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Gawker Calls Out Hipster Racism, Is Called Out for Hipster Racism

Oh Gawker. Lindy West's Jezebel post on Hipster Racism is blowing up certain parts of the Internet today. In it, West goes over four main points of "hipster racism"—where folks justify racism by poorly hiding behind irony (Sarah Silverman—we see you!). On Racialicious, Carmen Van Kerckhove dubbed hipster racism one of 2006's top race and pop culture trends, which means that hipster or "ironic" racism has been a topic of conversation by writers of color and others in the social justice sphere for literally years. You won't find any links or acknowledgments of these earlier discussions in West's Jezebel post, but hey, at least a whole new audience of people will be that much closer to knowing how to talk about stuff like Lesley Arfin's insensitive, "ironic" tweet last week.

One dude definitely didn't read the post though (or maybe he did read it, and was oblivious). A. J. Daulerio of Gawker (remember, Jezebel is part of Gawker Media) posted a short but incredibly whiny post complaining about the backlash of Gawker's strange new comments system. "Change is disruptive. Change makes old things go away. Boo, change. We'll deal," said Daulerio. He concluded, "I'm just trying to build sturdy branches for us to chat on. Let's go be a fun family of talking birds on branches in the comments and have a meaningful Native American Chit-Chat. Come, come." What? In case this appropriative and nonsensical metaphor didn't call enough attention to itself, there was also a large graphic of three black birds with feather headbands. You can see the graphic below, followed by the sarcastic Twitter response of Adrienne at Native Appropriations: "Thanks for the insensitive graphic, Gawker. You guys are really on point with the hipster racism. So ironic and funny!"

The Gawker graphic of three black birds on a branch, each wearing a headband with a single feather sticking out of it
a screenshot of Adrienne's tweet that reads Thanks for the insensitive graphic, gawker. You guys are really on point with the hipster racism. So ironic and funny!

This isn't really much of a surprise though. Just a couple weeks ago Jezebel editor Jessica Coen trotted out some hipster ableism when she tweeted "The word 'ableism' is lame and crazy." Stay tuned for a bestselling book by her, Daulerio, Arfin (and you too, Chloë Sevigny?!) called How to Be Offensive When You're on the Defensive. You'll know it because of the feathered headdresses on the cover.

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Comments

32 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Nothing new

And, uh, don't forget Bitch's article on the very topic way back in 2004, "Kiss Me: I'm a Fashionable Bigot."

Always head of the curve at B-Word Worldwide!

Yes!

Thanks Rachel, I linked to your great article but it is kind of hidden in the parenthetical to Sarah Silverman. Sad to see how little has changed and what has changed is just more insidious.

____________
Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

I just wanted to comment on

I just wanted to comment on the inclusion of Sarah Silverman in this post.

I always thought that when she was being inappropriate, douchy and racist she was doing so in character, i.e. to call attention to the absurdity that people that think like that actually exist. It seemed to me, something comparable to what Stephen Colbert does: performing (or actually embodying) a conservative pundit to show, via humorous rants and ironic twists, how ridiculous conservative pundits can be.

Is this not the case? What am I missing?

That's what I think as well.

That also was my assumption. As the earlier Bitch article said, "The difference between Silverman and, say, Aber­crombie & Fitch is that Silverman’s act is an extreme form of satire intended to expand her audience’s comfort zones and to limn the very idea of racism, while Vice, A&F, UO, and their ilk are trying to sell us a range of products that add up to a lifestyle."

silverman

Fudge also writes, "Mul­tiple interpretations are what allow for the possibility of humor—yet they also sabotage any attempt to control its reception." For me, Sarah Silverman's race-based humor doesn't end up subverting racism, and I'm not always sure that white people in her audience are laughing at the right "joke." But that's a bit tangential to what the post is supposed to be about. Maybe it was a confusing parenthetical for me to throw into such a brief post.

____________
Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

maybe it is a little

maybe it is a little tangential but I was just trying to understand if silverman was being used as an example of "hipster racism" (a term that, honestly, I don't really see as different from plain racism, just as very specific cultural instances of it) and, if she was, why her and not other comedians/performers that embody similar characters.

What a bizarre quote. The

What a bizarre quote. The author must be an excellent mind-reader.

At the risk of

At the risk of oversimplifying it, one difference between Silverman and Colbert that immediately comes to my mind is the fact that I know MANY racist people who enjoy her in a Vice magazine kind of way. While Colbert has had his moments crossing the line he is doing a parody of Bill O'Reilly and I've never seen racists take such pleasure watching him. It's the same thing with Team America :World Police or the South Park gay jokes; when bigots absorb these jokes as confirmations of the stereotypes they hold dear, the subversive element goes out the window.

Lindy West

Lindy West deserves some real praise. I've been a huge fan of hers for years, since she was a film writer for The Stranger. She's really the first writer I've ever read who has completely cracked combining original humor and smart feminism.

And, I love Bitch and Racialicious and academic writing, but writing in the "social justice sphere" isn't going to change anything unless the ideas are adopted by the wider culture. We should applaud and celebrate those who bring these ideas to a wider audience in an interesting way - not passive aggressively insult them for stealing our ideas.

Not about stealing or insults

Rabini,

I happen to know that Kjerstin likes a lot of Lindy West's writing too (and I do too!). However, there's a long history—in "social justice spheres" and outside of them—of white, privileged writers with access to an audience talking about issues that have been covered by writers of color in the past and not crediting them for their ideas. I for one think that's worth noting, especially when racism is the topic of discussion. West clearly did some research for her post and must have seen some of the previous writing on "hipster racism"—why not link back to a few writers of color in her piece?

Also, I'm clearly biased as the editor here, but I think we've had plenty of Bitch bloggers who've combined original humor and smart feminism, Kjerstin being one of them :) I agree with you that West is funny too though!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

While I would love to see

While I would love to see these ideas become more mainstream and extend past the social justice sphere, I do not think using Lindy West to achieve this was a wise decision. Surely there are people of color who would really love to write about this? Why not have a guest post or cross-post something? I remember the Jezebel days whenl Latoya Peterson was a regular guest, so I know it's possible. Having a white writer talk about this when so many POC said it first was thoughtless at best.

Also, I must respectfully disagree with your assertion that Lindy's humor is original. While it is indeed funny, it is essentially Melissa McEwan of Shakesville's signature style, albeit a little less condemnatory.

Agreed!

I totally agree with you and don't think that Lindy deserves the criticism she has received from all ends. Yes, she could have linked to Racilicious more. But we should be EXCITED that she got a larger audience talking about racism, instead of picking her to death. Really disappointed in Bitch right now.

Links

Huh... "You won't find any links or acknowledgments of these earlier discussions in West's Jezebel post"
Um, the whole post is full of links to posts on racialicious and so on.

she linked to racialicious once

and she definitely wasn't giving them credit for having been discussing hipster racism for years.

Are we looking at the same post?

I don't see ANY links to Racialicious in Lindy West's post.

The Gawker/Jezebel Drinking Game

I came up with a Gawker/Jezebel drinking that might be relevant.

http://finalarbiteroftasteandjustice.blogspot.com/2012/04/gawkerjezebel-...

I actually read that page.

Every time they get mad about obesity being shown in a negative light, take a shot of high fructose corn syrup, claim being fat has no negative consequences and ban anyone who disagrees."

Wow. You sound like a great person to be around.

Old Saw

Amanda Marcotte/Brownfemipower plagiarism fiasco:

http://dearwhitefeminists.wordpress.com/
http://problemchylde.wordpress.com/2008/04/08/dont-hate-appropriate/

Privileged (white) woman taking the work of a less prominent blogger of color to a "mass audience" w/o acknowledging the original work.

Jezebel's piece would be less annoying if my brain didn't 1) immediately register most of the points of that article as being explored in other sources much earlier and 2) notice that those links didn't appear as credited by this supposedly social-justice savvy site.

Did anybody see Max Read's

Did anybody see Max Read's post on Girls that also commented on "ironic racism"? What did people think?
http://gawker.com/5903468/a-girls-writers-ironic-racism-and-other-white-...

One thing I liked about it was his brief discussion of class - doesn't seem to get quite as much coverage as race & gender in a lot of US blogs (surprise I'm a Brit & obsessed with class).

Silverman

"One could argue that Silverman’s racially charged humor rests upon a general understanding that ethnic stereotypes and labels still hold great power; there is at least a hint of political substance behind it, and in some ways her use of ethnic slurs attempts to foreground the racism that often operates in the shadows."
I believe Rachel Fudge, in her article 'Kiss me, I'm a Fashionable Bigot', is recognizing the difference between Silverman's comedy and other supposedly 'ironic racism' used by large clothing companies, who profit off them and don't have 'political substance'. I don't believe however that she is condoning Silverman's comedy, she uses phrases like 'hint of political substance', and 'one could argue', Silverman's comedy is problematic and I believe Fudge is acknowledging that. Silverman hurts groups of people with her comments, is told so and refuses to apologize, if you miss the mark and you hurt people, even if unintentionally then you recognize, apologize and stop. Simple

This is probably of little

This is probably of little importance, but the *word* 'ableism' (the word, not ableism itself) frustrates me a bit. When I first saw it I couldn't figure out how to pronounce it ("ahb-lee-ism? ahb-leizum?") which, of course, made it impossible for me to determine what it meant. I took me until I bothered to look it up did I have the "ooohhh, *able*-ism" moment. I have a feeling that few outside of activist circles would understand it at first glance, either.

All I'm saying is that the word itself isn't very accessible. And, to me, that makes its meaning less accessible as well. Am I the only one who thinks this?

"Accessibility."

A non-disabled person is complaining about "accessibility."
Priceless.

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Gawker Hypocrites

I think the Gawker is the most hypocritical, least self-aware site ever. They're overinflated ego of bringing "news" to the world just emphasizes they're self loathing. They try to call out hipster d-bags without even realizing that they are the hipsters that they hate. It's like the pot calling the kettle a hipster d-bag

Omg

is everyone crazy?

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