Friday, February 20, 2015

Enough with the Cool Cultural Signalling

Some of my best friends etc.:
As I’ve said for a long time, a lot of progressive educated white types have essentially replaced having a politics with having certain cultural attachments and affectations. Really aggressively praising the Wire becomes a stand-in for “I am not racist.” Complaining that Selma was robbed becomes a stand-in for having done the necessary work to understand the history of race in America. Telling anyone who’ll listen that you think all of the creativity and risk are in hip hop now becomes a stand-in for advancing a meaningful political platform that could actually improve the lives of actually-existing black people. White people are so weird about Beyonce because Beyonce has become an all-purpose floating signifier, a vessel on to which bourgie white folks project all of their desires for how other people should see them. These vague associations with arts and media are intended to send a message that, if voiced explicitly, we all know by now to ridicule: some of my best friends are black. . . .

I’m not suggesting that there’s no political meaning to be had in these various artistic affiliations. What I am suggesting is that these attachments cannot possibly substitute for a healthy, functioning racial politics. They are designed to be a way to hide out from exactly the kind of risk and personal investment that are a prerequisite of meaningful political advancement.
We have many awful bits of evolutionary inheritance, but our need  for in-group signalling is one of the most annoying.

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