So I was thinking it would be hilarious to put on blackface and…what’s that? It’s racist? No, you don’t understand! I was being ironic. Fine, I guess next you’ll tell me that my white friends can’t put on sombreros and call each other “wetback” to be, you know, funny and stuff.
Clearly, you don’t understand that young, hip, artistic people are just being naughty when they dance on the edge of racist behavior. Yes, everyone from writers for hit TV shows to Ashton Kutcher has recently drawn fire for indulging in racial stereotypes and/or offensive statements.
What they have in common, besides denying that they’re bigots, is that they’re showcasing behavior that has been around for a while, but is only now becoming a full-fledged trend: hipster racism.
This is “the idea that anything wrapped with enough irony can be transformed into something else” and that it’s okay, even admirable and edgy, to make comments that appear ignorant or prejudicial. The point is to upset convention and push the envelope.
Of course, the people making these comments or laughing at them are usually white, which is apparently mere coincidence. A further defense for such behavior is that, in our supposedly post-racial society, people need to be shocked into seeing that racism still exists. They are “speaking difficult truths that others dare not speak.” Oddly enough, I doubt many ethnic minorities require such reminders.
Hipster racism is, of course, modern-day prejudice that has gone undercover. It is an escape hatch for those who realize, “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.”
Now, I’ve written before about how the word racism is sometimes thrown around just a little too freely, thereby diminishing its impact. And it’s fair to say that many hipsters (however one defines them) are guilty of little more than misguided attempts to be down with ethnic minorities. But, the fact remains that there is a line between subverting racial stereotypes and reinforcing them. We may disagree at what point that line is crossed.
However, it’s clear that fairly early in this process, people go from mocking bigotry to embracing it. The Freudian implications are especially glaring when coming from individuals in positions of cultural power, who are obviously reasserting their power and expressing how they truly feel under the guise of outrageous behavior. But “you cannot unlock some secret double-not-racist achievement by just being regular racist.”
This is most disturbing when it comes to the younger white generation, which is supposedly more accepting of Latinos and other ethnicities. One has to wonder if the bigots in their midst have just gotten smarter about hiding it.
As for those hipsters who insist that they abhor racism, it would be something if they could avoid constantly reminding everybody else how privileged and secure they are, via stupid jokes or juvenile behavior.
Now that would be a hot trend.