A few weeks ago, I got into a long argument with someone at a dinner party over whether or not we were living in a “post-racial society,” because, among other things, we have a black president now. I’m not sure if I won the debate or not, because my argument mainly consisted of increasingly incredulous restatements of “Wait, really? You actually believe that? Wait, like seriously though?! Are you kidding me?!”
Great new video from Miles Fisher. I was going to deconstruct this video, as a jokey reference to my overthinking-it analysis of Fisher’s This Must Be The Place, but this is a catchy song and a hilarious video/sneaky tie-in to Final Destination 5 (a movie I still refer to by its amazing working title 5nal Destination), and there’s not really anything to get even pretend-upset about.
I am decidedly not a Saved by the Bell fan (probably because I most strongly identified with Screech and never understood why his friends were so mean to him/why he couldn’t find better friends), but did you ever notice that the main cast of the show featured both a Latino kid and an African American, making it more ethnically diverse than Beverly Hills 90210, Party of Five, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Freaks and Geeks, The O.C., and Gossip Girl put together? That’s pretty cool, and I never really thought about it until watching Miles Fisher’s weirdly white-washed version. In the video, Fisher lovingly pays tribute to all the things that made Saved by the Bell stupid/good-stupid, but by Dawson’s-Creek-ifying the cast, maybe he misses out on what kind of made it brilliant?
(I am fully aware that with this post, I have officially become a parody of myself.)
So, for example, what does it say about white rationality and white collective sanity, that in 1963—at a time when in retrospect all would agree racism was rampant in the United States, and before the passage of modern civil rights legislation—nearly two-thirds of whites, when polled, said they believed blacks were treated the same as whites in their communities—almost the same number as say this now, some forty-plus years later? What does it suggest about the extent of white folks’ disconnection from the real world, that in 1962, eighty-five percent of whites said black children had just as good a chance as white children to get a good education in their communities? Or that in May, 1968, seventy percent of whites said that blacks were treated the same as whites in their communities, while only seventeen percent said blacks were treated “not very well” and only 3.5 percent said blacks were treated badly? […]
What does it say about whites’ tenuous grip on mental health that in mid-August 1969, forty-four percent of whites told a Newsweek/Gallup National Opinion Survey that blacks had a better chance than they did to get a good paying job—two times as many as said they would have a worse chance? Or that forty-two percent said blacks had a better chance for a good education than whites, while only seventeen percent said they would have a worse opportunity for a good education, and eighty percent saying blacks would have an equal or better chance? In that same survey, seventy percent said blacks could have improved conditions in the “slums” if they had wanted to, and were more than twice as likely to blame blacks themselves, as opposed to discrimination, for high unemployment in the black community.
In other words, even when racism was, by virtually all accounts (looking backward in time), institutionalized, white folks were convinced there was no real problem. Indeed, even forty years ago, whites were more likely to think that blacks had better opportunities, than to believe the opposite (and obviously accurate) thing: namely, that whites were advantaged in every realm of American life.
White denial has become such a widespread phenomenon nowadays, that most whites are unwilling to entertain even the mildest of suggestions that racism and racial inequity might still be issues. […] So when asked if we believed the Katrina tragedy showed that there was a lesson to be learned about racial inequality in America—any lesson at all—while ninety percent of blacks said yes, only thirty-eight percent of whites agreed. To us, Katrina said nothing about race whatsoever, even as blacks were disproportionately affected; even as there was a clear racial difference in terms of who was stuck in New Orleans and who was able to escape; even as the media focused incessantly on reports of black violence in the Superdome and Convention Center that proved later to be false; even as blacks have been having a much harder time moving back to New Orleans, thanks to local and federal foot-dragging and the plans of economic elites in the city to destroy homes in the most damaged (black) neighborhoods and convert them to non-residential (or higher rent) uses.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, has to do with race nowadays, in the eyes of white America writ large. But the obvious question is this: if we have never seen racism as a real problem, contemporary to the time in which the charges are being made, and if in all generations past we were obviously wrong to the point of mass delusion in thinking this way, what should lead us to conclude that now, at long last, we’ve become any more astute at discerning social reality than we were before?
Dave:GLAAD going after Tyler, the Creator over lyrics is ridiculous. He’s equal opportunity in his offensiveness. He’s not just homophobic and misogynistic, he’s also racist, beastialic, masochistic, incestuous, and so on and so on. That’s the whole point. It’s like getting mad at a SAW movie because there were scenes that bothered people with a fear of needles. Do you really expect sympathy for that?
When you listen to intentionally offensive things and then write about how offended you were by them, you might as well just start out with, “Congratulations!” cause you’re just affirming their success.
(Or like me getting upset about a GLAAD blog post about Tyler, the Creator! Was I expecting the post to call him a hero? Come on! Know what you’re getting into, Dave!)
Raphael: It’s kind of like your SAW example, if people who had a fear of needles made up 10 percent of the population, and people who had a fear of needles were constantly harassed, often to the point of suicide, and if there was an organization whose very purpose was to look out for people who had a fear of needles and to call out those who are making their lives more difficult, so hopefully the world can be a less ugly place for people who have a fear of needles, and maybe we as a culture can stop deifying people who spew hate, ESPECIALLY if spewing hate is “the whole point.”
Adam Conover: I agree with both of you, so I’m just going to point out that I think it’s funny that the only thing people ever “spew” is hate. Just once, I’d like to see someone spew, say, a math lecture.
Dave: I think part of looking out for people who have a fear of needles is to choose your targets wisely. Choose those who are actually defaming needle-fearers, instead of those who are using needles to scare people in conjunction with every other fear you can think of. If you ignore the broader context and focus on the part that bothers you, you risk diminishing your other, more important, claims because you come to be known as a knee-jerk reactionary organization who can’t differentiate attacks on and harassment of needle-fearers from art and poetry whose intent is to examine that which people are scared of.
Tyler is delving into the dark side of his own teenage mind, and other people getting upset about what he finds, to me, shows that they don’t understand what he’s talking about. It’s more Dostoevsky than it is Limbaugh.
Raphael: I guess we just have different reads on GLAAD’s statement because I don’t find it reactionary or knee-jerk at all. If GLAAD isn’t saying things like “Tyler’s attempts to be provocative as well as his indifference towards the consequences of his actions are irresponsible,” and “words matter; slurs have the power to fuel intolerance,” then I don’t know what the point of GLAAD is.
Tyler, the Creator IS actually defaming women and homosexuals, even if it’s in the name of “examining that which people are scared of,” an excuse that to me reads as ridiculous and empty as GLAAD’s statement reads to you. There is nothing subversive or satirical about calling people “faggots” (lots of teenagers do this) or joking about rape and violence against women (lots of teenagers do this too), nor is it a particularly new and fresh conceit to claim these things are subversive or satirical. (As far as writers go, Tyler seems to be more Bret Easton Ellis than Dostoevsky.)
Saying horrible things just to get a rise out of people, or just because you think it’s funny are not in my book good enough reasons to say horrible things. You accuse GLAAD of ignoring the broader context, but I think one of the major critiques against Tyler (even from Odd Future defenders) is that it’s unclear what the broader context is. Of course I believe that Tyler doesn’t actually want to cut up women’s clitorises with broken bottles, but I’m not sure there’s an intent behind his lyrics more sophisticated than “saying this stuff is taboo and therefore it’s funny.” Him saying things in interviews like “I’m not homophobic. I just say ‘faggot’ and use ‘gay’ as an adjective to describe stupid shit” doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.
The “If you don’t like it, just look away” strategy only works if you don’t want anything to change. In today’s environment, where teen bullying is still a major problem and 1 in 6 women are sexually assaulted, I’d much rather organizations like GLAAD stay on the offensive.
Darren Day - Beautiful City (Godspell - 1993 Studio Recording) (download)
This is a song from the musical Godspell, a musical all about Jesus wearing rainbow suspenders and hanging out with a bunch of hippies (For those not in the know, that is not a joke, that is actually what Godspell is about). I have a LOT to say about Godspell, but it will have to wait for another time, because there are more pressing matters to discuss. One, today is my birthday. Two, OH MY GOD, MUSLIMS WANT TO BUILD A MOSQUE ON TOP OF GROUND ZERO AND THE MOSQUE WILL ALSO BE A TERRORIST TRAINING CENTER AND THE BUILDING WILL BE IN THE SHAPE OF A GIANT MUSLIM GIVING THE FINGER TO THE STATUE OF LIBERTY, HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THIS?
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, oh good Lord do I envy you. Salon has a coherent rundown of where all this craziness came from. Mayor Bloomberg’s speech on the subject was pretty spot-on and I urge you to read it while listening to the above song to get a nice cry-y feeling.
However, I have one problem with this speech and it’s a problem I also have with a lot of the liberals who comment on this issue, including Obama. It’s the stirring invocation of the first amendment. Am I wrong or is that kind of a red herring? Most of the conservatives I’ve heard argue about this (not all, but most) haven’t been arguing that the Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to build their cultural center; they’re arguing that they shouldn’t.
There’s a big difference between “should” and “should be allowed to.” For example, if Fred Phelps wanted to open a church of hate in Laramie across the street from where Matthew Shepard was killed, I would have a real problem with that, but not with his constitutional right to do so. Still, I would do everything I could to pressure everyone at every phase of development not to let the church be built.
I think most people who oppose Park51 would argue that this is an analogous situation, and that’s all well and good except it’s NOT analogous and the real conversation that needs to take place is explaining why not. Making this an argument about separation of church and state pushes back that real conversation, but eventually the conversation needs to be had, and the conversation is this:
YOU SOUND LIKE A CRAZY PERSON.
Muslim does not mean terrorist. They are not the same word. I have a thesaurus; I can settle this right now.
We were not attacked by regular Muslims, the kind who want to build a community center in Manhattan; we were attacked by insane zealots who also happened to be Muslim. This is the truth, and if you didn’t know that, I just told you and now you have no excuse for not knowing that.
9/11 is the product of Islam only in the same way the Son Of Sam killings were a product of dogs. If you oppose Park51, then you should also oppose Jodie Foster movies opening near the Ronald Reagan library, because that is a ridiculous thing to think and you are a ridiculous individual.
Building a Muslim community center near Ground Zero is kind of like building a Burger King near a Foot Locker. They’re two things that have absolutely nothing to do with each other, and if you think it’s offensive then I think you’re offensive. And I don’t mean that in an “I know you are but what am I?” sort of way, I mean it in a “What you’re saying is racist and hurtful and your grandchildren will be ashamed of you” sort of way.
This is not an issue of sensitivity. Saying Muslims should be sensitive to the victims of 9/11 is like saying Jews should be sensitive about the killing of Jesus Christ. It’s reductive, it’s ugly, it’s stupid, and, Anti-Defamation League, you of all leagues should know better. The fact that you’ve landed on the wrong side of this debate is, pardon my Yiddish, fucking revolting.
There is no room for logical discussion here. There are no two sides of this issue. You are wrong. It may not be your fault— you might have been misinformed (in fact you were probably misinformed)— but there is nothing I am more sure of at this moment than the fact that you are wrong.
THAT is the real conversation, but people don’t want to have this conversation because to have it is to accuse an overwhelming majority of Americans (Seventy percent currently oppose the Park51 plans. Yes, seven zero.) of being bat-ass nutty.
People are talking about the first amendment because the alternative is admitting that so many people are either misinformed or purposefully misinforming, woefully ignorant or offensively cynical. The heartbreaking truth is that for many people there is no difference between Muslim and terrorist and instead of correcting this misunderstanding, people with power and influence are exploiting it.
If Muslims make you nervous, that’s not your fault, but you need to realize that’s not the Muslims’ fault either; it’s the fire of your own prejudice stoked by politicians who want you to be scared— and THAT is what is really scary. You know when FDR said we have nothing to fear but fear itself? Well, he wasn’t just saying that.
My two cents? Let the Muslims do whatever they want as close as they want to Ground Zero; it’s the politicians that should stay away.
Hi. My name is Raphael and this is where I write about my feelings. I am in the comedy group Olde English and we made this movie. I currently live in Los Angeles where I spend the majority of my time trying to find a parking space.