(not) liking Stuff White People Like

Chiara pointed me at this great analysis (via the Feministing blog) of the Stuff White People Like blog:

For me, despite the humor (and yes, I see the humor and LMAO to different entries all the time) I don’t see how marrying the concept of white-ness to the concept of material is actually helping us get to a new place. And as a friend of mine pointed out, the opposite effect of this is that the underlying assumption of stuff white people like is that the stuff they like is not cool, so then is everything that people of color do totally cool? Does that mean that we should look to people of color for what is cool (insert “wow you are such a good dancer!”)? So in a way it is perpetuating that same thing we are trying to get away from. A hyper fascination with the things that white people like.

What sealed the deal for me was when I heard the author got a $300,000 dollar book deal. That is fucking crazy. If he had been a person of color he would have never gotten so much attention or such a hefty book deal. People would have said, omg, that is racist! They wouldn’t have given it so much cred. My point being, there are a lot of people that call out racism and whiteness, but they don’t get huge book deals for it because they are not white. So despite the potential transformative nature of calling out whiteness for what it is, the author is still getting rewarded for being white, even though he is making fun of white people. And let’s not forget, white people also get paid for making fun of people of color. And what exactly do people of color get paid to do. . . ? To also make fun of people of color or to create characters that fit into white people’s comfort levels of what is acceptable people of colorness. Because as the blog points out subtly, white people have the most capital to be the biggest consumers of everything, so all the images we see are tailored to their sensibilities.

This may be a total stretch, but this is where I am at with the whole thing and just had to put it out there. I see how many people LOVE this blog and how many people of color love it. And I see how uncomfortable it makes white people, which I also think is good. Being uncomfortable can often motivate you to think outside yourself. But is it really leading to this transformative conversation for a racially just world or is it perpetuating our assumed differences, realigning them with a gaze on what is considered white?

folk music and liberalism

I just got an e-mail asking of Defiance, Ohio wanted to do an interview for a zine called Even If Your Voice Shakes which is put out by some folks involved with the Riot Folk collective.  It made me think about some of the discomfort that I have with folk music and that moniker being applied to music I help make (though I also need to think about why I’m more comfortable with the term Punk, maybe just because it feels like more my own, less inherited from a generation I associate with parents and power structures).  One issue with discomfort is regarding associations between folk music and race.  I wanted to learn a little more about this so I found Aesthetic Identity, Race, and American Folk Music, but didn’t yet get a chance to read it.  In the abstract for this article, it talked about folk music being adopted by social movements in the 60s and suggested that while those movements were multiracial, or at least attempted to be, with music being a part of it, that folk music was eventually whitened.  I think I associate folk music with being this very white, safe, established thing, just as some of the more visible remnants of movements of the 60s and the generation that was alive then seems that way.  This made me think about how I categorize the liberalism that I tend to demonize, and this is what I came up with:

Liberalism, as I think about it, is less about a specific set of political ideologies or positions and more about having an affinity to an ideology without being a stakeholder in the realities that underly political or policy questions.  For instance, there are many people in the US who are opposed to the war in Iraq, but I would argue the majority of those people are not necessarily soldiers or family members of soldiers or Iraqi or family members of Iraqis, or in some other way more closely tied with the war.  I am not arguing that one’s political perspective or responsibility rests on the nature of one’s connection to a particular issue, but I think that there needs to be a lot of self-consciousness, and movement-consciousness about how one’s orientation around an issue affects one’s beliefs and actions.  The 60s seemed to be an interesting time because so many more people became stakeholders in the issues of the times.  White, (upper) middle class people were being drafted to go to war in Vietnam, or faced that looming reality.  Similarly, white, (upper) middle class people faced race riots in their schools as students (as my parents did), seeing their schools, neighborhoods, and communities become desegregated and the tensions that came from those changes.  Certainly, white (upper) middle class people are still stakeholders in questions of race and peace in the present, but I think their orientation is much more static and the connections have been effectively obscured.  For instance, with questions of race, I think most liberal people find it easier to identify and critique racism external to themselves or their communities instead of being forced (as I feel desegregation did in the 60s) to come to terms with their involvement in race and power in the US.