Hipster Racism: It’s A Thing
From the files of Lena Dunham’s twitter comes another excuse to talk about how ignorant people can be, while at the same time feeling so enlightened, above-it-all and generally ‘with it’ that they proclaim their racist jokes, cultural appropriation and insensitive stereotyping “fun”, “just a joke”, or best and worst of all, “ironic”. I know there has been a good Jezebel article on the subject, and even though I usually don’t like Jezebel much, it’s a good thing that this issue gained some traction. Way too many people still think that some magic wand will absolve them of being offensive simply because they occupy a special little place in their mind that is totally not racist you guys!!!
I see that Dunham has apologized - with the usual “it was a joke!” caveat. But the issue obviously still stands. The problem here is that the ignorance of what we may call “hipster racism” or “ironic racism” is built on the idea that a single person’s joke, tweet, speech act exists in a vacuum - the vacuum of that person’s ego, who might just be totally right that it was supposed to be “ironic”. But you know what? You can cast a lot of sentences in irony, but it’s kind of difficult to be ironic about a structural problem. Your joke exists in a world where racism is a problem on a structural level, and you can not erase that fact by saying you were being ironic.
Irony does not erase being part of a structure. You can not opt out of being part of a society that discriminates, a discrimination that you benefit from, by saying you didn’t mean it like that. Intent doesn’t change your position of privilege in society.