Between Racism and Ignorance

This evening, I came across this post from Humans of New York where a Muslim woman named Zahra recounted her experiences covering the 2016 election (bold emphasis mine)

I covered a lot of Trump rallies as a journalist. I didn’t feel any hatred. People were more curious than anything. I was never assaulted. I felt like most people were just supporting him because he wasn’t part of the establishment. Or because they were tired of politics. But it was confusing. Because even though I didn’t feel like they hated me, these people were supporting someone who said I should be banned from the country.

I’m not sure which scares me more.  The fact that so many White Supremacists have come out in support of Trump or the fact that voters cast their lot with him for the sheer sake of going someone “different”.  They willfully ignore his bigotry, sexism, and petulance, and they outright embrace his unhinged ranting and raving as some kind of down-to-earth honesty.  This shortsightedness, this delusion, this cognitive dissonance is another facet of the ever rising Idiocracy in America.  Trump is the walking price tag of American anti-intellectualism and so many innocent people may end up paying dearly.

Whenever a politician would get caught in a scandal, my Mom often wanted to ask said politician “You’re either corrupt, incompetent, or both.  So which is it?”

To the people who voted for Trump, even after a deluge of thoroughly unpresidential antics, I say….you’re either racist, ignorant, or both.  So which is it?




Interview: Laina Dawes on Being a Black Woman and a Fan of Heavy Metal

“In black communities, music is so integral in terms of a storytelling mechanism. Back in the blues era, African-American women were actually able to talk about their hardships and sorrows through music, and be very personal. [The same is true of] hip-hop because it’s also obviously a black-centric music form. When I was in my 20s and hip-hop was coming out, a lot of black people felt that if you listened to hip-hop, that means that you’re really black, that you’re proud of yourself, that you know who you are. So when black people listen to ‘white-centric’ music — which is rock ‘n’ roll, country, heavy metal, punk, hardcore — it’s seen that they are somehow not proud of who they are.” – Laina Dawes, NPR interview.

This interview touches on a long overdue subject for discussion and the above quote outlines exactly why.  It’s bad enough that there are still people in the metal scene who won’t accept anyone who isn’t white, but this whole thing of questioning someones ethnic pride based on their taste of music is just as ludicrous.

In the early 2000’s, I was at an outdoor multi-band festival where I saw Stone Temple Pilots for the first time ever.  (Yes, I know they aren’t metal, stay with me on this one) They had all of Foxboro Stadium in the palm of their hands as they rocked through a set of hits.  There was an energetic and friendly vibe in the audience.  I did my best to stay on my feet in the constant tide shifts of bodies in the crowd, trying hard to avoid being sucked into the whirlpools of the mosh pits while singing my heart out to the songs I first listened to as a confused and lonely teenager.

Stone Temple Pilots closed their set with “Plush”.  That was the first song I heard on the radio and decided I would get the album with my own money.  To my right I saw a black man about my age, there were one or two people sardine-packed between us.  We were both singing along, and when our eyes met, we both knew what this song, this band, this whole night meant to us.  We both closed our eyes and sang the last chorus of “Plush”, and without looking, high-fived each other.

When I got home, exhausted and sweat-drenched with tender, raw vocal chords, I thought of that black man.  Did he have as much fun the whole day?  Did any of the white kids give him grief or ask him what he was doing at a show featuring metal and alternative rock bands?  Would his own friends and family back home ask him the same exact thing?

I was already familiar with the dilemma of being a rap music fan and having white rock fans give me grief over listening to “that stuff“, sometimes even saying “Dude, you’re white!“.  However, the guy I high-fived most likely dealt with a much uglier uphill battle: white people telling him he didn’t belong there and black people accusing him of being a “traitor” or an “uncle Tom” or an “Oreo“.

I have a number of poems where I mention or pay tribute to both genres (“Light The City”, “Between Streetlights And Stars”, “Witness”, etc.).  I did that on purpose to challenge the reader/audience, to tell them, “Yeah, I listen to both, get over it!”

Every now and then when I hear “Plush”, I think of that fellow STP fan I high-fived all those years ago, and hope he stayed brave and went to many, many rock and metal shows after that; the slack-jaws and suspicious eyes of others be damned.

On Johnny Depp playing Tanto in the new Lone Ranger Movie

When I saw that Depp was playing Tanto, I wretched.  Would it have killed Hollywood to have an actual Native American play this role?  This blog sums it up nicely:

Oh Johnny… Honey. No. Just No..

I am a middle class, white girl from Sydney. I am far and away not the most politically correct person you will ever meet. Sometimes, I put my foot in it. I’m working on that. But I am a big fan of the idea that words are as powerful as the person being victimised by them tells you they are. To me, the fact that several prominent Native American people have come out and said that this portrayal upsets them is enough to make me more than a little uncomfortable. Popular culture is one of those things that seeps into your brain when you least expect it. If you’re not paying attention and thinking critically then you can let it drastically alter your perceptions without even realising it.

Aisha Tyler and Jean Grae: To be Young, Geeky, and Black.

Jean Grae: “I represent for the misfits, the outcasts, and I’m like, if I could tell anyone in high school anything, I would tell those girls ‘Its okay, don’t worry about it, trust me, after this, it’s not going to matter.'”

Aisha Tyler: “You know the ‘It Gets Better‘ campaign they were doing?  I was so excited about that and I’m not even trying to undermine or diminish it because it’s an amazing thing and its continuing and it’s great, but I felt the same things I was saying to young gay kids, I want to say to the young weird kids and especially the young weird kids of color, ’cause look: young white nerdy kids…they have it hard, but it’s a little easier. Now if you’re a nerdy black kid, I mean you are just alone!”

– from Aisha Tylers podcast “Girl On Guy” interview with rap artist Jean Grae.  Listen to the full interview here.

Two things:

1) I agree wholeheartedly with Aisha Tyler.  Not to overlook the hard work of numerous anti-bullying organizations out there, but when I first heard of ‘It Gets Better’, I was happy that it was up and running, but couldn’t help to wonder why a similar campaign hadn’t been launched for bullied kids.

2) As a geeky teenager in high school during the mid-to-late 90’s, I had also noticed the same race issue Tyler brought up.   As bullied and alienated as I was growing up, I knew that things would be far more complicated for a black kid in my position.  On the one hand there would be the usual bullying, but that would be compounded with racism, discrimination at work and school, and of course, being rejected by your own because you don’t “talk black”.

Now, I don’t have any personal anecdotes of actually hearing anyone give a black kid grief for “talking white” when I was in high school, but I was fully aware of the prevailing social climate that fostered that kind of thinking.  Sadly, that same line of thinking persists to this day as csandreas explains here:

I loved listening to this interview.  Tyler and Grae go off like a house on fire with hilarious and thought provoking topics: creativity, starting out in the music scene, being a woman in a male dominated industry, and the plight of black kids who choose not to sag their pants, wear oversized clothes, and talk like an extra in a rap music video.