I don’t know if it’s justified to claim, as the headline does, that these white Instagram influencers are “pretending to be black.” Only one is doing that – and she only did it for a while. The others are upfront about their ethnic heritage.
On the other hand, cultural appropriation is a thing. I view it as economic: Elvis Presley gets rich doing covers of “race records,” while the original performers struggle to make a living. I think the mainstream definition of cultural appropriation is more broad and intangible than the one I use.
While plenty of people, including plenty of Trump fans, certainly have concerns about the economy, it’s racial resentment that drives who does and doesn’t support Trump. And without endorsing the resentful views of people upset about declining white privilege, you can see that supporting Trump is perfectly reasonable for people who think this way.
The social and cultural clout of nonwhite people really has grown in the United States, and demographic trends suggest that it is likely to continue growing in the near future. This is a real and important change, and whenever real and important change happens, you would expect some people to dislike the change. Trump has tapped into this resentment.
Trump supporters are looking to make America white again.
No American athlete today is as well loved as O.J. was before he was arrested.
Simpson’s story is that of a black man who came of age during the civil rights era and spent his entire adult life trying to “transcend race” — to claim that strange accolade bestowed on blacks spanning from Pelé to Prince to Nelson Mandela to Muhammad Ali. Which is to say, it’s the story of a halfback trying, and failing, to outrun his own blackness.
Historically, parks and public pools were subject to discrimination laws, which meant black and brown Americans didn’t have an opportunity to build a tradition of outdoor activity. Also, African-Americans were forced to do hard labor outside as slaves, which cast a pall on parks and such for later generations of blacks.
Sportswriters were uncomfortable with reports that young Cassius Clay was flirting with Islam, and even more uncomfortable with his boxing style, which they interpreted as afraid.
The sportswriters were convinced that champ Sonny Liston, who had Mafia ties, would make quick work of the black upstart.
… at the weigh-in on the morning of the fight, they said Clay looked scared. He had to be held back by his camp as he yelled at the baleful Liston, “Chump! Chump!” When the fight doctor checked his blood pressure and heart rate and reported it had elevated to 120, the writers took it as evidence that he was terrified. There were rumors that he fled to the airport.
But then they were in the ring and the bell rang — and the revolution was on and the militant-spiritualist-rhyming-sage-charismatic was born, with his hands flying and tassled feet dancing. [Sportswriter Jimmy] Cannon was converted by the end of the first round after watching Clay reduce Liston to “an aged chophouse waiter with bad feet carrying a heavy tray.” By round three, there were cuts on Liston’s face. By round seven, the former champion sat on his stool refusing to come out with a shoulder injury to try to find the elusive Clay, and the new champion was screaming at the writers, “Eat your words!” Red Smith began to write, with “a mouth still dry from excitement,” admitting in print that “the words don’t taste good.” [Robert] Lipsyte, too, began typing. Incredibly, he wrote, Clay hadn’t been bragging, or huckstering; he had been “telling the truth all along.”
The next morning at his press conference, Clay said, “I’m through talking. All I have to be is a nice, clean gentleman.” And then he publicly acknowledged that he attended Black Muslim meetings.
“I don’t have to be what you want me to be,” he announced. “I’m free to be who I want.”
White cops from Aiken, SC improperly stopped a car driven by a black woman (they claimed the stop was motivated by temporary tags, but driving with current temporary tags is not grounds for a stop), then improperly questioned her passenger, who voluntarily gave them his ID, then induced a drug dog to “alert” on the car, then forced both black people to expose themselves in public, culminating with two officers taking turns sticking their fingers up the passenger’s rectum, again, in public.
When a cocker spaniel bites, it does so as a member of its species; it is never anything but a dog. When a pit bull bites, it does so as a member of its breed. A pit bull is never anything but a pit bull.
Powerful, moving, and at times hard-to-read article by Tom Junod in Esquire about pit bulls, and how they parallel the state of America.
Pit bulls are a mainstream American dog. You see a lot of them, the bullet-shaped face where you used to see long, German-shepherd-like noses. Despite their popularity, they’re the dog most likely to be hated, feared, and banned by law from many American communities. Many people believe pit bulls are vicious and violent by nature; others believe they’re gentle, loving dogs, maligned by prejudice and ignorance.
What pit bulls are, says Junod, is dogs, each one an individual, but part of a species capable of both gentle love and aggression. Never forget your dog is a predator, or else you’re setting yourself up for tragedy.
Ironically, all this emotion is heaped on a breed of dog that has no scientific existence. A pit bull is not a breed the way a German shepherd or a collie is a breed. A pit bull is simply a kind of dog that has a number of characteristics: Shape of skull, body type, coat, and so forth. And even that is imprecise — a pit bull is basically what you point to when you’re talking about pit bulls.
Pit bulls are more likely to be owned by poor people, and ethnic minorities. Affluent whites will often cross the street to avoid them.
You learn a lot about America when you own a pit bull. You learn not just who likes your dog; you learn what kind of person likes your dog—and what kind of person fears him. You generalize. You profile. You see a well-heeled white woman walking a golden retriever and expect her to cross the street and give you a dirty look; you see the guy who’s cutting down her trees or pressure-washing her driveway and you expect him to say: “That’s a beautiful dog.” Or: “How much you want for that dog?” Or: “You fight that dog?” You learn that the argument about pit bulls takes place along the lines of class and, to a lesser extent, race. The opposition to pit bulls might not be racist; it does, however, employ racial thinking. If a pit-bull-Labrador mix bites, then the pit bull is always what has done the biting, its portion of the blood—its taint—ineradicable and finally decisive.
Pit bulls are killed by the thousands every day in America. Literally thousands every day. They’re very likely to be brought to shelters, and difficult to adopt out because of their reputation. (And that reputation should not be dismissed out of hand as mere prejudice. Discussions about pit bulls and viciousness are a confusing mix of slander, truth, and self-fulfilling prophecy.)
America is two countries now—the country of its narrative and the country of its numbers, with the latter sitting in judgment of the former. In the stories we tell ourselves, we are nearly always too good: too soft on criminals, too easy on terrorists, too lenient with immigrants, too kind to animals. In the stories told by our numbers, we imprison, we drone, we deport, and we euthanize with an easy conscience and an avenging zeal.
It’s been twenty years since my workshop days and yet from what I gather a lot of shit remains more or less the same. I’ve worked in two MFA programs and visited at least 30 others and the signs are all there. The lack of diversity of the faculty. Many of the students’ lack of awareness of the lens of race, the vast silence on these matters in many workshop. I can’t tell you how often students of color seek me out during my visits or approach me after readings in order to share with me the racist nonsense they’re facing in their programs, from both their peers and their professors. In the last 17 years I must have had at least three hundred of these conversations, minimum. I remember one young MFA’r describing how a fellow writer (white) went through his story and erased all the ‘big’ words because, said the peer, that’s not the way ‘Spanish’ people talk. This white peer, of course, had never lived in Latin America or Spain or in any US Latino community—he just knew. The workshop professor never corrected or even questioned said peer either. Just let the idiocy ride. Another young sister told me that in the entire two years of her workshop the only time people of color showed up in her white peer’s stories was when crime or drugs were somehow involved. And when she tried to bring up the issue in class, tried to suggest readings that might illuminate the madness, her peers shut her down, saying Our workshop is about writing, not political correctness. As always race was the student of color’s problem, not the white class’s. Many of the writers I’ve talked to often finish up by telling me they’re considering quitting their programs. Of course I tell them not to. If you can, please hang in there. We need your work. Desperately.