Is saying arbitrary things about a particular race racist? The answer is "probably, yeah", but only until you start to fuck with the goddamn formula.
It was only recently that I found out that the "One of these days Alice one of these days... POW! Right in the kisser quote really meant the guy was going to punch his wife in the mouth. I just thought I didn’t understand it because the very idea is so goddamn offensive that I cannot fathom a television program encouraged it, with people laughing in the background. It’s almost like that scene from Natural Born Killers where the father talks about molesting his daughter to a laugh track.
History is a fucked up place, and television shows it to us in a way that warps our minds. People talk about “violence” in movies or video games but it was really the Saturday morning cartoons and kids comedy that was really shocking. It was a throwback to a racist, sexist, and all-round awful world, and we watched enough to remember every word. Not that we knew what it meant, necessarily.
In my world, if you’re eating ice cream and someone asks you “hey you're eating ice cream?” you reply “no!” and give them an incredulous look like "whatever gave you that idea?". We were neither lying, nor telling the truth. The truth was self evident, but we felt we needed to reply because the question was asked, and “yes” is an insufficient answer. To some extent, it was a post-modern reply — meant for the listener to interpret, not for the speaker to take responsibility for.
And so we would go on hypothetical journeys where stuff was clearly made up. Questionable Content as a comic, does a fairly good job of describing the conversations themselves — the characters will break into roles and move into a land of pure supposition and fancy. The comic about the awkward suicide conversation is an interesting one. Angus has gone from making random comments to actually touching a nerve, and it shows the difference in attitude from “saying things” to “meaning the things you say”. Often these statements are just things in the air — they reflect the beliefs of the listener rather than the speaker.
Part of the problem is that this sounds like normal talking. Some of these things are normal statements, some of them are sarcasm or sass. The fact that almost every statement is made with a degree of contempt is completely void from the conversation. Perhaps it’s just us trying to reconcile how much hate is in what people say either on TV or among adults. Maybe this is just another step to acting apathetically towards life. Or perhaps we’ve watched so much TV through our youth that the sitcom paradigm, so deeply ingrained in our minds, that we play caricatured versions of ourselves through highly structured, yet meaningless, conversations.
I used to think it was just our year, at our school, which did this, but I’ve since found that this is something that’s (broadly speaking) global. We each have a certain flavour to it, and Australian stuff is generally a lot more raw, ruthless, and extreme, but overall the feel of these conversations is the same. So, when you’re doing this thing with people you’ve just met, you’ll generally stick a bit more theatrics around it, so they can tell you’re not being... serious? (I mean, you’re being serious but the statement does not reflect your beliefs). Looking at Nat Tran’s first Waidback Wednesday, there’s absolutely nothing suggesting that she doesn’t mean what she’s saying, or that she is in fact the butt of the jokes she is making. I’m guessing this because they bounce off each other so well that the “performance” is flawless. They know each other to know that they don’t mean what they’re saying, but it’s completely unclear to anyone watching (until you listen closely to exactly when they laugh, and how).
In addition to this, part of the very M.O. of friends meeting up and chatting involves a fair bit of smack talk. There are various things which happen here, but basically you can say that it’s offensive like the UFC is violent. If you don’t really watch UFC, then you think “man UFC is violent”, because all you see is people bleeding from their eye-sockets trying to punch each other but slipping around on account of the blood. In reality, there’s a great deal of respect, admiration, and technicality. When you look at the definition of violence as “Physical force exerted for the purpose of violating, damaging, or abusing” (answers.com) UFC does not meet this definition. Similarly, this smack talk is merely play, though to an outsider it can seem very confrontational.
I was doing this with a friend via email once — we were both saying some pretty vile stuff, and I would laugh my head off at every reply, and reply with even worse stuff, until I realised he’d been taking this stuff seriously (I think he might have rung me?); email clearly hadn’t translated all the unsaid communication. While I thought this was hilarious, I was actually inadvertently hurting his feelings. Of course, I felt fairly terrible and quickly tried to explain that I was merely smack talking. Luckily it all ended well.
In short, talking like this sounds offensive, obnoxious, and otherwise non-sensical. This does not relate to anyone’s beliefs and does not serve a purpose other than to fill the air with thoughts we can reflect upon. It’s funny because it’s... false? It’s a dramatisation, a sitcom, a gross simplification of complex issues. We play our parts, and we’re being offensive, but the butt of our jokes is as much ourselves as the person we’re making fun of. The truth doesn’t matter. You can be a girl and play the part of a man. You can be black and call your white friend a nigger and he can call you a cracker. It’s just part of the dance. It’s sloppy and messy, but to write some crazy manifesto or trying to define it would make you a nerd.
I don’t know if this is “post race”, but that’s the closest thing to the thing I’m used to but it doesn’t really have a name or anything. Now that I’ve said that, let me address some of Julian’s issues:
[F]or the post-race rules video, I think it addresses a very interesting set of linguistic and cultural issues â€“ but I donâ€™t think it is nearly as successful as the singer is claiming. (I feel slightly foolish arguing against the rhetoric of a satirical humourous song, but I will blunder on.)
Actually, this is kind of the thing. Is it saying that post race stuff is good? Or that it doesn’t really make sense? Or is it just offering it as food for thought? That’s kind of the idea. While it offers a proposition, it does not necessarily offer a opinion, other than what tends to rhyme. Here’s my point by point thoughts on what you said.
White males co-opting the non-disparaging terms and accents of another culture (â€œOh no he diâ€™ntâ€�), which, while it may be seen as patronising and/or frustrating to someone familiar with the culture, seems fair game.
Well, the idea is basically the less sense it makes the better. Make the stereotypes seem both ridiculous and arbitrary.
A few casual racial stereotypes (Asianâ€™s carrying protractors, English not taking baths) which donâ€™t seem at all â€œpost-raceâ€� to me; nothing has changed to make propagating these stereotypes less objectionable.
You might notice that the denominations are arbitrary and meaningless. No one is seriously going to make fun of an Asian carrying a protractor. You’re really half making fun of people who make fun of Asians. Importantly, they won’t talk about races being less capable than others, except for some narrow and unimportant field. The arguement is ineffectual to highlight that racism is all a bit silly. “Dude it's like 5 bucks, don't be such a Jew.” sounds exactly the same as normal racism. The difference is purely intent.
Lots of mentions of formerly derogatory terms used to describe a race or group (wogs, niggers) that, through concerted social efforts, have been won back by the respective cultures by adopting the derogatory term to describe themselves. (As shown in his examples, the term â€œniggerâ€� hasnâ€™t been completely re-defined yet, but I can see it is progressing.) He avoids using terms that havenâ€™t be won back this way; he hangs a lampshade on the fact that he doesnâ€™t extend his argument to â€œaboâ€�. Note that the terms are being used to (a) continue to describe the group, or (b) describe (perhaps ironically?) a larger group.
So “taking back the words” is broadly a thing that came before our time. While I sort of support it, it’s still a thing that’s reactionary to racism. So we’re also broadly making fun of people who are using “nigger” as a positive term. Part of the problem of using “Abo” for indigenous Australians, for example, is that the whole post-modern idea is roughly destructive. It cannot create new archetypes. To reference South Park here:
...this may sound odd coming from a woman with a fetus sticking out of her head, but you’re all a bunch of freaks. Don’t you realize that the last thing I ever wanted was to be singled out? I just wanted to do my job, and live my life like any normal [sic] person, but instead you’ve made everybody focus on my handicap all week long. Look, I don’t want to be treated different. I don’t want to be treated special or treated gingerly. I just want to be ridiculed, shouted at, and made fun of like all the rest of you do to each other. And take those stupid things off your heads! (Parker & Stone, 1998).
To some extent, I believe that the very fact that it’s not OK to make Abo jokes is both cause and effect to the idea that Indigenous Australians are not thought of as normal Australians. This is changing somewhat, and hopefully movies like Stone Bros. will make some difference here.
the reference to â€œgayâ€� to mean â€œnaffâ€�. This example sticks out in his song as being unlike the others; it isnâ€™t the use of the term â€œgayâ€� to describe homosexuals in an affectionate way (which would be another example like â€œwogsâ€�, where the term has been won back), or all of his young friends (which would be another example like â€œniggerâ€�). Instead it is the use of the term â€œgayâ€� in a school-yard sense to be derogatory in a general way.
If the centralised union of homosexuals bought and paid for the word “Gay” and used it in a fabulous ad campaign, it would still be stolen and used in a school-yard sense to be derogatory in a general way. It’s too damn valuable. I mean, it’s three goddamn letters. I know of no more concise insult. You can also use it repeatedly: GAYGAYGAYGAY. It also works regularly if you put “teh” in front of it -- “This conversation is teh gay!” which means it’s not good. Contrast with “This conversation is teh shit!” which means it’s excellent. Oh wait... there’s one insult that’s equally concise!
I should probably have colour coded that above paragraph as more example than arguement. I’m not sure any of the terms are used to describe anything in an affectionate way. Wog is equal parts insult and affection, as is Nigger, as is Gay. The question is really “who are you pretending to be, and why”. Observe:
a: You are a fag!
b: Yeah I was totally a fag to your mum last night.
Notice how that’s an excellent recovery? If ‘b’ was a homosexual it would be high-five worthy.
It is not even as though there is one word to describe homosexuals that has transformed its meaning, leaving other words still as descriptive and neutral. For example, â€œdumbâ€� has changed meanings over the years to become derogatory, but â€œmuteâ€� remains neutral. On the other hand, â€œgayâ€�, â€œfagâ€�, â€œfaggotâ€�, â€œqueerâ€�, â€œhomosexualâ€�â€¦ whatever term you come up with is also used in the â€œnaffâ€� sense by both school-bullies and the self-described â€œpost-raceâ€�. It isnâ€™t hard to find examples on this blog.
OK, so firstly you forgot to mention “fabuuuloussss”, which is um... yeah it’s still part insult, but again, who’s it insulting? Secondly, “fag” and “faggot” are the same things. Thirdly, “queer” and “homosexual” are both neutral terms. Unless you say “gay homosexual” or something to make you seem more like a hick. Note that you can also play the gay guy part and unleash some massive insults in reply.
You also didn’t mention my favourite: Assbandit. Dude! That one’s only for special occasions though, so I understand.
I invite you to imagine the difficulty of being a teenager coming to terms with your homosexuality, when every reference you hear (from your friends, on-line, and now, it seems, on TV) is derogatory. Would you really claim that when I hear schoolkids use these terms that they are being ironic? I think simple ignorance is more precise. I donâ€™t think that all the references are clear from context as being new enlightenment rather than plain old-fashioned disparagement.
I was sad for a moment, but then realised you were talking about a teenager in a vacuum in simple harmonic motion. I’m sure gay people call each other fags all the time, and it’s only meant in good fun. If you’re a gay teenager and you have hetero friends you should be walking out of that experience being able to give as good as you get (that’s what he said) and having an understanding that you’re all just playing a part. Like Dharma and Greg. I read another article about gay gamers and how we should probably be kinder and I was kind of on board, until I realised that they were basically asking for special treatment, and that kind of defeated the purpose.