Last week at Racialicious HQ, we were delighted to see the term “hipster racism”—coined by our very own Carmen Van Kerckhove in 2006*—suddenly enter mainstream parlance, thanks to Jezebel’s publication of Lindy West’s “A Guide to Hipster Racism.” In a flash, the words “hipster racism” papered themselves across Facebook and Twitter feeds across the continent (and maybe the world?). Words are wonderful, and when more people have access to language that helps them name the racism of everyday life, we’re happy.
There was only one glitch. While West linked to one Racialicious post (a short piece Carmen wrote in 2007 about white girls and gang signs) she never once name-checks Racialicious or Carmen…or any of our amazing pals and allies who have been writing about this stuff since the main target was Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls (i.e. a long time ago).
On the one hand, no one takes up social-justice work to see their name in lights and, at the end of the day, the point is just to get the message across, no matter who gives it the signal boost. On the other hand, we’re only human. It hurts when work that we, as a collective, have been jackhammering about for seven-plus years gets credited to someone else. (Seven years, y’all! Back to the dawn of skinny jeans! Before Facebook was open to the public, for cripes’ sake.)
And as our friends at Bitch pointed out, it is also distressing, though not in the least surprising, that the words “hipster racism” are more palatable, resonant, and listenable when they come from the mouth of a white blogger. It’s enough to make you get real low and start thinking terrible emo thoughts, like one white blogger is worth more than ten bloggers of colour.
What bothers some viewers about the Shit X Says to Y meme is that it targets only white women. Critics have said of Foti in particular that it is always sexist when men use women as the brunt of any joke. But privilege does not work in debits and credits, whereby your lack of cultural power as a gay person is paid back by your stores of cultural power as a man. A white woman can be racist to an Asian man, just as a straight black woman can be homophobic to a gay white man. These videos are important because they ask all viewers – regardless of what power they have and what power they lack – to reconsider if their best friendship with non-white and gay people grants them licence to cross the line.
Yet this doesn’t change the fact that though white men started Shit Girls Say – to poke fun at white women – the backlash is against white women. Shit X Says to Y generalises these women as the only ones who possess a desire for intimacy or approval; that desire which bulldozes over the very real fact that, when differences in identity are at hand, there are parts of our friends’ lives that we can never understand. Love doesn’t conquer all. Still, it’s unfair to put this burden squarely on them. The lack of a Shit White Men Say to Y meme (or Simply Shit White People Say to Y meme) is uncomfortable proof that we always prefer lampooning women than men.