Friday, August 15, 2008

Post-Racial Is Not PostModern

Well this is apropos of nothing, but -- well it might be a little apropos of white journalists everywhere raising their hand saying they got a little something on "postracial america".

So yeah, it's been great reading about post-racial this and that, I don't have to wear Karl Kani anymore etc. etc. But while it's cool that some brothers and sisters are using the premise to get themselves a byline and all, the proliferation of the term within a mostly white media establishment feels a little weird.

I suspect it's because we treat "post-racial" like it's "postmodern". So instead of "modernity/modernism" we're past/post "race". Both of them being these social/intellectual constructs we created.

But here's the problem: "We" didn't create nothing. This is all some white ish.

Look: "race as a social construct" is a brain-nugget that came from a white person. Period. Ain't no old slave-timey Wendy Williams start that little rumor. A black person is black, and if you get him to say he's a construct it's because you also got him to pay some $200K to "learn theyself sumthin'."

When I got one of my first Assimilated Badges by getting pubbed on McSweeneys, I was so excited to get my Eggers Stripes that I threw on my Timz and white t-shirt and found a gypsy cab to take me straight to Harlem (turns out I lived there, but I still took the cab). Then I got out and told all my ghetto hood crack-slingin' black friends about my achievement:

The Assimilated Negro (TAN): Look! McSweeney's ran my 'Objective Perspective on Black History" bit. Dude, isn't that awesome.

Just Another Negro (JAN): Mc-who? And don't be callin' me dude, n.

TAN: McSweeeeneys. Dave Eggers? Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Duh.

JAN: *slings some crack*

TAN: whatever. you don't know because you're too busy listening to the rap music and stealing iphones, but this means a lot to the people who run this country.

JAN: Con Edison and Child Support run my family, fam.

TAN: hmph. look, i posted this on my blog so i'm gonna go check my email in the Starbucks real quick. I'll brb.

JAN: *slings some crack*

TAN: ok. back. I can't believe you guys aren't giving me any love on the McSweeneys move.

JAN: look TAN, we up on McSweeneys. Alright? But honestly we just don't give a f about some website doing ish like, "Interview With A White Pot Who Calls Kettles 'Whatever The Hell He Feels Like Calling Them'". Or whatever other nonsense they do.

JAN2: Ha. Yeah, McSweeneys be like "early bird gets the worm" and I be like "early bird gets the white worm cause them the only mofos who show up early" hahahaha. Send that to McSweeneys, n.

TAN: McSweeneys don't be like anything... although they might actually go for something like that.

JAN: Yeah we know, but it's not our bag. Congrats though, TAN. Keep doing your thing, god. We'll do ours.

TAN: ok. so can I take off these timz and put back on my flip-flops?

JAN: yeah, son.

TAN: can i also put on some Feist

JAN2: yeah, i actually like Feist also.

JAN3: yo, I would f the ish out of Feist. She could get it.

TAN: true. ok. I'm gonna go now.

annnd ... scene

Look, I like the cauc postmodern humor. I love it even. I think its very funny. Stuff like Demetri Martin. Soooo cuuute. And it's real nice to have in the DVR list when you bring your hipster chick back to the crib and want things to get a little, um, postracial.

But I also know that if I didn't go to a private prep school and a New England liberal arts college I would have no appreciation for it. It's a sensibility I grew into. Black people (and other minos) have to go to school and learn (earn?) a ticket aboard the train of indulgent-thoughts. We have to cultivate that air of entitlement. We are not born with the same sense of Seinfeldian smug.

The humor of the idle mind is an acquired taste, and it's acquired through -- wait for it -- being idle. Going to college and not having real concerns about $ and food and getting in trouble for doing drugs. It's nice, every person deserves some time to themselves to think about, say, what their toenail might say to a real nail. Bound to be hilarious if you marinate with it long enough.

But these postracial/postmodern articles are so self-serious. And here's the thing: if you're at a cocktail party and someone starts getting serious about "postmodernism", you know they're full of ish. White people may indulge, Black people may indulge, but everyone knows they're just showing off their edumacation.

A word like 'postmodern" is the equivalent of liberal-arts bling. Deconstructionism, b*tches! You flash it, but you don't really need to. You never need to. You can either philosophize like a human, very simply: love. sex. hate. men. women. race. intelligence. peace. war. education. science. technology. Whatever you want. But there's no sentence in the world that contains the word "postmodern" that couldn't be rephrased more simply.

Take it from someone who will drop the term at first brush of a blonde-girl's hair against the behind of the horse on my polo shirt.

But i went to school and spent was given a lot of money so i could make my bullish sound hot and use big words to coax upwardly mobile women into sleeping with me. Poaching smart chicks is one of my sole luxury vices, and I own it.

Anyramble, this is all to say that a lot of these articles are conflating postracial and postmodernism and it cheapens the impact of identifying this moment in time as some sort of new era. There is something amiss, but postracial as defined by postmodernists is the same quaker oatmeal y'all been spooning to us for sometime now. And I'm not eating it, dammit!

If you want to call it something I say call it "Post Abiding-by-alot-of-white-bullish". Cause that's what postmodernism is, white bullish. And that's what most these articles are talking about when they use the term postracial.

And I also have to point out that of course postracial isn't really about Obama, but all about 2050. That's when we'll get to dictate the smartypants jargon up in this piece.

Postmodernists, prepare yourselves.




  1. Anonymous8/15/2008

    Jesus Christ, that was fucking brilliant.


  2. "Post Abiding-by-alot-of-white-bullish"

    Yup, at the end of the day that's what it is...

  3. Anonymous8/15/2008

    I'm a smart white chick, and you have poached me with this article. Consider me a TAN groupie.

  4. Anonymous8/15/2008

    2050 huh? That will be in our lifetime. We'll have Obama, and switch from minority to majority? Good time to be alive.

  5. Anonymous8/15/2008

    Sometime in 2050:

    "What are those guys doing?"

    "They're shin kicking."

    "I thought only white people did that."

    "Apparently not."

    "That's just retarded."

    "No. It's post-racial."

  6. Anonymous8/16/2008

    Good lord TAN, anyone who thinks dropping the words "postmodernism" and "deconstruction" sounds smart outside of a freshman year philosophy seminar deserves to sleep with the idiots seduced by it. Baudrillard and Derrida are for lightweights; I was sure you knew better. Tsk, tsk.

  7. mabisa: you think our president knows about Baudrillard and Derrida? And I'm not even gonna dare you to turn on a television sometime...

    more to the point: there are more blacks and latinos in prison than in freshman philosophy seminars.

    Now that's something to tsk tsk about...

  8. Anonymous8/18/2008

    Oh dear. Apologies if I sounded snippy; I was being tongue-in-cheek and replying primarily to the following statements:

    A word like 'postmodern" is the equivalent of liberal-arts bling.
    Take it from someone who will drop the term at first brush of a blonde-girl's hair against the behind of the horse on my polo shirt.

    I meant only to note that it seems to be "bling" for a short amount of time before it becomes a intellectual shortcut that is obvious to most who can use it, and was thus surprised that it was still considered a marker of the erudite (especially past, well, the aforementioned seminars). Didn't mean no offense.

    As for my peeps behind bars, tomorrow night I will be packing up and sending books to them as I do every week. Solidarity, bro. I gots my priorities straight.

    Love you, the blog, and again: apologies for any offense!

  9. All good, Mabes. (can I call you Mabes?)

    No offense taken since you were lumping both of us on the non-idiot side, just defending my peeps who don't know how to spell Baudrillard.

    I feel you now though, we were just in different seminars for a moment.

  10. Ok so I have a question that I would like answered by anyone obliged to do so, but it barely relates to the orignial post I just can't find any other place to post the darn question.

    We talk a bit about postmodern sociological theories in my contemporary soc class, and one day the topic of discusssion was the N word, prompted by Whoopi & whatever the white woman's name is on the view who got emotional behind her any rate, a heated debate ensued in the class comprised of one white student (and the prof) 4 asian students, 7 black students and the rest were predominantly hispanic/latino. The ? posed by the teacher was if it's ok for non-black people to use the N word,the one ending in an 'a' & why is it that mainly white people don't understand the meaning of the word.

    Interestingly enough, the vast majority of the hispanic/latinos basically said that black people are being racist using the N word, further perpetuating the stigma of the word nigger and degrading our own race. And that it should not be a word exclusively used by black people, one guy literally said if I wanna use the N word I can use the N word you guys dont own it or nothing.

    The teacher herself thought that nigge=nigga & nigga=nigger. There are so many different opinions and sentiments expressed I can't even get into it. Needless to say the single white student had no input.

    Personally, I use the N word with friends, family, talking to my boyfriend, with classmates, in reference to someone I'm telling a story about, etc etc etc. I don't see how it is offensive to anyone, unless that particular person holds reservations about it and does indeed feel it is an offensive or ugly word. There was 1 black student who said she doesnt tuse it because she was raised to think it was ignorant in any variation.

    On the same token, I am not oblivious to the fact that people are different and have their own reasons, teachings, or experiences that shape their understandings or conceptions so I'm very much open to differences of opinion. However I am still quarreling with these non-black people even feeling so entitled to make declarative assertions about a word they had no part in manipulating or transforming, were never subjected to the being called nigger, especially when I've met white people even who understand that its a cultural thing belonging to us. For the most part, b/c we have a blog for this class as well, people are still commenting stating that the N word is offensive and racist because it came from a negative derogatory word nigger. And I feel like why are people missing the point that they are two different words and the negative connotation to the word nigger is only present in the word nigga when it is coming out of the mouth of a non-black person in denigrating, condescedning tone and context; and that nigga isn't offensive coming from one black person to another.

    These are my feelings, and shared by many undoubtedly. MY ?, finally is what do you (readers) think? Is the N word offensive, racist, perpetuating racist/discriminatory stigma? Does the use of the N word only cause african american enslavement to resonate? Are other races really entitled to say things like the N word should not be used by black people even, there are no exceptions, ?
    Or are these people simply confused like Elizabeth _______ on the view after saying she didnt understand why its ok for black people to use the N word and not whites because afterall we live in the same world, like Whoopi so rightfully expressed, you do not understand because we ARE NOT living in the same world. Feedback, insight, enlightement, assent or the latter...please


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