Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Thought On Race

In the days to come, some enterprising someone will point out that whites' anger at Kanye (which is really reaching a ridiculous fever pitch on my Facebook news feed) over this Swift nonsense is partly racial. That it reeks of racist animus against uppity negroes. And they'll be damn right. I know I have some white readers out there who probably fancy themselves super-enlightened and will think this doesn't apply to them, but speaking for the great mass of white Americans, white people don't like angry black men. Really don't like them. Most of the upset about Jeremiah Wright had nothing to do with the stuff he said and everything to do with his enraged delivery and the mob-like "that's right, mmm-hmm" chorus from his black audience. Wright also said some stupid shit, and has since turned out, surprise surprise, to be a flaming anti-Semite (the Jews, he said on the day that the Holocaust Museum got shot up, are the ones keeping him away from Obama), but it was really mostly how he said what he said, and that he was black. Similarly, Kanye is going to get pilloried for this to a far greater extent than he would be if he were a white guy who talked like a white guy (and was rude to some black performer).

That being said, I suppose this is where I'm supposed to atone on behalf of my race for the racially motivated beating-up in the press Kanye is about to get. But I won't. In the first place, though Kanye will be bashed more than he would have if he were white, a whole lot more, he surely deserves some bashing (and surely could use some therapy). As I noted with Vick, the fact that some people don't like Thing X that you do for, in part, racial reasons does not mean that they are wrong to not like the fact that you do Thing X, whether Thing X is electrocuting dogs, killing your white wife, being Michael Steele, offering healthcare proposals that won't work (I thought we were getting some kind of cost controls?), or acting like a colossal jerk on live television. Racism is always regrettable but doesn't end the conversation.

More interestingly though, I think whites' discomfort with angry black guys is just one of those almost instinctual things that will never go away, like black distrust of white elites. I mean, what makes me, for example, cringe when I see a Kanye or Jeremiah Wright on TV? Was I somehow acculturated by my liberal family and insanely left-wing Quaker school to dislike angry black men? Or is a Jeremiah Wright simply something so foreign to my experience that seeing him on TV makes me feel threatened, repulsed, disgusted - just as the last black, Baptist funeral that I attended was so novel to me that I was reduced to uncontrollable laughter? I really don't think that anything more insidious here is at work than a simple lack of exposure. That, and different norms of etiquette.

1 comment:

Badmon3333 said...

You make a decent point, but I could just as easily have seen Axl Rose doing this to someone at the MTV Awards from the early '90s.

I think the 'uppity negro' animus skew a little older, where a substantial chunk of Swift's country fan base is at. But black, white, whatever, a drunken, self-obsessed dick is a drunken, self-obsessed dick.