Hipster racism?

Karol Collymore

I define hipster racism (I’m borrowing the phrase from Carmen Van Kerckhove) as ideas, speech, and action meant to denigrate another’s person race or ethnicity under the guise of being urbane, witty (meaning “ironic” nowadays), educated, liberal, and/or trendy.

Racialicious.com

Weird stuff happened in my world last week. I contemplated sharing, not sharing, not caring and maintaining a stiff upper lip. That is until I came across this post on the Obamas' New Yorker cover. Reading this article - and in particular the quote above - convinced me to seek the opinion of the inhabitants of planet Blue Oregon.

Last week, I believe I had three instances of the so-called "hipster racism." I will only talk about one since it is pretty reflective of the other two. I was at a hip bar in the hip section of North Portland. I was sitting with some people new people and a couple old friends. The new people were all dressed in old-school Wranglers and tight graphic tees that made references to certain - allegedly funny - things. While I was amazed at how similarly they all looked in the hipster style, I immediately felt out of place in my loose-fitting blouse and pants. That was OK, I rolled with it. I'd wear my ironic t-shirt next time.

During our cocktails, one of the people referred to a Black person as a Negro. I immediately said something, making it clear that it was not OK to use that word. I got blank stares, a "you are too sensitive," and then they returned to conversation. Now, I was never excluded throughout the evening and shared some laughs with these guys. As soon as the word "Negro" was uttered I felt very separate and different, and not just because my shirt didn't have writing on it. What intrigued me more was that no one else - save my friend who is a member of the GLBT community - understood or defended what I said.

Now, I know people are going to comment and say this was an anomaly, but something similar happened another two times last week! What in hipsters' names is going on in this town? Just because "Swingtown" and "Mad Men" are hits doesn't mean we keep the lingo during the commercial break, people. Has anyone else heard throwback racist terms lately under the guise of coolness?

Comments

  • (Show?)

    this one's easy, Karol: they were stupid clods. nothing hip in the least about using speech that borders on the hateful. what if one of them decided to repeat an old Richard Pryor routine (before he went to Africa and gave up using the n-word)? what's the difference?

    words are not pretty trinkets to be taken out and shown to friends like little kids and their Legos or Barbies. words come from the very essence of our human being — they are the essence of our human being. using a word in the way they did, and with absolutely no regard for either your feelings or the sad aspect of the American experience you represent with your very presence, is about as wrong as it gets.

    i guess being hip means nothing matters but the sound of the noises coming out of your mouth and the knowing nods of the other empty vessels around you.

  • tb (unverified)
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    I would chalk this up as further evidence that hipsters tend to be vapid posers.

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    Yeah, it really does seem either clueless or uncouth, Karol. Like an inability to distinguish between what can be an intimate use of a term among friends or in a "safe" place as opposed to using the term in a very presumptuous way, where its effect us just the opposite.

  • Ray Duray (unverified)
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    Hmm, let's see...

    We've got Georgia's thuggish leader trying to start World War III, we've got NATO committing itself to this madness while losing 10 members of its pointless (except for Sarkozy's ridiculous sense of glory) occupation of the wild hinterlands of Afghanistan, we've got the most severe financial crisis in the nation since the Great Depression, we've got an accelerating debt problem, and our infrastructure is in need of the money that the Bush Junta is wasting on war profiteering cronies in Iraq, Afghanistan and the D.C. suburbs.

    And what of importance needs to be discussed on BlueOregon tonight? Bar chatter from the perspective of political correctness. Whatever happened to the advancement of Colored People? Oh, that's probably a politically incorrect thing for me to say, except if I were to attend a NAACP meeting.

    Come on people, let's focus on the stuff that matters. Please.

    Signed, A Dumb Polack Really Beginning to Be Irritated with Liberalism's Dementias, Pecadillos and Petty Grievances.

  • peter c (unverified)
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    wait... would that mean that jeff alworth is a hipster??? (see Missing the Irony, which defended the New Yorker cover, here on BO) i think that destroys your thesis**...

    **seriously, though, i have no idea if jeff alworth is a hipster or not.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Although I know what else is going on in the world, and hadthought the New Yorker cover was old news, I was at a local Democratic social event last night.

    Out in the lobby, a few women (who didn't all know each other very well) were talking. One said she was getting tired of Obama --and someone asked if she'd been listening to right wing radio.

    The first woman said she had thought the New Yorker cover was funny, and HEY! It's the New Yorker.
    Someone said "Gee, David Remnick would love you for saying that!". Someone else said they didn't think the cover was funny.

    Also, advice was given to the first woman that if she wasn't excited about the Obama campaign there are plenty of people who were excited about it. And there are lots of local/legislative candidates deserving of volunteer support who don't have such large amounts of support from volunteers--esp. a couple of deserving local legislative candidates who have the possibility of dumping Republican incumbents. So she should campaign for the legislative candidates and ignore any federal campaign she can't get excited about.

    Let's talk about stuff that matters. Yes, the world situation matters. But something else matters at least as much. There is a competition going on in this country about whether individuals have the right to think for themselves. It is quite obvious that John McCain thinks every American should say out loud "THE SURGE WORKED" as if that is the only foreign policy he needs.

    Here is how I believe the debate should be framed:

    Agree or disagree to the statement, "Every American has the right to decide for themselves what they find admirable, what they find funny, what they find offensive".

    Say what you will about Pres. Clinton, that was 8 years of citizens allowed to think for themselves. These last several years have had Americans being browbeaten--we should think the way Rove, DeLay, Bush, Cheney, McCain, or any other powerful person told us, that we should believe what they said "all good people believe".

    As someone who has admired David Remnick for years, I was offended by the New Yorker cover. I'd worked in school age child care this spring, and had dealt with a white 3rd grade loudmouth taunting a mixed-race 2nd grader. I would like to have forced Remnick to explain the cover to that second grader. Then he would realize we are beyond the day when adults who read his magazine are not the only ones who hear about the magazine cover. The picture was NOT just on the cover of the New Yorker, it was widespread.

    I believe the Russians inflamed the situation in Georgia. I believe that only time will tell what will happen in Pakistan now that Musharaff is just an ordinary citizen holding no office.

    I also believe that children should not have to be exposed to any adults who think racial slurs are funny. I think that is what happened with the New Yorker cover---had it only arrived in mail boxes and news stands, I would have had no objection to it. But as widespread as the picture was (TV, blogs, etc.), I thought it was irresponsible. When I saw Remnick being interviewed about the controversy, I wanted to scream at the TV.

    I don't think that makes me a "liberal" or any other label. I think it makes me someone old enough to be a great aunt (meaning I lived through the civil rights movement) concerned about how kids adapt to such things being widely publicized, and also whether adults have the right to decide for themselves what is funny, what is satirical, what goes over the line.

    In a free country, individuals have the right to think for themselves.

  • (Show?)

    Ugh. Yet another meta-critic who thinks that each post on BlueOregon must be more important to the future of the planet than the last.

    Give it a rest. If you don't like it, don't read it.

  • (Show?)

    For Ray, I'll copy and paste this part of our mission statement that's been there since the beginning:

    [BlueOregon:] It'll be political, but not narrowly so. It'll be a free-ranging social and cultural critique. It'll be by Oregonians and for Oregonians, but not always about Oregon.

  • Gregor (unverified)
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    It's terribly funny how the Right does not want anyone judging their speech yet they judge us for judging them. It's a funny circle to be spinning around uselessly demanding the right to remain ignorant and respected at the same time. Please be advised you have the right to remain ignorant, but I feel judgment is coming. The ignorant will be less tolerated then they have been in the past because we all know where that attitude has gotten us these past eight years. More people are waking up to the fact Dubya was a failure every day. Now if only they will realize McCain offers more of the same, we can hope.

    As to the question regarding "hipster" racism, in their abject laziness, I believe these "hipsters" could be too lazy to enunciate African-Americans, so they defaulted to Negro not realizing it was offensive. When offense was taken they may have been surprised. I suspect they may not be the klan variety racists so they didn't take the suggestion regarding the racist nature of their declaration personally, or even seriously. The self-declared dumb polack would rather not even discuss it.

    It's a difficult conversation to have. I believe the vast majority of white people have no idea when they are using racist speech. As for me, I bristle when accused of such an ugly insinuation, but in the hope that we can reach each other, I try to take a breath and hear what it is that causes concern for people. Frankly, racism in all facets has shown itself to have prevented us from developing a terrific resource, the African-American community. I would only caution us to be careful with how we deal with this subject so that we can continue the conversation without assigning a klan robe to people who are possibly ignorant, not that they used an unacceptable term, but how deeply use of the term hurts people.

  • Garrett (unverified)
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    Ugh...hipster used as a negative term again. I like style, I like American Apparel, I listen to music you haven't heard about and I won't think it's cool once you start listening to it (ahem Vampire Weekend).

    This is a flat out stupid post. Stupid...I'm not going to say retarded due to the current flap about Tropic Thunder (apparently some people don't understand satire).

    Look, this is just ridiculous. Martin Luther King used the term negro. Is it just racist because a white guy in an ironic t-shirt said it? I have a t-shirt that says "No New Cathedrals" and I'm not Catholic. Does that make me anti Catholic?

    I wouldn't use the word "negro" in a million years but don't call them "hipsters" and label them as racist because of it...and don't label a whole group of people as racist just cause there are a couple of stupid white people.

    I'm going to go back to listening to the Decemberists records from when I used to go watch Colin at the Rabbit Hole before any of you heard them...

    hipsterist out

  • edison (unverified)
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    Wow ... who knew hipsters were so sensitive? I must remember to be careful what I say around them. :-)

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    I suppose The Hipster Handbook ought to be required reading, although Ms. Collymore evidently being amongst the irony-challenged, she might not appreciate it, even though it pokes fun at precisely the sort of posers she criticizes. Oh my, how things do get self-referential.

    Cover of The New Yorker: good gawd, not revisiting this one. Can we please quite trying to enforce (or reinforce) "rules" for "correct" use of humor, sature, and irony? Can we please quite pretending that the election outcome in November in, say, Missouri is going to depend on voters' fading memory of a magazine cover, for gawd's sake?

  • (Show?)

    If only I were irony-challenged! My life would be so much more angry and I would be a lot less funny at dinner parties!

    Just to let you know, I'm just musing on language, that's all. If you choose to listen to a band called Vampire Weekend, that's awesome. Just try to avoid calling me a Negro if you see me out and about. Thanks!

  • (Show?)

    You know, I'm glad Ray wrote what he did. How come? Because I actually think that issues of "identity" and how individual and group identity are expressed in social, political and geo-political terms has been one the most difficult and salient issues in the post- Cold War world. It's certainly an absolutely central aspect of many of the wars that have erupted around the globe.

    So here's a suggestion, Ray: pick up a copy of Michael Ignatieff's Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism. Just read the first couple of chapters, if you want: it's brilliant, and might just give you some insights.

  • meg (unverified)
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    "Just try to avoid calling me a Negro if you see me out and about. Thanks!" As the Great, Samuel L. Jackson says. "Shit, Negro, that's all you had to say"!

  • kicker check (unverified)
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    I'm not a minority (unless you count the fact that my high school is now less than 20% caucasion), but I hear lots of speech that I object to in bars, on TV, and during backyard BBQs. Some of that speech is critical of who I am: including my profession or my political beliefs.

    Hearing people say things that are dismissive and insulting to others is part of living in a free society. I assume there is less public criticism of ethnicity, goverment failings, and people who are "different" in China, but the impetus for that "harmony" is the tangible threat of government sanction.

    Our Secretary of State and the Democratic candidate for President are two prominent examples of successful African-Americans overcoming racism. Ihere is a growing segment of affluent and middle class minorities, most of whom live outside racial enclaves. I don't see "the man" keeping minorities down in a concerted manner, as was certainly true 30 to 40 years ago.

    Does that mean everybody is going to be nice, and treat minorities will color blind eyes? Probably not: but the trend is positive. I don't think I would enjoy living in a world where offensive speech is subject to goverment sanction: I don't know how else you might expect it to end, other than becoming unfashionable.

  • dartagnan (unverified)
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    I'm old enough to remember when "Negro" was the preferred term and it was considered insulting to call someone "black." It also was okay to speak of "colored people" (as in "National Association for the Advancement of Colored People") but now it isn't -- though it's cool to use the term "persons of color." Point being that what is deemed politically and socially acceptable terminology is largely a matter of fashion.

    That said, after you told the hipsters that you found the term "Negro" objectionable they should have apologized and desisted from using it.

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    Karol,

    Thank you for your post. Some responses show that folks just don't want to put themselves in another's shoes. I understand your experience. Any person of color who currently lives in North or Northeast Portland has shared this experience.

    Many of the new establishments in North & Northeast Portland feel very unwelcoming to anyone outside of the "creative class" or "hipsters" universe. There are days where it feels like an invasion has happen and the new comers are pretty clueless about their impact on the community.

    It must be like Native Americans felt when Columbus "discovered" America. The hipsters have discovered North & Northeast and it will never be the same multicultural community it once was. How sad

  • Garrett (unverified)
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    It must be like Native Americans felt when Columbus "discovered" America. The hipsters have discovered North & Northeast and it will never be the same multicultural community it once was. How sad

    Oh pardon the hipsters for finding affordable housing and then living there...

    Again, I wouldn't use the term negro ever...Martin Luther King did though. I'm not condoning these "hipsters" use of the word I'm just saying Karol was targeting an entire group of people for two idiots and that's wrong.

  • (Show?)

    Meg's "Pulp Fiction" reference brings up an important point that, despite quite a bit of recent discussion here, often seems lost or confused: one and the same word can be used as a slur or insult in one context but as a term of affection in another. When those usages are both plentiful in popular culture, they can appear to give permission to people to use them in ways that the social context does not actually support - thereby, as in Karol's case, becoming insulting by suggesting a false sense of intimacy.

    That's why the "Pulp Fiction" scene works:

    Jules: You sendin' the Wolf? Marsellus: Oh, you feel better, motherfucker? Jules: [relieved] Shit, Negro, that's all you had to say!

    By contrast, try to imagine Pumpkin saying to Jules as Jules has his gun trained on him in the coffee shop, "Negro, chill: you don't need to blow my brains out."

    I don't think so.

    Terms like "Negro" or (as an example for my tribe),"Yid," define who's inside/outside of a group, emphasizing the sense of belonging or not belonging. What makes them so potentially loaded is the historical baggage of their sinister use to indicate non-belonging and the consequences that followed that social exclusion....

  • James (unverified)
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    My apologies for your experience. There is NO excuses.

    Words don't hurt, but how (or if) you use them does.

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    Garrett, I was using hipsters as a description, not as a damning of all tight t-shirt wearing men. I know not all hipsters call me and people my color Negros. But I also know - as I defined above - there is an idea that we so beyond some things that we bring back old terms to prove how powerless the word is, like its supposed to be cool and ironic. But the word still has power if the person you are conversing with doesn't appreciate it. You get where I'm coming from?

  • (Show?)

    Garrett, I was using hipsters as a description, not as a damning of all tight t-shirt wearing men. I know not all hipsters call me and people my color Negros. But I also know - as I defined above - there is an idea that we so beyond some things that we bring back old terms to prove how powerless the word is, like its supposed to be cool and ironic. But the word still has power if the person you are conversing with doesn't appreciate it. You get where I'm coming from?

  • Pat Malach (unverified)
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    Karol,

    Hipsters absolutely love Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, so clearly there are judgment problems with that group that go beyond language.

    It must really suck for hipsrters to have to be that "cool" all the time. Imagine the pressure.

  • randy (unverified)
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    Yet another post from Krybaby Karol. You must really lead a shallow life to post such trival tripe.

  • Adam L (unverified)
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    Dan P. totally nailed it.

    As for myself, I think 'negro' is at the least rude.

    I see no problem in using the label 'hipster' since they have given a concerted effort to dress the part.

    Although I was called 'white chocolate' a few weeks ago and I'm still glowing with pride.

  • (Show?)

    The etymology of the word "negro" is that it is a direct reference to color.

    That being the case, how ironic is it to on the one hand refer to one's own people in terms of color and on the other hand view a word which does precisely that as offensive?

    I don't use the term, personally. But I've witnessed far, far too many African-Americans gleefully referring to each other by the other, allegedly more offensive, "N" word to really give much of a damn any more.

    If/when we get to the point where we can define the intentions in the heart of another when they use such words then I'll be willing to give a damn again. Until then I'll remain as deeply skeptical of the racist intentions of whomever uses such words as I am of the racist intentions of whomever takes offense at it.

  • (Show?)

    Garrett-

    I'll have to go back and check the code, but I'm pretty sure once you call yourself a hipster, you no longer are. Most of your posts also violate the Pledge of Aloofness all hipsters take when they go to their first underground show.

    Just saying.

  • (Show?)

    Hipsters absolutely love Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, so clearly there are judgment problems with that group that go beyond language.

    ROFL!!

    Well said, Pat.

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    Adam L, White Chocolate has to be the ultimate compliment! Wanna go out? :)

  • (Show?)

    I haven't used the word in 40+ years except when speaking spanish where it designates a specific color.

    Since black is almost always inaccurate to some degree, we're left with the seven syllable term African-American, which leads one to think (in the interests of brevity) that one should pause another tenth of a second to ask one's self if a racial identifier actually brings any useful information to the sentence.

  • (Show?)

    Kevin, I'm not a user of the ultimate N word. I don't think the folks who said "negro" (plus the other incidences that week) are racist, but to me personally, I think it is a racist term. I told them what they said was offensive and they didn't care. That's all I'm saying.

    Just because some black folks call each other the N word doesn't mean that I have to accept the word Negro while I'm enjoying a vodka.

  • (Show?)

    Also, there's huge diffference between identifiers for self-selecting social groups and hereditary or genetic predisposition groups.

    In Portland, hipster is almost always a term of derision as even those externally identified that way have almost unlimited varieties of ways that they divide themselves in their struggle for uniform iconoclasm.

    I know quite a few self styled rebels who are rebelling against the other (externally identified) fake rebel posers.

    It's like trying to chase down the various shades of lefties in 1930s England...........There are an infinite number of permutations at odds with each other.

    Good clean fun

  • (Show?)

    Karol,

    Just curious: Would you mind sharing the context in which the word "Negro" was used in your conversation? I think it is awfully hard to judge the offensiveness of the use without the context in which the term was used.

    Just to give two examples, one of which I would say would be OK and one of which would not be OK, if hipster A referred to hipster B as his "Negro" as a term of endearment and neither hipster A or hipster B are African-American, that's (a) wrong and (b) totally cringeworthy. If on the other hand someone was telling a story about a polite but prejudiced person of an older generation, and that person used the term while imitating the polite but prejudiced person, saying as if they were that person, "Not all black people are bad. Why just the other day a nice young Negro man helped me cross the street", I don't think that's offensive (except for the original remark, which is offensive). I grew up in the South and I grew up with a lot of people who said things that made me blanch when I heard them (I could always tell when my face betrayed my offense at their remarks, because the speaker would invariably start babbling about how he/she wasn't a racist). I just think the context of how the word was used probably matters a lot in gauging its offensiveness in this situation.

  • (Show?)

    Kevin - there's also a completely non-racialized element of what's going on here:

    I want to gag every time John McCain looks into the camera and says, "My Friends...." Why? Because he's not my friend, I don't want him to be my friend, and I don't want him acting like he's my friend.

    By contrast, when Colbert addresses his audience as "Nation," I feel wrapped in Stephen's warm embrace.

    What we call each other is important. It can communicate respect, disrespect, ignorance, sympathy, etc. So I have a hard time understanding why some folks seem driven to distraction when Karol offers some insightful observations on what works/doesn't work for her.

  • ws (unverified)
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    I'm aware that there's some objection to the term, 'negro', but haven't heard that it's generally offensive in the sense that the other 'n' word is. Karol Collymore doesn't say outright that the two words are equally offensive, but that's the sense that comes across.

    Wikipedia isn't universally respected as a reliable authority on subjects it addresses, but the introduction to its entry on the term and subject, 'negro', is kind of how I understand the status of that term in today's time:

    "Negro is a term referring to people of Black African ancestry. Prior to the shift in the lexicon of American and worldwide classification of race and ethnicity in the late 1960s, the appellation was accepted as a normal neutral formal term both by those of Black African descent as well as non-African blacks. Now it is often considered an ethnic slur[1][2][3] although the term is considered archaic and is not even common as a racist slur. The term is still used in some contexts for historical reasons such as in the name of the United Negro College Fund[4][5]. "Negro" means "black" in Spanish and Portuguese, and the French "noir" as well as the Italian "nero"- all of which derive from the (Latin: niger = "black"). In Italy the word "negro" is still used neutrally by many people." wikipedia/negro

    But hipsters... . Were the hipsters in question barely of drinking age? That could explain a lot about how it is they happened to use that word.

  • (Show?)

    Karol,

    Would you mind providing some more description about the context in which the term "Negro" was used?

    In judging the relative offensiveness of the use of the word, context matters a great deal. I could give two examples, one of which I would say is offensive and the other which I would say is not. If, on the one hand, hipster A used the term "Negro" as a term of endearment when greeting hipster B and hipster A is not African-American, I think that is (a) wrong and (b) totally cringeworthy. On the other hand, if someone was telling me they thought William F. Buckley was an aristocratic racist and, while mimicking Buckley's voice said to me "the problem of the South is not how to get the vote for the Negro, but how to train the Negro — and a great many whites — to cast a thoughtful vote," I wouldn't take offense at their having said it [note: the quote above is from Buckley's book Up from Liberalism], I wouldn't say that person mimicking Buckley is offensive. I just think that context matters a great deal when you are trying to gauge the relative offensiveness of someone's use of that word.

  • (Show?)

    More context: I was at a table - that I was invited to as I was meeting someone I already knew and their friends - and one of the guys (aged 35) referred to a Black person in his story as a Negro.

    I wonder if some are ready to dismiss me because they believe because it isn't something THEY would do, it means it doesn't happen to anyone? My interest isn't causing trouble but making people think a little harder about the worlds we all live in. I think they are different and it's a good goal to see the world from many more sides that our own.

  • (Show?)

    What Pat said about racial identifiers - ditto!

    Y'know... it really wasn't that long ago that specific racial terms mattered a great deal to many if not most "white" Americans even though many of them aren't "white" by any definition other than the continent from which their ancestors originated. And even that is muddy as hell thanks to the Moors, Turks and other invaders.

    Look at old maps and descriptions of Chicago and you'll find ethnic neighborhoods all over the place which subdivided "whites" into dozens of distinct subgroups. Undoubtedly many of those residents would have taken some degree of offense at being lumped together with another subgroup - say... Armenians and Italians - as monolithic "whites."

    Everything about all of it is a veritable landmine field for those looking to take offense at something.

    I've long ago thrown my lot in with MLK's vision of a day when we're each judged by the content of our character rather than by the color of our skin.

    Here's another quirky thing about all this. As far as I can discern, most "black" Americans prefer to be lumped together into one supergroup - not unlike most "white" Americans, interestingly enough. But it seems to be very different among both Asian and Latino communities. Yet "black" and "white" Americans truly seem to struggle with the distinctions between ethnic Chinese (which "Chinese"? ah, but I digress...), Japanese and Cambodians... just to name three groups. And it seems to depend on context too, as the example of "Chinese" shows. Among themselves it seems to matter which ethnic subgroup they come from but amongst outsiders nationalism seems to be dominant.

    It's all hopelessly fucked up, IMHO.

  • (Show?)

    OK, that's weird. I tried to post something earlier and when I clicked "Post", I got a "Internet Explorer could not open this page" type of error message. When I checked the comments, I didn't see my post. Frustrated by having lost my comment (or so I thought), I walked away for a few minutes and sat down to write my comment a second time. Second time through I thought it would be more entertaining to quote something really offensive Buckley had said (that's not the only quote from WFB that would make a lot of people gasp audibly today if you read it to them, but that passed for respectable journalism 40 years ago). Now I see them both there. Has anyone else had issues of this kind in posting comments?

  • Old one (unverified)
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    Does this mean that the United Negro College Fund is racist? Should we remove their public service ads from television?

    I'm old enough to remember when "negro" was the polite word to be used to describe African Americans. Now it seems a little old fashioned and wouldn't use it except when talking about UNCF or to quote the words of MLK. I don't think its any worse than to say "queer" or "hipster."

  • old one (unverified)
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    Added Comment: I am also old fasioned in believing that you should address people by any title they wish. If a word or title gives offence you should say you are sorry and correct yourself. Saying "you are too sensitive" is rude, and in this part I agree with Karol.

  • (Show?)

    If you're having trouble with someone's request to be called by a particular term, think about how you'd feel if someone insisted on calling you "Bill" when you prefer "William," or "bookkeeper" when you're really an accountant.

    The first time they made the mistake, you'd give them a break. But after that, if they kept calling you too sensitive, you'd think they were an @$$. And you'd be right. We all have the right to be called what we want to be called.

    (My name here is Majority, even though that's often wishful thinking.)

  • (Show?)

    P.S. I once said "African American" in a conversation that included a black friend, and he said, "Hold on. That terms drives me nuts. Just say 'black!'"

    So with him, I say black. But I usually play it safe by starting with the most polite term I can think of (Mr./Mrs., Usted, Officer, African American, etc.) and wait for people to invite me to use a more informal term or greeting. That's the best way I can think of to find what people are comfortable with.

    It'd be embarrassing to me if I started with "black" and someone said, "I prefer African American."

  • (Show?)

    I love it when people try to make the point that there are so much more important issues to discuss than prejudice when most of the conflicts around the world are directly influenced by one sort of prejudice or another. Racism, ethnic strife, nationalism, religious intolerance...how many wars and conflicts haven't included elements of one or more of those themes?

    Sure, it can seem sometimes like people take offense at something you might consider awfully small potatoes, but on the other hand there's a lot of blatant prejudice out there as well, and you don't have to go very far for it to find you.

  • ws (unverified)
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    Myself, I wouldn't be using the term 'negro', to be referring to people in today's time, because it's old fashioned. It doesn't accurately reflect today's descendants of those people to whom the term originally referred to in the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries.

    Like old one, I'm kind of old too, so I remember from '68 when black power activists really raised the issue on a major scale that 'negro' did not acceptably describe whom they considered themselves to be. That was the first time I heard 'black' to be the preferred generally descriptive term for african-americans.

    From that time on, I never understood 'negro' to be thought of as offensive on a level with the other 'n' word, but that it might unwittingly or intentionally, I suppose, be used to inaccurately imply that people were prepared to submit to the old routine of being beaten down, be made empty of pride, and self power.

    So Karol, did you ever get a chance to ask or otherwise find out why the 35 year old hipster happened to use the word 'negro' in the conversation he was having?

  • Laura Calvo (unverified)
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    What I take from the conversation is the reminder of just how pervasive the concept of privilege is in our society and how it works to separate anyone out from the norm.

    In our society, if you anything other than a white male our social conventions require a descriptive label be assigned to differentiate that person or class of people from the implied norm of a white male.

    "All men are created equal". Everyone agrees that "all men" is supposed to mean all humans, but we've had a long struggle to get to that and we're still not there.

    Karol doesn't quite explain the context of the conversation, so I'm not 100% positive, but if it follows anywhere near my experience, I understand where she's coming from.

    The question I think should be examined if we are to continue to move forward, is to ask ourselves why do we need to mention a person's skin color, sexual orientation, or other attribute in conversation, if it really has no constructive bearing on the conversation?

    Too many times using such qualifiers only demeans the person being referred to and perpetuates stereotypes.

    Karol's post is good in that it has caused some folks to think about the underpinnings of how we think and view others different from ourselves. I don't believe she's been overly sensitive. Instead she's brought the discussion to light and from some of the postings confirmed the dialog needs to happen, probably more often and just as honestly.

  • David McDonald (unverified)
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    You've got to have this sort of conversation if you want to bring about change. Words certainly can and do hurt. Tropic Thunder is loaded with the term "retarded" which has caused protests all over the country. Ben Stiller says it's all fun and satire, but the people protesting disagree.

  • Paul Johnson (unverified)
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    There's already a word for "hipster racism." It's called "Californianism."

  • Vincent (unverified)
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    "Ironic" hipster racism is nothing new, sadly.

  • Lloyd C. Cranston (unverified)
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    I am in the final stages of ethnic re-assignment surgery, having my lips, nose and other parts enlarged. I don't have a problem with the term "Negro" but did object to being called "Cracker" by Jesse Jackson, Sharpton, et al.

    BTW, I didn't know there were any 'hip' parts of NOPO...?

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    I agree with old one, that "...you should address people by any title they wish. If a word or title gives offense you should say you are sorry and correct yourself."

    I've been called "kike" by people who thought they were being hip and funny, and I've been told that I was being "too sensitive" when I objected (the opposite of "too insensitive").

    I also agree with Laura Calvo's point about the lack of "need to mention a person's skin color, sexual orientation, or other attribute". My first time posting to BO, I was "introduced" by a Palestinian rights advocate as "a Jewish compatriot", which bothered me. Support for Arabs who are being slaughtered and tortured by US policy does not require a qualifier.

    No group of people in US society has been more supportive or kinder to me than black people. They obviously have made extremely valuable contributions to the rest of us, and their preferences in language are a small price for us to pay in acknowledging our debt to them.

  • Gregor (unverified)
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    Essentially, we've run into trouble by identifying these individuals as hipsters. Maybe they were just Dick and Jane? Maybe they were just jerks regardless of their appearances? Maybe we think we should give their "kind" a racist label rather then hold these individuals responsible for their actions.

    From a legal standpoint harassment is determined by how it is perceived and not the intention. If Karol felt insulted and said so, then these jerks should have apologized rather then be dismissive, as if to say her opinion/feelings matter not. But isn't that at the core of the narcissist anyway. I'll say what I will, do what I do, and as for anyone else, ... them. It's time to leave these people with their best friends, alone by themselves.

    PS - What is up with people who get so worked up about being held to account for bad behavior. You have the right to say it, but it's really a poor choice and I hope it will forever be scorned. It that makes them uncomfortable, that was the intent. Change your behavior and we will all be more comfortable. Think about someone else before being so careless and then expecting everyone else to care less. Others care. Take the hint already.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    I have called out a couple of co-workers over "cheap Jew" comments. For one, it was a wake-up call and led to an important discussion. For the other, it was simply a "huh?" moment. People differ (big surprise there).

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    To me this seems simple, if you're having a conversation and want to be polite then respect people's objections to the labels you put on them. I've voiced similar objections to Karol's to the term "white boy," a term I find especially insulting due to most adult blacks' (quite reasonable) objection to being called "boy." My objections to that term have been met with similar amusement or disbelief as what Karol described, probably because the term was used out of habit and no intentional disrespect was meant. But that's the thing about the traps language can bind us in--the connotations of a term may not even be realized by those who use the term and reinforce those same connotations.

    Of course, Karol was also (apparently) in a bar, and alcohol tends to make certain folks, hipster or otherwise, less polite, sensitive or generally open to contradiction. Try again when your friends sober up from all the PBR.

    ; )

  • (Show?)

    I hate hipsters so much.

  • RichW (unverified)
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    Those who are offended by ethnic terms have a responsibility to educate the offender. In most cases it is not overt racism but simply a generational thing and/or ignorance.

    A multi-racial bunch of us have breakfast every Tuesday. Most of the men have worked the Portland docks as longshoremen. One man in his 70's every once in a while would describe someone as "that colored guy", I cringed at his use of the term. But the Black men at the table (who are about the same age) never took offense, since they had worked with him for several years. Apparently, in their generation the word was not offensive. But I had to take him aside the last time he did that and tell him that I was uncomfortable with his use of the term, especially in a public place where people at other tables might hear him. He thanked me for the insight and assured me he only meant to use the term in non-prejudicial way. We will see if he changes his terminology.

    I myself once called a colleague an "Asian-American" and he asked me to call him Chinese instead.

    I used to call my youngest kid a "cracker" because she was born in Florida and she actually attended a grade school whose mascot was a Florida Cracker (pioneer). I Didn't know it was also an insulting term until I moved to Oregon.

  • Satchel (unverified)
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    "You are too sensitive" = "I'm a jerk and don't care who knows it." Sorry that happened to you, Karol.

  • Mourning a loss (unverified)
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    Reading this I can't help but wonder why Blue Oregon hasn't published anything in respect and tribute to Stephanie Tubbs Jones who passed today:

    Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones dies of brain hemhorrage http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Congresswoman_Stephanie_Tubbs_Jones_does_of_0820.html

    She was a great leader and a great Democrat and she'll be missed.

  • Ryan (unverified)
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    Ignorant. I've often been in the company of the ignorant who think what they're saying is funny, and worse still, that they're not saying something racist because they're aware that it's not an acceptable term to use. We all need a little more communication. On the topic of language, how about "white trash"? As differentiated from other trash, or white, but trash? A term I've never liked... P.S. Gyp is also a racist term I've heard a lot.

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    I totally agree with Karol on this one. Part of being a "hipster" is trying to convince others that you're so cool and hip that you're above it all. Part of calling yourself a hipster is making sure you make an ironic comment on society at all times - because you are so very cool and so very hip. The recent bikini coffee shops that have sprung up prompted an online conversation on the WW websight and the Mercury blog. From what I read the take-away seemed to be: thinking bikini coffee shops are even a little sexist = unhip, not giving a second thought about the impact a bikini coffee shop might have on a 13 year old girl and trying your hardest to make a funny comment online about it = totally hip. Women who took it seriously were just being too sensitive!

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    Katy, as the mother of a 13 year old girl, I couldn't agree more. While you and I may have had our differences on the use of the word "sweetie", I am with you 100% that the "hipsters" goal is an air of nonchalance and c'est la vie about EVERYTHING in some quest for faux sophistication.

    I also struggle as a parent in discussing broad stereotypes that are found and propagated in so much of today's rap and so called R&B. My children's experience in the world is still fairly limited as children and they do not think in nuanced, abstract terms most of the time. How do I combat the stereotypes of misogyny, materialism and violence while also conveying the legitimacy and roots of such music ?

    I hear Rich's comments and think of my father, who was born in 1920 and lived in Chicago. They had slang terms for every conceivable ethnicity and religion. Was he a racist ? Yeah, in a lot of ways he was. Did he always use such terms in a pejorative ? No. I think bottom line is that if someone tells you a term is offensive or tells you how they prefer to be addressed, you honor that. The onus should not be on the recipient . It's not that hard. I can't stand it when people say things like " It's so hard to remember what to say " Really ? If it is that hard for, you got bigger problems.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    We all recognize racial and ethnic differences. Doing so is perfectly natural (arguably, it's hard-wired). What one chooses to do after recognizing those differences is another matter....

  • golden (unverified)
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    Sounds to me like the guy said negro trying to use an unexpeded term to make this part of the story a little shocking and sorta funny. Negro is an out dated term and saying it is like wearing your dads bowling shirt from the 70s. Problem is bowlers dont walk down the street and get called afucking bowigger.How much of a dick do you have to be to tell someone they are over reacting when they say they are offended? Are we that bold that we dont even for a second think hmmm, how will saying negro make this black person react/feel/think I have friend who doesnt like the term NOPO so I dont say it unless I am trying to be a dick when around them. But this is more sensitve than that, if you didnt know black people are singled out everyday, somtimes for good but often for bad. Its probably understandable for karol to be a little sensitive about racial issues. If I knew you were wrongly put in prison for a year I probably wouldnt causually make adon@t drop the soap` joke. Its not really about racism it more about not being a prick.

  • james mattiace (unverified)
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    Thank you to both Dena and Golden for restoring my faith in this blog. For a second there I thought I had slipped into a time machine and landed in 1990 when this conversation was actually new and people were complaining about all the "PC" words they had to learn like "person of small stature".

    Get over it. This is not your grandpa's world anymore. You can't pat your secretary on the ass, you can't keep the jews out of your country club, and you have to accept someone's right to not be insulted.

    Karol, that guy was a prick for telling you were too sensitive. I'd have given him some credit if he had engaged you as to why you and he disagreed on how offensive the word was.

    James Mattiace

  • Just Hipsters? (unverified)
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    Two blog posts that I think add interesting viewpoints.

    The first is by a black man who blogs as The Field Negro that came up in my scan of serious progressive news sources because of his comment about Obama titled Fight Club, This Just In: The "O" Man Gets Tough!

    The second is the source of a quote in the left column of that page he has (had) a quote that caught my eye by a woman who blogs as Zuky entitled The White Liberal Conundrum:

    Some might be surprised to learn that when people of color talk about racism amongst ourselves, white liberals often receive a far harsher skewering than white conservatives or overt racists. Many of my POC friends would actually prefer to hang out with an Archie Bunker-type who spits flagrantly offensive opinions, rather than a colorblind liberal whose insidious paternalism, dehumanizing tokenism, and cognitive indoctrination ooze out between superficially progressive words. At least the former gives you something to work with, something above-board to engage and argue against; the latter tacitly insists on imposing and maintaining an illusion of non-racist moral purity which provides little to no room for genuine self-examination or racial dialogue.

  • ws (unverified)
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    "Some might be surprised to learn that when people of color talk about racism amongst ourselves, white liberals often receive a far harsher skewering than white conservatives or overt racists. Many of my POC friends would actually prefer to hang out with an Archie Bunker-type who spits flagrantly offensive opinions, rather than a colorblind liberal whose insidious paternalism, dehumanizing tokenism, and cognitive indoctrination ooze out between superficially progressive words. At least the former gives you something to work with, something above-board to engage and argue against; the latter tacitly insists on imposing and maintaining an illusion of non-racist moral purity which provides little to no room for genuine self-examination or racial dialogue." zuky/ the white liberal conundrum

    Wow...there's a sickness there. I read that as being possible that the reason they'd prefer to hang out with the Archie Bunker type because such a person is obviously an easier target for their own outrage. It's one thing if a person is being superficially patronizing of another cultures history of struggle and hardship that vastly differs from their own. On the other hand, if a person expresses views and opinions in a heartfelt and sincere way, why go looking to dig up dirt where there is none? Or, would people filled with outrage even be able, or want to tell the difference between the two?

    I just wish Karol Collymore, after having expressed to the 35 year old hipster at her table that use of the word 'negro' was not o.k., would have went on to ask him why he seemed to think it was o.k. to use that word until she informed him otherwise (it's not as though he went on to use the word again, later on in the conversation....or did he? He would have been a better man if he'd actually apologized in addition to expressing to her that he felt she was too sensitive.). I would liked to have read about his answer to that question. It might have explained a lot and avoided a lot of unnecessary speculation and bad feelings.

  • inbf (unverified)
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    Sorry you felt like you were called a name. Then you called the name callers a name. Then implied a name. Then they could call you another name, and you could write another post and call them names publicly. That would help. Then we could have a contest for who is the biggest victim. We could keep tabs on ALL the names we get called in, say, one week, in our personal and professional lives. These could be tabulated, and rated. Queen for a day! There should be prizes!

  • trishka (unverified)
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    this little tidbit out of the above washington post link sums the whole thing up for me, actually:

    "In his hipster world, the credo is to use irony to make light of anything "sacred.""

    wow.

    if that is not white privilege at its most flagrant, then what is? the unassailable right to decide for others that what they deem "sacred" is actually silly?

    yeah. gross.

  • ryan (unverified)
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    inbf, "hipster" is a derogatory name? I've been using terms like "goth" and "punk" for years, and never knew how insensitive I was. I always thought fashion was a choice, but now that I understand that it's something we can't change, I'll never question the illogical obsession with Pabst again.

  • Non Hipster White Guy (unverified)
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    Karol,

    Your choice to just pigeonhole hipsters has somehow turned this comment thread into solely hipster bashing. Wasn't this post more about race, common sense and then a little bit about hipster vapidness?

    You asked: Has anyone else heard throwback racist terms lately under the guise of coolness?

    I'm a white guy. I've used both the "N" words. When I was younger I used these words and I really had no idea of what they meant. I never used them as hate filled terms - I used them as a dumb kid would use them. I then grew up. I grew up with a wide array of friends. Folks from all colors and all countries. Did I used the words in or around them - no. I used it when around my white friends. I'm not saying this behavior is right or wrong - I'm just saying how it was/is.

    OK, so now I'm grown up. Do I still used these words? Yes I do. Here's how:

    Case 1) I reference Caddyshack from time to time as do most young white guys (I'd say 20 - 45). The scene where he's being asked is his weed is quality:

    "of course it's good shit. I got it from a Negro"

    I'd wonder what the odds are that this phrase has been said on a golf course by a group of white layers, politicians, or just friends? If Vegas were placing odds I would feel safe laying down some cash. Again, regardless of you thinking this is good behavior or bad - the fact is that this happens a lot out there. We have all had this moment or something similar to it. You might bash me here on the blog but I think you are lying to yourself.

    Case 2) Sometimes I have thrown out or been greeted with "What's up Nigga?". I'm sure that about 95% of drunken white frat boys around this country have done this. But I'm also sure that 90% of non-drunk white lawyer buddies gathering for their weekly softball game have done so as well. I'll even assume that some rough percentage of young, white, Democratic, Bus Project age kids have too.

    Again, all I'm trying to post here is some honesty.

    I think for most white guys my age who have grown up with post-civil rights eyes on the world as well as the Dave Chapelle Show, Hip Hop and Rap, Oprah, and so on - we feel like we can use these terms in those ways or similar. I'm not saying this thinking is right. I'm just saying this is the thinking. Do I believe some folks on this thread who claim to have never ever said Negro or similar before in their life? No.

    I think a lot of us white people have used these terms in some way, shape or form in our lives. Some as idiot kids. Some maybe in a hateful way. Some each week in our softball game. Someway.

    So to answer your question: Has anyone else heard throwback racist terms lately under the guise of coolness?

    Yes, I have. I think the younger hipster/non-hipster folks using these terms don't view it as a throwback racist term but more like a punchline and as you said a "guise of coolness".

    So why is that? How do we change that?

    I dunno? Am I part of the problem if I don't consider what I am doing problem?

  • ryan (unverified)
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    NHWG, the answer to your last question is yes. And the answer to how to change it is to talk about it, and to be made to think about the words we say. Too many of us talk first and think later, (or don't think at all.) The way we find out about the effect of our words is to listen to other people.

  • (Show?)

    I'll even assume that some rough percentage of young, white, Democratic, Bus Project age kids have too.

    I seriously doubt that one. The Bus is about a lot of things but it's definitely not about forming elaborate excuses for acting like a prick, whether among frat boys or attorneys. And BTW, there are a lot of law students and attorneys in the Bus mix, that somehow find other less offensive conversational strategies, while somehow remaining "hip" and "cool".

  • Non Hipster White Guy (unverified)
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    Pat: I said "Bus Project age" not The Bus Project.

    I'm not saying the BP has anything to do with this cause they don't.

    And so, do frat boys, lawyers playing softball or etc.. make up all lawyers playing softball or all frat boys? No they don't. They probably aren't even close to the majority. But they still exist and there are probably a lot if you total them up.

    I just think we've all been hypocritical or insensitive at times. I'm trying to change that in myself but it does not happen overnight.

    So ryan who said:

    And the answer to how to change it is to talk about it, and to be made to think about the words we say. Too many of us talk first and think later, (or don't think at all.) The way we find out about the effect of our words is to listen to other people.

    Hence why I put this out there. I appreciate the answer. And like I just said above...

    I just think we've all been hypocritical or insensitive at times. I'm trying to change that in myself but it does not happen overnight.

  • gl (unverified)
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    Dena-

    How do you combat the stereoteypes in Rap and R&B, and yet perpetuate stereotypes with comments "that the "hipsters" goal is an air of nonchalance and c'est la vie about EVERYTHING in some quest for faux sophistication."

    hmm...

  • trishka (unverified)
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    NHWG - i agree that it is important that we try to change ourselves and that it doesn't happen overnight.

    after posting, it occurred to me that i should be honest and upfront about the fact that i have in my life been guilty of cultural appropriation that i deplored above, probably still am on occasion, out of an attempt to look or be cool. not necessarily in an ironic "make light of that which others consider sacred" way that the hipsters discussed do, but, well, let's say i've been known to hang a dreamcatcher from my rearview mirror.

    we do do all do it. no doubt. but it's also good to talk about it and to try to learn and to, as someone posted above, take a breath, try not to be defensive, and try to learn where the concerns are coming from.

    i appreciate the effort at dialogue here.

  • Kija (unverified)
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    This conversation cracks me up because it is such a perfect example of white people doing their damnedest avoid honest conversation about race.

    We have a dozen examples of whites telling Karol they, not she, are the judges of what she is allowed to be offended by - one even demanding more details to give great context for judging. This is particularly egregious in that Karol's comment was motivated less by their use of the term than by their dismissive reception of her objection. So nice that she gets the same treatment here. Let's be honest, we know the use of the word negro is no longer acceptable, that its continuing historical use in organizational names etc. is not a justification for contemporary use in conversation. One of the things on my list of "You know you're a racist when...." is "when you tell black people what words they are allowed to be offended by."

    We have the faux equivalency claim - that her use of the word hipster is as offensive as their use of the word negro. Oh, now tell me about the long history of oppression and exploitation of hipsters, how they were kept impoverished, shut out of power, disenfranchised. I want to know. Let's add to that list "when you claim your group is as oppressed as the group under discussion."

    Then there is the black people do it, so I can too claim - less common, but making its appearance. And this is the so-called liberal Blue Oregon....no wonder there was that quote about preferring open racists.

  • RichW (unverified)
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    As a member of a College Fraternity, I consider the term "frat boy" to be offensive too. :)

    It has been over four decades since I was a pledge, but one of the first things we were taught was NEVER to use the word "frat". I remember that to this day.

    To Dena: A 13 year-old daughter is a "blessing". I have had three. God grant you the strength! I also lived in Chicago until I graduated college. I know what you mean about ethnic slurs and sterotypes, and they were not limited to Jews, Blacks, and Latinos. Every group had a perjorative label, and you stayed in your own neighborhood enclave.

    To Karol: I really enjoy living in NoPo...er... North Portland. I am sorry your bad experience occurred here. I find that the racial dialogue in our part of town, if not perfect, is sincere and collaborative. As a youth advisor for a fraternity of diverse teenagers, I am especially enthused by this generation that is coming of age. They recognize their ethnic, racial, and social differences while maintaing true bonds of friendship. They are more progressive than their elders... which, when you really think about it, is the way it is supposed to be.

    At my age, "hip" is something I try not to break!

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    As stated above, comparing the experiences of African Americans to that of "hipsters" is demeaning and insulting in and of itself. People who choose to define themselves as such ( hipsters, goth, jocks, R's, D's) will run into generalities. , Much of the time that is their intended desire.It's like the kid who wears piercings or has a unique hairstyle and then acts all mad when people notice it Honestly, a lot of this comes down to age and life experience.

    FWIW: Some of my best friends are hipsters...:-)

  • meg (unverified)
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    I try to use the term Negro niggardly with my black friends.

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    Posted by: Kija | Aug 21, 2008 1:37:10 PM

    This conversation cracks me up because it is such a perfect example of white people doing their damnedest avoid honest conversation about race.

    We have a dozen examples of whites telling Karol they, not she, are the judges of what she is allowed to be offended by...

    Ironic, n'est pas?

    Funny how we're all experts at racial insensitivity in others but are strangely blind to it in ourselves.

  • gl (unverified)
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    "As stated above, comparing the experiences of African Americans to that of "hipsters" is demeaning and insulting in and of itself. People who choose to define themselves as such ( hipsters, goth, jocks, R's, D's) will run into generalities."

    hmm.. I do not recall comparing the plight of the african american to the urban hipster.

    Also did the "Hipster" in question choose to identify themself as a "hipster"?

    "FWIW: Some of my best friends are hipsters...:-)"

    what if one posted "FWIW: some of my best friends are african american...:)"

    I think as a progressive community we all have to try alittle harder.

  • Kija (unverified)
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    Actually Kevin, I am white and wish more whites would just have the grace to say "SORRY" when their racial insensitivity is pointed out rather than spend so much time justifying and excusing their language and the language of other whites - demonstrating how desperately they cling to white privilege and how desperately they need to invalidate black experience.

    Honestly, the proper response from someone who was committed to fighting racism would be along the lines of the first three posters..."gosh that was rude, sorry it happened." Instead, the majority of responders want Karol to explain the context, apologize for generalizing about hipsters, be less sensitive, suck it up, wait until every other problem in the world is solved because they are more important, etc etc.

    And we're supposed to be the liberals.

  • (Show?)

    GL: I thought you would know that the "FWIW Some of..." statement was an exact parody of the example you stated. Sometimes sarcasm doesn't translate well on blogs.

  • gl (unverified)
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    dont you mean faux sarcasm?

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    Kija, it's a loaded minefield with no agreed upon map as to which is the safe path through.

    As I indicated upthread, the only solution I see is to wholeheartedly adopt MLK's sentiments completely bypassing the minefield by looking forward to individuals being judged on the content of our respective characters -or even of what it could be - rather than the color of our skin. The wisdom of which seems to me to be born out in Nelson Mandela's philosophy and choices as apartheid broke up and was replaced by democracy.

  • Kija (unverified)
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    But, Kevin, you are insisting that Karol is not allowed to judge the hipsters by the content of their character because only you get to. You decided that since some blacks use the N-word, so you don't give a damn, therefore Karol cannot take offense. In fact, you state "I'll remain as deeply skeptical of the racist intentions of whomever uses such words as I am of the racist intentions of whomever takes offense at it."

    This is the very definition of white privilege. Whites get to set the rules and blacks get to shut up. And of course, while you thought I was black, you accused me of racism -- ironic, isn't it.

    I suggest you read all about Wite-Magik Attax since you are an expert practicioner. http://www.theunapologeticmexican.org/glosario.html#magikattax

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    I'm not saying that Karol is right or wrong. I'm saying that there simply is no agreed upon right answer because nearly everyone has an axe to grind which disqualifies them as objective.

    Further, I didn't think you were black, white or purple. You ass-u-me-ed my intentions. Which seems to me to underscore the veracity of what I'm saying here.

    In fact, you'd indicated your ethnicity during a past thread on the street renaming fiasco in Portland.

    Look, I grew up self-identifying as an American of German extraction because that's as much as I knew about my ethnicity. I remember well my dad telling us stories as kids about how his father had instructed him and his sister not to admit to anyone that they were ethnic Germans during WWII - which just reinforced my self-identity.

    But then many years later my maternal grandmother's secret that her mother was a Jew was grudgingly given up (by her) and suddenly I had a massively conflicting self-identity to work through. The reality of which is that it's almost a sure thing that I had distant relatives killing each other in Europe during WWII specifically because of their ethnicity.

    My current sentiments as expressed upthread spring largely from lessons learned from my own ethnicity and from my observations of how others treat me when they think I'm German versus when they think I'm a Jew.

    All of which is to say that I too have an axe to grind here. And just like you and everyone else, mine stems directly from my own experiences, history and ethnicity.

  • ws (unverified)
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    Karol Collymore had a right to be offended. It was fine that she told the hipster guy she was offended. I just think it was unfortunate if she didn't take the opportunity to find out from the source whether the guy was really being an obnoxious racist jerk, or whether he was just ignorant of the sensibilities of the people at the table. Strange as it might seem, he might even have consciously made the remark using the word in question, thinking that Karol was hip to the context and would think it was funny too.

  • trishka (unverified)
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    an obnoxious racist jerk, or whether he was just ignorant of the sensibilities of the people at the table.

    see, the problem is that i think there is a very fine line between these two things, if there is any separation at all. the former is a negative description of the latter, really.

    what i mean to say is that ignorance is at the root of the issue for a lot of us. we would not dream of being racist jerks, but we are ignorant of the experience, and therefore of the sensibilities of the people around us, especially people of color, so we step on our tongues sometimes and say or do stupid insensitive things.

    it doesn't make us jerks - unless we don't try to learn and grow from the experience.

  • (Show?)
    what i mean to say is that ignorance is at the root of the issue for a lot of us. we would not dream of being racist jerks, but we are ignorant of the experience, and therefore of the sensibilities of the people around us, especially people of color, so we step on our tongues sometimes and say or do stupid insensitive things. it doesn't make us jerks - unless we don't try to learn and grow from the experience.

    Well said, Trishka. I think you are definitely at the root of it there.

  • RW (unverified)
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    And we in the "native american" communities can be found to prefer the following: "indigenous"; "tribals"; "first americans"; and, believe it or don't, JUST PLAIN IND'IN for those in the older generation who aren't fussing with that part so much as Reading you yourself and dealing with the actual relating you are putting across. I think in some ways there is a level of exhaustion with fighting the same scuffle over and over again, and the key to survival has all too often been that of pure endurance, and keeping the inner life deeply- held.

    I am a writer. Words to me are everything! Visceral delight, nourishment, most tasty play and serious business. It is hoped that the name-calling can desist here and we can pursue a latter-day communication as to where we stand now on language? With a hefty dose of historical recall? The matter of naming seems to be personal, highly personal, and requires personal communication - that's a lot of energy.

    I find myself at risk in corporate settings if I dare to step onto "diversity" committees, as I do not sound strictly PC, coming from inside the reality of our lives lived in context. Unless a person really knows the roads I've traveled for three decades, some of my utterances can sound not PC-enough even as they are reflective of life as lived on the ground in our communities. Indeed, I relentlessly challenge those only able to consider diversity as a thing of ethnicity and race to consider the fundamentals, gender and socioeconomics as primary, over which we apply the rest. It's hard going, that. So I mostly anymore keep my mouth shut. I don't have the energy to explain IF an explanation or real discussion is in the offing. Which can be all-tooo-rare.

  • RW (unverified)
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    A ps: my half-Cherokee son has expressed some cultural anguish related to the fact that his obvious ethnicity is fetishized and admired in- and stereotypically of- itself. The demonization of his non-native antecedents irritates him. In his struggle for authentic identity and existential autonomy, he feels impeachment of his humanity in this flipside of all that you discuss above. And is exasperated at times by the tip-toe useage of terms only vaguely understood viz his throwness.

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    Something that I find somewhat interesting about this discussion is the non-mention of "Negro" as a term of disparagement among black people, in spirit somewhat akin to calling someone an "Uncle Tom," in an updated sense that in part I think refers to allowing white people to be the arbiters of black respectability, moral fitness and so on.

    I'm not sure how generational that is.

    Coming to irony, it's interesting to compare the supposed irony of the conversation in question (which I have to confess I don't really see) with the genuine and sharp irony in the use of the term by Damali Ayo in her book How to Rent a Negro. In a number of ways her use of the term "Negro" serves as a figure for forms of white consciousness associated with incomplete struggles by white people in an area of cultural and psychological tension. (That description quite denatures her humor, btw).

    I would describe the tension as being between or among not wanting to see ourselves as racist, vs. not wanting to be or act racist, vs. actually succeeding, more or less, in times and places, at not being or acting racist, despite the persistent cultural milieu shaped by history.

    Anyway, the sharpness and reality of her irony to my mind reveals the supposed irony imputed to Karol's interlocutors, if indeed intended that way, as a flat, dull and unearned symptom of premature and self-congratulatory "post-racialism," even before the boorish behavior in brushing Karol off. It's in its way comparable to premature and unearned cynicism and world-weariness, which also are afflictions of the would-be hip, at times.

    Post-racialism is a myth.

  • David McDonald (unverified)
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    Interesting how no one who comments on this blog saw fit to say anything about Tropic Thunder. Just goes to show you that the liberal crowd could care less about the people or the word "retard".

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    Well David, actually Garrett did, though I'm guessing you won't like what he has to say.

    Actually I don't know much about Tropic Thunder. The one thing I had heard about it before your comment was Darrell Millner of the Black Studies Department at PSU saying it involves a white actor in blackface. Given the actual topic of this thread, if that's true, which I assume it is, since Darrell is a smart and level-headed guy, and the likelihood that both the choice to do that and that it will be defended as satire, both of which arguably would involve "hipster racism" or something closely related, I'm guessing the reason it hasn't come up is that the people commenting on Karol's post haven't seen it or paid much attention to it.

    And I'd also bet that most of the people who in other settings are complaining about "retard" language are part of "the liberal crowd," if not this particular subset. The conservative crowd's specialty runs much more along the lines of mocking liberals for caring about language, and chest thumping about being politically incorrect when a lot of the time they're really just being ethically wrong or personally nasty.

  • Gregor (unverified)
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    Are hipsters nihilists?

  • diehipster (unverified)
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    http://www.diehipster.com

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