Society allows white guys to utilize this music to get their aggressions out, act like He-Man and go crazy. The same benefits they get out of the music, black women not only get, but need even more. Black women need spaces in society where we can be free and express our individuality and be who we want to be.
– Laina Dawes, author, What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal
by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse
Lives in rapidly gentrifying neighborhood: check
Occasionally shops at Urban Outfitters, thrift stores, or grandma’s house: check
Tends to party in other rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods on weekends: check
Spends more time per week changing hairstyle than showering: ok, ew, sooo NOT check
With the exception of the final point, I qualify pretty solidly as a card-carrying member of hipsterdom (*though, according to Carmen, the first rule of being hipster is never admitting to being one*). I’m what one could call a “conscious hipster,” as oxymoronic as that sounds. I genuinely care about the world. I blog about race and gender, I recycle, I hold doors for the elderly. . . but I also devote a lot of time to fashion, music, and other facets of materialism on which I find worthy enough to throw money. Does that make me a bottomless pit of indifference? I think not.
Unfortunately, pop references to hipsters are never quite flattering and, to be honest, I think most of us “have it coming.” After reading the piece on Wes Anderson, and the responses thereafter, I began to wonder whether my pending defense of hipsters had a future in the metaphoric trash heap. Afterall, this site, among many others, has been nothing close to forgiving for hipsters’ behavioral faux-pas, including, but not limited to: political indifference (passed off as white liberalism), superficiality, aversion to personal hygiene, endorsement of the objectification of women under the guise of post-modern feminism, and an inexplicable hunger for overpriced clothing that looks as though it’s been bought, sold, and worn three times over.
And more than anything, perhaps as a means of highlighting their flaws while simultaneously skirting the risk of inciting the wrath of equal rights groups or the anti-racist blogger community (*wink wink*), they are portrayed as overwhelmingly white.
The problem that lies therein, however, is that in this attempt to criticize a group that is considered to be teeming with silent predators to developing neighborhoods by way of its voracious consumerism in the face of poverty and quasi-colonial gaze, the people of color who make up a sizeable portion of the hipster clans in major cities are swept under the rug, virtually ignored for the sake of ease. Given, it’s much easier to stereotype a group when they are all exactly alike, right? Yet once the idea of color or class or queerness ends up in the mix, the critics get a little vertiginous, as their previously asserted sweeping generalizations may end up pulling them into a vortex of inaccuracy.
I decided to do a little impromptu research into the history of people of color in the United States who would probably be considered hipsters, at least if they were somehow superimposed over a backdrop of post-millennial modernity. I thought of Pachucos (more on them in a sec), people of color who were members of the beat generation, the followers of and participants in rock in its earliest (predominately black) stages, and even my mother, who identified as a “hippie” during her college years (and sometimes still does, though, nowadays, more as an optional fashion statement as opposed to an indication of political voice). Long story short, they’ve been out there for quite some time— people of color trickling back into the movements to which they gave birth, later to be co-opted by whites, and vice versa, and it’s still very much the case today. One particular “hipster” cultural movement, if you will, is one for which I have yet to find a name. Continue reading