Posts tagged "race"

How Very Banal To Ask What I Mean

All U.S. irony is based on an implicit “I don’t really mean what I say.” So what does irony as a cultural norm mean to say? That it’s impossible to mean what you say? That maybe it’s too bad it’s impossible, but wake up and smell the coffee already? Most likely, I think, today’s irony ends up saying: “How very banal to ask what I mean.” Anyone with the heretical gall to ask an ironist what he actually stands for ends up looking like a hysteric or a prig. And herein lies the oppressiveness of institutionalized irony, the too-successful rebel: the ability to interdict the question without attending to its content is tyranny. It is the new junta, using the very tool that exposed its enemy to insulate itself.

-David Foster Wallace (via nooneisherelovearthandrewtsks)

And here we get at a good part of the reason I find Stuff White People Like so trying. Christian Lander mistook recognition for insight, and in the process came up with a “joke” Republicans had been making about liberals for decades. (But it’s different this time, supposedly, because Lander’s actually a liberal.) His work doesn’t interrogate or explore or say anything new or incisive about race and class in the United States. Lander thinks he deserves a cookie for merely making his observations. How very banal to ask what he means!


Beyond the Pale

I'm not sure I can treat him the same after this.

I missed the part where it stopped being about Imus.

There is peculiar bit of jujitsu that white public figures have employed recently whenever they’re called to account for saying something stupid about black people. When the hard questions start flying, said figure deflects them by claiming that any critical interrogation is tantamount to calling them a racist, which they most assuredly are not. Last year, Bill O’Reilly took a jaunt up to Harlem’s famed Sylvia’s and returned with the news that blacks had learned the basics of table manners and developed opposable thumbs. When Media Matters attacked O’Reilly for his voluminous ignorance, he angrily accused his critics of distorting “a positive discussion on race and accusing me of racism.”

[…]

The racist card is textbook strawmanship. As opposed to having to address whether her comments were, as Obama said, “wrongheaded” and “absurd,” [Geraldine] Ferraro gets to debate something that only she can truly judge—the contents of her heart.

[…]

Implicit to the racist card is the idea that no racists actually live among us. After reality TV star Duane “Dog” Chapman was taped by one of his sons dropping n-bombs, a more loyal son insisted, “My dad is not a racist man. If he was he would have no hair. He’d have swastikas on his body and he would go around talking about Hitler. That’s what a racist is to me.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Playing the Racist Card,” Slate, March 14, 2008

And the next few lines of the song are:

Ain’t no plantations in my family tree,He didn’t believe in slavery, thought that all men should be free

and it also contains, “Ain’t about the races; the cryin’ shame/To the fuckin’ rich man all poor people look the same,” then conspicuously shouts out MLK.
Which is the song’s point, I guess. The Southern Thing should be something transcendent, but what the South is isn’t the pro-regional, post-racial ideal the Drive-By Truckers sing of. This is a New South band; it’s as much Bubba Sparxxx as it is Lynyrd Skynyrd.

And the next few lines of the song are:

Ain’t no plantations in my family tree,
He didn’t believe in slavery, thought that all men should be free

and it also contains, “Ain’t about the races; the cryin’ shame/To the fuckin’ rich man all poor people look the same,” then conspicuously shouts out MLK.

Which is the song’s point, I guess. The Southern Thing should be something transcendent, but what the South is isn’t the pro-regional, post-racial ideal the Drive-By Truckers sing of. This is a New South band; it’s as much Bubba Sparxxx as it is Lynyrd Skynyrd.


Goodie Mob - “Dirty South” (Soul Food, 1995)

The counterpart, perhaps?

See in the third grade this is what you told:
You was bought, you was sold.
Now they saying Juice left some heads cracked
I betcha Jed Clampett want his money back


Black books. [1]

A thing here in America that strikes me as vaguely unusual whenever I see it is the section in book stores and libraries called African American Literature. Vaguely unusual because in Australia we don’t have sections of book stores divided by race. On seeing such a section, my instinctive reaction is, “Why can’t they go with the other books?” And, then, “Why would I not want to read these books?”

Now, I’m not an idiot, and with a bit of thought I can work out that the reason we don’t have sections for specific races in Australian book stores is because no people in Australia occupy a category analogous in size or history to black folks in America. And that because African Americans occupy a distinctive place in American society and have a unique history, it’s not surprising that they might want to write books that tell stories about themselves, and that therefore this might constitute a unique genre worth being grouped together in a store for the purpose of easy location. I can figure all that out, but it doesn’t stop it seeming weird when I come across it. [2]

Since there is this genre in America called African American literature, I’d like to find out some more about it. And since I know next to nothing about it, I’m going to need some recommendations. 

From what I’ve seen of the section, it seems to contain three distinct strains of books. There are the classics, which I can tell because I’ve heard of them. [3] There is contemporary literary fiction, which looks just like any other “respectable” new release except there are black people on the cover. And there are the — for want of a better word — “trashy” novels; mass market paperbacks that don’t look dissimilar to romance novels or detective series or airport thrillers. [4]

What I’m hoping you folks can help me out with is some recommendations. I would like to read at least one example from each of the categories I outlined — assuming I did correctly outline these categories. So if you can recommend something from each, that would be good. But even if you can’t, I’d appreciate any suggestions.

(We can discuss me broaching other barriers of literary segregation and how I should go about that at some other date.)

——

1. Not the sitcom.

2. Incidentally, book stores in both Australia and the United States have sections for gay and lesbian books, something I’ve never thought to find unusual. And stores sort of separate books by gender, e.g. “Romance” or “Chick Lit,” though middle to high brow books are allowed to intermingle.

3. For instance, The Color Purple, which I’ve not read and probably should, right?

4. I think Iceberg Slim was one of these before he was Jay-Z or something?


Chicago by Radical Cartography
Pink = White
Blue = Black
Green = Asian
Orange = Hispanic
Gray = other
——
More here. I thought Portland, New York and San Francisco were quite interesting. (h/t Matt Yglesias)

Chicago by Radical Cartography

Pink = White

Blue = Black

Green = Asian

Orange = Hispanic

Gray = other

——

More here. I thought Portland, New York and San Francisco were quite interesting. (h/t Matt Yglesias)



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