hip hop since its earliest days, I have run afoul of this mentality for twenty-odd years. If you are involved in contemporary music, it is presumed that you appreciate hip-hop, or are at least deferential toward it as an arm of black culture.
I have equivalent genre distaste for almost all heavy metal (hip hop's culture-mirror equivalent), pastiche production pop music like Brintey Spears, Beyonce, Avril Lavigne et al, the REM-U2-Radiohead axis of millionaire dabbling, trash auteurs like Outkast, Beck and the Beastie Boys, teenager fake punk, and melismatic divas like Celine Dion. This is less in service of elitism than in making it possible for me to walk directly to the part of the record store where the good records are. I know what kinds of music speak to me the least, so I don't spend my energy combing through them looking for exceptions.
Picking on a tiny Southern queer for his music tastes and calling him a "cracker" is about as stupid as criticism can get.

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2005/8/31

Reportage of Hurricane Katrina cast a disturbing light on race relations in Louisiana: in news reports, black people "loot", while white people "find".

A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005.
Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store...
An alternative explanation could be that the reports, though, came from two different press agencies (AP and AFP, respectively), and could reflect one having more explicitly nonjudgmental style policies than the other, as opposed to racism, subconscious or otherwise. One wonders whether, if they picked up any random reports of black and white people salvaging food, they would show such a racial bias of judgment, or whether these two reports were juxtaposed by coincidence or deliberate selection.

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2005/8/27

Among the hipsters of Williamsburg, New York, the next step after freely using the N-word in the knowledge that one's postmodern ironic detachment automatically gives one the level of enlightenment to get out of any accusations of racism is having parties parodying the illest crunk thugged-out sex-nasty excesses of black culture in a safe (i.e., all-white, all-hipster) environment:

What that means, precisely, is debatable, but it has something to do with young white hipsters believing they can shed white privilege by parodying the black hip-hop life. In this way, they hope to escape their uptight conditioning and get in touch with the looser soul within them.

Of course, it's arguable whether it's not just privileged white kids poking fun at (a parody of) black culture for a laugh, reaffirming that they're above it because they can don it as a costume and then take it off, and then going back to their privileged white lives, smug in the awareness of their superiority; much like hipster appropriations of working-class culture (trucker caps and redneck paraphernalia), only with an added racial dimension. The counter-argument would be along the lines of the hipsters in question being sufficiently enlightened, by virtue of their postmodern upbringing, to be exempt from accusations of racism, which is a rather debatable proposition.

A few months ago, 29-year-old Sharda Sekaran was hitting dance spots with friends when she stumbled into a Kill Whitie party. "There was a bunch of white people acting like a raunchy hip-hop video," she said. "I don't get why that wouldn't be a characterization of black people for the entertainment of themselves."
Casady was raised in Santa Barbara, Calif., but quickly notes her worldliness by listing the cities where she has lived along the trail to Brooklyn. A regular Kill Whitie partygoer, she tried the conventional (that is, non-hipster) hip-hop clubs but found the men "really hard-core." In this vastly whiter scene, Casady said that "it's a safe environment to be freaky."
His street fliers come emblazoned with the words "Kill Whitie" across a woman's backside. Another flier offers free admission to anyone with a bucket of fried chicken.
It's not just New York's hipsters either; I seem to recall hearing that some of the Melbourne Shake Some Action coolsies were getting really into the booty-bass thing a year or so ago.

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2004/2/23

Life imitates Virulent Memes: a US TV network is making "Black Eye For The White Guy" (actual title: "Make Me Cool").

Now the next step would be to merge that with American Idol, resulting in a reality-TV show based around the boy-band manufacturing process; find several groups' worth of handsome, moderately musically talented white boys, have some brothers teach them how to act "real" and "from the streets" (i.e., play up Afro-American stereotypes that the consumers will eat up, especially on pretty white boys), and then play them off against each other, with the winners getting indentured servitude to a recording company. For bonus points, take the show overseas, and make it into a search for the most stereotypically "Afro-American" white boys in the non-English-speaking world. Gospel-tinged R&B boy bands from Russia and west-coast-gangsta-rap bands from Belgium, here we come.

It'd be a good idea for near-future fiction, except that it stands a middling-to-good chance of becoming reality before any story would have a chance of being published.

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2003/6/12

Proof that the Professional Australian commentariat don't have a monopoly for daft acts of grand symbolism: there's a movement in Britain to add the colour black to the Union Flag. The campaign, calling itself reFLAG are pushing the redesign of the flag to better reflect Britain as a multiracial society (the presence of white and not black, you see, reflects the inherent racism in British society, much like the word "manager" is a sexist term and the use of binary numbers in computers is phallocentric). Though wouldn't the inclusion of black marginalise the Queen's yellow- and brown-skinned subjects, by implying that they're invisible? And what about Wales?

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2003/5/9

The story of Stagolee (also known as Stagger Lee or Stack Lee), the 19th-century black pimp from St. Louis (real name: Lee Shelton), who became a legend and inspired every American musical genre from folk to gangsta-rap, not to mention cinema and the civil-rights movement:

The screen Cave adds to Stagolee tradition tells us more about the culture of the singer than it does of the culture of the song. Stagolee as African-American tradition is the screen that allows the projection to take place. "The reason why we [recorded it] was that there is already a tradition," said Cave. "I like the way the simple, almost naive traditional murder ballad has gradually become a vehicle that can happily accommodate the most twisted acts of deranged machismo. Just like Stag Lee himself, there seems to be no limits to how evil this song can become."

civil rights crime folk folklore gangsta rap machismo music nick cave race stagger lee usa 0 Share

2002/8/12

The pendulum swings both ways: while the teen-rebellion industry fuses rap into hard-rock, a new generation of black musicians in America, disappointed with the limited scope for expression in hip-hop and so-called "R&B" are picking up guitars and turning to rock.

Their sound is most often a deeply soul-inflected rock reminiscent of the mellower moments of Jimi Hendrix, Prince and Parliament Funkadelic rather than the full-on guitar assault of Fishbone or Living Colour. Much of this rock is difficult to distinguish from soul music, but the musicians use the word rock to distance themselves, they say, from the overly produced treacle that passes for modern soul.

(Meanwhile, commercial R&B producers such as Babyface have recently been knocking off '90s alternative-rock sounds for some of their projects (such as the very aptly named Pink).)

"Vulnerability doesn't work at all in hip-hop," Mr. Luther said. "You don't want to expose a weakness in that arena. Rock 'n' roll has no boundaries. You can talk about your dreams, fears, all kinds of things."

Though the black-rock movement faces serious barriers in the formulaic world of American radio/TV, not fitting into either black/"urban" formats or the predominantly white world of rock/alternative music. I.e., Clear Channel probably won't play it; though maybe it'll flourish in the MP3 underground.

Rock, they say, gives them the freedom to express their own ideas. Santi White of Stiffed said: "There's a Smiths song that I love that says, `Hang the D.J. because the music he constantly plays says nothing to me about my life.' And that's how I felt. So I said, `Fine, I'm going to find some music that does say something about my life.' "

Funny that they should mention that, as that quote is sometimes cited as an argument for Morrissey being racist. Though what would that make the equation of skin darkness with dance/club music? (via FmH)

alternative blackness culture music r&b race rock whiteness 6 Share

2000/11/14

Nobel laureate James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA, recently gave a talk at Berkeley, about the protein pom-C. In the talk, he made claims of biochemical connections between skin pigmentation, sexual activity, thinness and ambition, with more than the usual candour:

Witnesses were flabbergasted when the 72-year-old discoverer of the double helix suggested there was a biochemical link between exposure to sunlight and sexual urges. ``That's why you have Latin lovers,'' Watson said. ``You've never heard of an English lover. Only an English patient.''

The outcry of racism and sexism was immediate and resounding. The question is how much of that is because of Watson's abrasive style, and how much is the usual Marxist knee-jerk reaction against any concept of a biological basis for human nature?

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2000/2/23

In today's Onion: Affluent White Man Enjoys, Causes The Blues

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