Wednesday, October 10, 2007

on "equal opportunity offenders"

This post is going to be all over the place.

Do you know someone who believes that because he or she is racist/homophobic/sexist/whatever against EVERYONE that that makes their racism/homophobia/sexism/whatever okay? Like white people who roll their eyes when your jaw drops after they say the n-word, saying something like “oh relax, I say offensive things about every group of people; I dislike everyone equally.”

South Park embodies this sometimes (sometimes ironically, sometimes not). Carlos Mencia, sure. Well-known blogger Brandon Soderberg, whom I just started reading and already can’t fucking stand, has explicitly stated this:

“As for the f-word, meaning ‘faggot,’ well besides me dropping many other derogatory terms for races/genders on this blog that go unchecked- this is a rap blog. Have you burned your Raekwon/Ghostface albums? They say the dreaded f-word too.”

Wow. That’s just dumb on a number of levels. But I won’t dwell on him here—maybe a future post.

The larger point is that “equal opportunity offenders” represent something sad about our culture. Aside from being an incredible leap in logic (“I don’t like your mother, but it’s cool because I hate your whole family too”), it’s also a manufactured hipster edginess that seems to say that as long as you’re honest about your prejudices, you don’t have to work on them. You’re just keepin’ it real, dude, and honesty is way more important than, oh I don’t know, being a decent human being.

And sure, there’s something to be said for hateful pricks who are open about it versus hateful pricks who only hate you behind your back, but people seem to forget that those aren’t your only two options. How about “making an effort to NOT be a hateful prick?”

But it’s not hip these days to make an effort at anything.

And I’m not just talking about hateful pricks (phrase of the day); well-meaning people often seem to use the “yeah, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m racist” statement as an escape pod, an excuse to disengage. Because it’s so “enlightened” to admit your prejudices, you’ve already done the work and can now sit back and relax, basking in the glow of your myriad imperfections.

But it’s not the hateful pricks or the well-meaning liberals I want to focus on, it’s the edgy hipsters who are usually neither. Considering themselves progressive by being above political correctness or “leftist extremism,” they’re the ones throwing ironic “ghetto parties” and ironically singing along to Rich Boy and freely using racial/homophobic/sexist slurs in an ironic fashion, and then rolling their eyes when you challenge them, as if to say “I’m so OVER racism, I can do this.”

I guess it all sprouts from the backlash against the PC movement. Privileged people didn’t appreciate the fact that they suddenly had to play by new rules, so they rebelled. “PC” suddenly became a euphemism for “oversensitive warm and fuzzy little baby language,” when all it really means is to try and be decent and respectful (how awful!). And I’m sure there were cases where the PC police went “too far,” but if you listen to some conservative commentators or edgy hipsters (funny how much they have in common), you’d be led to believe that ALL political correctness “goes too far,” that our cultural commons should be a Darwinist free-for-all and everyone should just toughen up, that the privileged should never have to give anything up, no matter how trivial, so that some disadvantaged group can feel better about themselves.

These days, our folk heroes are people who reject political correctness, courageously breaking down the walls of the establishment to tell it like it is. And while that’s a romantic notion, I think that sometimes we value the style of the “it” that they’re telling more than the “it” itself. For example, Aaron McGruder (creator of the Boondocks) and Carlos Mencia are both politically incorrect. But McGruder tends to make valid points in his humor about life, society and culture, while Mencia just does an offensive Arab impression or makes that “retard sound” he does.

But in the chaos of the PC backlash, we’ve lumped together EVERYONE who is anti-PC, regardless of what they’re saying, and made them heroes.

And usually, these “equal opportunity offenders” are in the Mencia group-- saying dumb shit so they can appear edgy, without any larger point or analysis. Rejecting political correctness can be a constructive thing, but it is, unfortunately, all too often used merely as an excuse to be openly and proudly prejudiced.


The CDP. said...

Great post. Well-written, well thought-out and profoundly true. I've been blogging out of Madison for 4 years now, and this is the first time I've checked out your blog and your views. I'll be sticking around.


PS- I feel the same way about Sarah Silverman. Her bit is extremely old and tired. I fully expect her acts in the future to consist of getting on stage and calling people names.

Anonymous said...

Dude, move away from the Campus and toward the light. Reality is awating in the real world.

brandon said...

It's rather weak to quote what I say in the COMMENTS section and get all pissy about it, especially when my tongue was firmly planted in cheek. If I wrote an entire blog on the word "faggot" then you might have a case. Or you know, you could have addressed this with me instead of quoting from a comment that as I already said, was sort of a joke...

mel said...

Ah, El Gueeenteee. I like when you write things like this.

Congrats on finishing the recording process. You best be sending me the album when it's all ready. Should I expect it in 2012 or so...?

bradski said...

An important factor is context. When someone says something just to be shocking and outrageous, they usually fail (unless it's someone in the public eye--context). As a society we've become very hard to shock.

But when someone says something to be FUNNY, the appropriateness of ethnic/sexual terms is dependent on whether the humor is effective. Michael Richards screaming the "n" word in a club is witless. Mel Brooks having white people use the term liberally in Blazing Saddles is funny and witty (given the context).

People should not simply be coerced out of using certain words--they should understand why those words exist (and "hate" is too simplistic an answer). Forcibly removing epithets from public discourse will not put an end to racism and bigotry. Slurs are an indicator of a larger problem, and sometimes the very words that the PC police would like to suppress can be used in relevant and insightful ways, and could perhaps even open a few minds.