Is this racist?

I remember the first time I saw someone wearing this t-shirt.  I was at an after party in downtown LA for a comedy show.  I didn’t get the message that this was going to be a hipster party.  It was obvious that I forgot my ironic eyeglasses and converse high tops.  Little did I know that I also didn’t get the message about the obligatory offensive t-shirt.  “Jesus is my Homeboy,” “Live and Die in Compton,” anyone?

I had already made a fool of myself when I had decided that the comedian’s jokes about Mexicans were offensive.  The blank stares I got in reaction to this comment further confirmed that I just didn’t understand the cool kids.  Said comedian now has his own late night show, so I guess the kids over at Comedy Central are cooler than me too.  I didn’t say anything about the Obama t-shirt.  To this day, I wish I had the nerve to confront the boy donning it.

I get the shtick:  “Daniel Tosh is so outrageous that it is ironic and funny.”  “This shirt is so openly racist, so of course I’m not racist.  I’m funny.”  What I don’t get is that it is ok to act this way.  Just because you are a hipster and it is cool to be jaded, witty, and ironic, doesn’t mean it is ok to be racist.

I have always thought that I was on the outside looking in, and that I just never really got the joke.  However, as I was looking for an image of this t-shirt, I found many articles about this very outlook.  Carmen Van Kerckhove over at Racialicious, was the first person to give this phenomenon a name:  “Hipster Racism.”

What do you think?  Is Hipster Racism really racism or has some of society moved past racism?  Are hipsters (and the rest of us) evolved enough to make a derogatory comment in order to expose real racism?  In class we have been talking about racism in the past, but we really have been dancing around modern racism.  It is easy to say that racists live somewhere else – geographically, socially, and economically.  In reality racism is among us.  I think true feelings and fears hide inside Hipster Racism, but then again, maybe I just don’t get the joke.  Do you?

4 thoughts on “Is this racist?

  1. I completely agree that the shirt in itself is racist. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t funny. Daniel Tosh is a comedian and his job is to push the boundaries of what is and what is not socially acceptable. Have you ever heard Lisa Lampanelli’s comedy. It’s completely racist toward everyone. I think we need this type of comedy, just like we need comics like Lewis Black who focus on the more political side of our lives, so we don’t end up taking ourselves so seriously.

    Now the hipster you saw at the party is not wearing the shirt because he is trying to break down racial barriers or start some kind of meaningful dialogue about modern race relations. That’s not what hipsters do. They are normally stupid people who use their attire and aloof attitudes to seem worldly and intelligent without having to say or do anything meaningful. (Have you been to this site, It will make you want to murder someone).

    Its just like that song from Ave Q ( we all have certain racial stereotypes in our heads whether we like it or not. I think its important that we are able to realize that and have meaningful conversations about them. This was a great post and I am glad I stumbled onto it.

  2. Thank you for visiting our blog! I agree with you that it is ok to be more relaxed about racial stereotypes in order to uncover more meaningful conversations. I just wonder how many people truly see that “Everybody is a little bit racist?” is sarcastic. If these comedians are sparking dialogue and helping people see real racism, then I am all for it. I’m curious to see if people understand that Tosh is a persona. He is very open about the fact that he doesn’t believe the things he is saying. Really though, is he saying them to reveal a larger truth about our society or just to be funny?

    Ok, now I am going ot go to I have to tell you I am scared to see it…

    1. Personally, I think Daniel Tosh is a genius whether or not he knows it. He is one of the few people who can say incredibly insensitive, racist, sexist, etc. things and still come off as likeable. I think its that shit eating grin he flashes every time he knows he’s said something inappropriate. He has always been able to say stuff like that, though. (This is a piece clip from an old stand up special.—cannibalism). We will see how his career progresses and whether or not he takes full advantage of his talents.

      As far as sarcasm goes, I know there are people out there who don’t get it and that is truly a shame. Satire is my favorite form of entertainment. I’m one of the few in my class in high school that loved Animal Farm and Elvis Costello is my all time favorite songwriter. I think using humor and sarcasm are a great way approach taboo topics because they have a way of disarming your initial reactions. We are wired to immediately react so strongly to certain topics (race, religion, abortion) that we forget to be objective sometimes.

      Side Note: Speaking of racism, popular culture, and satire…if you get a chance check out the album “Good Old Boys” by Randy Newman. Especially the song “Rednecks.” If there was a more perfect use of satire to talk about an unpopular topic I haven’t heard it.

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