I’m Just Not Impressed

Am I supposed to be?

Posts Tagged ‘“post racial america”

The never ending cycle of white privilage.

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(Originally posted on LiveJournal in March 2009. But it seems, sadly, continually relevant.)

Hi. My name is Em…

and I am racist.

I say that without a sense of irony and with some small sense of shame. It is primarily passive racism at this point, but I benefit from the color of my skin in innumerable ways every day. And if you are reading this, and you are white, so do you. And you have been trained by our society not to see it and to embrace it and to benefit – every day – from the fact that you are not a person of color.

I am racist. I don’t like it. I hate it. But every fucking day I struggle with myself. I fail at being an anti-racist ally every fucking day. But I keep trying. And I learn. I’m not saying this because I want someone to give me a cookie and a pat on the back for trying not to be an asshole. I’m saying it because we can all learn together if we want to, but first we have to see our prejudice for what it really is. We have to own it. We have to admit to ourselves the way that we react to people of different races and not try to explain it away as something other than an instantaneous value judgement based primarily on the color of someone’s skin.

There has been a ton of fail around these here internets lately – RaceFail, if you will. It is bleeding over – as it should – into other venues I frequent (and if you frequent them too, then a lot of this might look a little familiar, but it needs to be said). It makes people uncomfortable. Fact is, it’s not nice to be confronted with our own privilege. It’s not nice to think that we as white people might be racist. It’s a lot easier to talk about racial prejudice, and privilege. It’s lot easier to not push ourselves out of our comfort zone. It’s uncomfortable, and it sucks, and it burns and if we are even the slightest bit concerned with social justice, it can make our entire selfhood squirm to call our race based prejudice by its actual name. RACISM.

But here’s the thing.
It’s not about us. It’s not about the white people.

It’s not about how our feelings get hurt when people call us out for saying stupid shit.
It’s not about how an innocent comment (or chapter or essay or statement) was misconstrued.
It’s not about how hard it is to be sensitive to other people’s cultural sensitivities.
It’s not about how it stings and burns and makes us want to rage when someone suggests that we are, in fact, racist.
It’s not about us white folks.

At its root it’s about systematic racism and how generations of racial oppression have created a system in which what a white person says is valued more highly than what a person of color says. It’s about how generations of passive lack of resistance have benefited white people at the expense of people of color. It’s about using the language of oppression to cast white people we don’t like into the role of racial other when there is no other target, or to make the case that we’re not racist, we’re classist. It’s about white being the default and non-white being “special interest.” It’s about not having to bear scrutiny for our entire race when we fuck up.

It is not about how uncomfortable we feel. If it hurts to be called a racist, too damn bad. If it hurts that much, do what you can to help create a world that is less racist. It’s our fault as a race, not peoples of color. We can listen. We can speak up. We can see to it that we learn and that we don’t leave anti-racist work to people of color. We can call out our friends.

We can own up to our own racism.

Written by emandink

August 19, 2014 at 7:48 am

Fairey Tales

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I have a growing fascination with the Shepard Fairey copyright case.  Part of what makes it so fascinating is that, unlike a lot of copyright cases where a close look at existing law and precedent makes it pretty clear who is likely to win, this one is a crap shoot to my mind.  Cases like this one, and the recent Harry Potter Copyright Trial of Doom, illustrate a trend in the U.S. federal courts to apply nuanced reasoning about what fair use really means and what it truly means to “transform” a work into something new that does not depend on the original.  I don’t think that Fairey will win on his declaratory judgement action.  There are too many questions of law and fact at stake and I suspect that it will require a full trial (provided that it doesn’t settle first).  At full trial, though, I think he has a decent chance.  Then again, so – potentially – does AP.  I suspect, though, that it would tip in his favor, since while his image is clearly derivative, it does not represent a market that AP was likely to exploit, nor does it supersede the value of the original image.  OTOH, he copied it.  AP has made it’s basic case.  Whether Fairey’s Stanford legal team can establish the fair use defense will be the real issue.  It’s a decent case, but not a slam dunk.  Fair use is a defense that applies only after the case for potential copyright infringement has been proven, after all.

In the meantime, how about that Shepard Fairey.  The more I learn about him as an artist, the more I sort of dislike him.  But, boy, is there a lot of interesting stuff there to think about it.  There are three different angles to look at this art through – legal, art criticism and social justice, all of which can lead to far reaching conclusions.

From a legal perspective, my feelings are mixed – on the one hand, probably 30-40% of the art referenced in that first link  is in the public domain and is therefore fair game for any sort of use.  OTOH, a lot of it isn’t.  So we’re back to fair use and whether the use that he’s making really transforms anything, particularly the work that largely shifts perspective on works that were overtly political to begin with and whether his works act as substitutes or damage the market for the original works.

Then there is art criticism – and certainly reasonable people will differ on he question of is this art, although I certainly think it is.  I’m not sure how to categorize it, though.  My first thought is to forget the comparisons to Warhol and Lichtenstein – they copied iconic images, for sure – iconic images that were easily recognizable from their source.  And they transformed them into something else.  Warhol turned household goods into art objects (and did settle a lawsuit with Campbell’s for his trouble).  Lichtenstein took comic images from the 2×2 inch paper booklet and put them on walls.  Obama poster aside (which is somewhat like Warhol’s famous figure works), Fairey takes other people’s propaganda and turns it into…propaganda. 

This recasting of propaganda art from the 60s and 70s is the most problematic part of the work that I’ve seen.  Fairey borrows heavily from works made by people of color to publicize and fight their oppression and commodifies them into something easily consumable by an audience comprised primarily of white hipsters, while simultaneously marketing some of the actual emblems of their oppression right along side.  This is the real insidiousness of this work.  It is an exercise of enormous privilege for a white person to appropriate images by and of people of color for “art”, no matter how politicized and “in tune” with the original message.

Written by emandink

February 16, 2009 at 5:38 pm

What was that about “post-racial” America?

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If you haven’t heard about the 22 year old man who was shot by Bay Area Rapid Transit police as a kick ass start to 2009, I would not be surprised.  I just learned about him today, through a posting in a private forum.

Oscar Grant was unarmed, part of a peaceful permitted demonstration, who according to the linked account, was trying to calm down his companions.

He was then pushed to the ground and shot point blank in the back.

Lest you wonder why duly sworn officers would do such a thing?  Take a look at the picture and tell me if you are surprised.

Written by emandink

January 7, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Racism

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