Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Declawed!

Here's what my Slate post might have read like if I hadn't eaten my Frosted Bitch Flakes that morning:

Paragraph 1:
There was a piece in Slate today talking about the debate around S. Merritt's views on race. I'm glad this debate is continuing, because it's really important to talk about music and race and their intersections. The piece's intro, however, made me pause.

Paragraph 2:
The intro uses the word 'cracker,' which has some unpleasant, broadly anti-poor, anti-Southern connotations, and isn't really appropriate here. But the author is using it mainly to show the ways it doesn't apply in this situation anyway, and is picking up on an earlier usage, so I understand.

Paragraphs 3 and 4:
The article then goes on to cite evidence proving why Merritt is an unlikely cracker/racist. These pieces of evidence include his diminutive stature, homosexuality, intellectualism, wit and tenderness as a musician, ukulele-playing, and fondness for chihuahuas and Irving Berlin. I don't see a necessary connection between these things and the likelihood of someone being racist. Some of them also seem to be present in order to reinforce others--a penchant for Berlin and chihuahuas, for example, is often stereotypically (maybe harmfully, maybe not) attributed to gay men. The point, to me, seemed to be to show readers that M. is a recognizable type of person--a fey, sweet gay man--and therefore generally non-threatening and unlikely to be a racist. M. may be this type of person and he might not, but it makes me nervous that a writer would use this technique to disprove someone's alleged racism. Why do we assume that a sweet, musical, fey gay man couldn't be racist? What's the connection? It might be true, perhaps, that queer people are less statistically likely to be racist than straights. But does that really foreclose the issue once and for all? There are a lot of different kinds of queer people out there, with radically different backgrounds and beliefs.

If we really want to be vigilantly anti-racist, I think we should remember here that racism is systemic and institutionalized. We are all susceptible to it, regardless of how sensitive or musical or smart we are. The article suggested to me that it was only recognizing racism in the guise of obvious or stereotypical bigots, when racist ideology today is much more subtle than that.

Paragraph 5:
When the article mentioned M.'s musicianship, it got me thinking about the linkage people sometimes assume exists between artists and their art. Just because somebody makes a lovely song doesn't mean that they themselves are lovely, right? This is an easy trap to fall into, and I feel like the article comes close.

That's a fairly close transcription. I hope it clarifies things.

7 comments:

mairead said...

there is a difference between eating frosted bitch flakes (do they have gelatin in them?) and being angry and confused. i think you're leaning towards the latter, lady, and i thank you for wrestling publically. it is Helpful in Many Ways.

smelly mcsmellsmell said...

i don't think you're confused.

i already told you this, but this post isn't even necessary. don't back down.

mairead said...

BECKY! I'LL FIGHT YOU!! ;o)

confused isn't pejorative. i'm always confused. i like it.

jhops said...

Don't use bitch on yourself just because people are telling you are harsh. Come with the real, lady, no apologies.

mairead said...

ok. and mayhaps i need to clarify, too. there's a difference between being confused within yrself and being confused by the ways in which the world unfolds. i meant the latter, hence the anger.

yr words = crystalline.

hason said...

thank you for the parsing...
sweet music does not mean a sweet person.
gay does not mean sweet.
wasn't this the guy who lambasted and dissed the young gay kids who send him letters saying "your music saved my life"?
which I thought was a total jerk move.

jack (aka angrybrownbutch) said...

I agree with smelly above. I mean, this post was good, but the original one was good, too. Maybe even better. Of course, I usually favor writing that has teeth. Sharp ones.