10 May 2006

White Guilt/Blanc Anger

Dr. Helen posts about Shelby Steele's new book regarding White Guilt and I'm unusually brilliant and witty in the comments (even if noone over there appreciates that).

The Blanc Anger (I would have written BlackAnger as the oppositional pair to White Guilt in this post's title, assuming at least one of the critics in the beef I'm about to describe was not lily white, but no such luck, somehow blanc anger makes sense anyway) portion gets a little more complicated. John Cook for Slate posts about two music critics who had some sort of beef with Magnetic Fields lead Stephin Merritt (listened to some of the live concert posted here, not my cup of tea)

I have no problem with folks who don't like black music, and anyone who chooses to be needlessly provocative in their disdain for any particular musician, era, style, or aesthetic.

What I find really interesting is that the two critics who are singled out for getting completely bent out of shape seem awfully, terribly, blindingly, blanc.

I don't recall ever hearing of Sasha Frere-Jones before, he seems to have a regular music column for The New Yorker. That's a pretty big black mark (and not disdainful in a jealous, 'I wish I had that job sort of way', more in a 'god, this article sucks, it goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on, and on and on and on and on, and then on some more, and by the time it's over you've even forgotten which album, artist and genre he was writing about in the first place, this crap is really bad' sort of way)

He rebuts the Slate article on his blog here (a Gawker interview with photo, here)

Jessica Hopper responds here. I find this post especially enjoyable (in an 'unintentionally humorous, 'third wave' feminist really need to be less over-determined in analyizing their own actions' sort of way)

I'm thinking some displacement is going on in both cases. Both those writers give me the sense that they are angry at their own privilege so they feel compelled to defend the downtrodden. Pathetic.

(and after reading their responses, and other pieces by both, I'm thinking John Cook is more right than he is wrong)

And if my blog is as self-indulgent, insular, poorly composed, uninteresting, and (fill in whatever slightly insulting adjective you think fits after perusing their sites, here), then hurl invective my way in the comments.

Now my opinion about the state of much of hip hop today.

Much of the form has become modern day minstrelsy, but now it's black folks putting on even blacker faces and selling a thuggish, misogynistic, calculated display of every white parent's greatest fears to sell albums in the suburbs to Lily White and her brother.

There's plenty of great hip hop, but the stuff most admired seems to be the stuff that reinforces the worst stereotypes about blacks. It's about shock and commerce, not art. It's disgusting, and though these acts have every right to do what they do, labels have every right to promote this corrosive filth, they should know better, and they should do better. Radio stations shouldn't reward the escalation in rhetoric. Biography shouldn't displace artistic merit (nobody can ever convince me that Tupac is a poet, or that 50 Cent would be noticed if he didn't have a hot body, the face of a bulldog, and 9 bullet holes), and worst of all, much current hip hop lacks the musicality of the first and second wave of hip hop (I know, I know, I sound like every other middle aged crank in history speaking of 'back in my day. . . .').

Cakewalks should have gone out long ago, yet they seem to have made a comeback (and in some ways the current history of hip hop parallels the history of the Cakewalk, what started out as righteous, became caricature)

Every rapper doesn't need to be positive, and every popular black artists doesn't have to be a 'credit', but I tire of music critics who've taken too many units in various 'studies' programs and think that everything 'provocative' and 'transgressive' to social norms is somehow worth paying attention to.

(and Jessica Hopper's Myspace space is so cute and ironic, that all you really need to know is that the letters after the / are jhopz (cause she's from the hood!))

(and have I mentioned how much I hate folks who are 30 going on 14?)

And to complete the circle of incestuous blogginess, here's John Cook's blogpost about his post at Slate.

Finally, you thought I forgot about Dr. Helen didn't you? Well, if it's not clear by now, I think that all this nonsense on both sides by all three of these critics stems from notions of White Guilt, both reacting to it, displaying manifestations of it, and reacting against it. To all you white folks who feel the need to be guilty about being white, get over yourselves. To all the black folks who feel the need to exploit white folks' guilt, get over yourselves, too, you do yourself more harm than good. And to all the other folks left out of this ridiculous and artificial dichotomy, sucks, doesn't it?

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