Category Archives: Racism

Basic Bitches, Hate Labels and an Amazing Kreayshawn Remix

image of Kreayshawn from her Tumblog
Not a Basic Bitch

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately, among them Slate’s Double X Gabfest. In a recent podcast they discussed the concept of the “basic bitch.” Immediately I thought of Kreayshawn’s 2011 hit, “Gucci Gucci” which proclaims “Gucci Gucci Fendi Vendi Prada: basic bitches wear that shit so I don’t even bother.” At one point in the show one of the hosts declared she wanted a remix of that song, and I am here to supply. How can I resist when Party Ben’s remix is so damn good?

The hosts discussed basic bitches as compared to hipsters. They seem to me to be perfect binary opposites. Both groups are lashing out at the presumptions they expect from their counterpart. The basic bitch thinks the hipster is uppity for not following social conventions (I gave a perfect example of this in my first article on hipsters, sourced from Urban Dictionary’s hipster definition). While the hipster thinks the basic bitch is just the sort of girl who made fun of him/her in school for not wearing the right clothes or participating in sports.

If you’ll allow me to further digress, I was having a tangential conversation last night with a Puerto Rican woman I’d just met. We were drunkenly discussing Florida racial politics (a favorite pastime of mine) in particular the ongoing hatred between Cubans and Puerto Ricans.

She felt that Cubans were the ones keeping this going, always accusing Puerto Ricans of selling out, for not revolting against the Yankee oppressor. This parallax view fascinated me. As one raised amongst Cubans, the narrative was similar, but different. My upbringing taught me it was the Puerto Ricans who started it all, with their big flag necklaces and upper-middle-class pride. True, Cubans were proud of their revolutionary status, but the hatred was coming from the Puerto Ricans. They were the ones bragging about their status, thinking the Cubans were lesser, for both their poverty and their questionable legal status.

Now there’s a lot to this conversation, (and much of it that most people wouldn’t be willing to discuss or admit even sober), but the part that is germane here is that in both cases the prejudice towards the other group stemmed from some underlying insecurity. If that Puerto Rican in fifth grade hadn’t gone basic bitch on me for accidentally referring to her as Cuban, I’d not have had prejudices against Puerto Ricans and their pride flags. The prejudice was born out of my own insecurities. And if hipsters weren’t so frequently taunted and bullied as kids, maybe they wouldn’t be so eager to brag about their current elite taste in coffee, music and thrift shopping.

It’s so easy to see one side of that coin, from whatever side a person happens to identify with most closely. What is fascinating to me is that there’s insecurity coming from both sides. That the basic bitches and the Puerto Ricans were hating from a place of insecurity too. It reminds me that deep down there are no bad people, just terribly broken people in search of healing. And that all gets back to the opening of the Gabest episode, where they discuss the gender confidence gap. Nice when things come full circle, isn’t it (discuss!)?

I promise this remix is better than the one used in the closing credits of the Gabfest…though that one was satisfying too.

Kreayshawn – Gucci Gucci (Party Ben’s Bringing Back Fidget remix)

OK I really only meant to start this post as an excuse to share this Kreayshawn remix. This junk will really get you dancing. Seriously one of my favorite remixes of the decade, though Kreayshawn won’t inspire the Oakland hipsters like she used to. And for your patience during my rant, I’ll throw in this cover by suspected-hipster never-to-be-a-basic-bitch Neon Hitch. Neon Hitch drops the “basic bitch” from her version, take from that what you will.

Neon Hitch – Gucci Gucci (Kreayshawn Cover) (2:40)

If you like this cover, it’s in my Best Electro of 2011 list. There may be more there to your tastes.

PS, the women of the Double X Gabfest claimed Kreayshawn is now a “mommy blogger.” As a media professional well-acquainted with mommy bloggers, I’m going to challenge that. Having just visited her Tumblr, I’d say that Kreayshawn is not at all a mommy blogger, but simply a public figure how happens to be a mom and have a blog. A distinction a group of feminists should surely acknowledge!

Why There Are Riots Tonight in Oakland

I wasn’t surprised that officer Mehserle wasn’t convicted of murder despite all the video footage and witnesses of him shooting an unarmed teenager. I first had my suspicions when Forum reported there wasn’t a single black person on the jury. But then I took heart in thinking that the prosecution would want a whiter jury so it would be harder for the defense to appeal. Besides, the victim, Oscar Grant, was hand-cuffed face down with another police officer’s foot on his neck. So for weeks I held out some hope for a verdict of second-degree murder.

Mehserle claims that he accidentally grabbed his gun when he meant to grab his taser. I asked an ex-cop about this and he doesn’t think such a thing is possible. For one thing, a gun is much heaver than a taser and tasers are designed to have mechanisms that don’t work like firearms to prevent exactly this kind of situation. Moreover, officers’ training drills into their heads over and over the exact location of such things. The location of a cop’s firearm should be second nature.

The defense’s case is based on the very idea that Mehserle was poorly trained. Ironically, the prosecution’s case was based on this too. He probably was, since LEOs receive inadequate training in economies far less strained than California’s. In the last big election there was a measure to give more funding to California’s police force but that didn’t have a hope and a prayer of passing when the budget is taking huge cuts in education and social services. So he probably was under-trained.

When you get down to it though, why the hell should he be reaching for his taser in the first place? It’s not like they were busting an armed robbery. They were responding to a call that a fight had broken out on the BART train. A simple fight, possibly nothing more than kids horsing around—and on New Year’s Eve, the night everyone horses around. If you watch the video it doesn’t appear he’s resisting arrest. So there were lots of reasons to believe that the jury might hand in a murder verdict.

But I gave up hope of that when I heard on the radio that Mehserle cried on the stand.

I don’t think the jury was a pack of outright bigots. Surely they recognized that what happened was a tragedy. But racial identity is a powerful thing. Simply put, they saw Mehserle as one of their own. When they listened to him talk they tried to imagine themselves in his situation. “But it was an accident!” Aw, gee, poor guy, he was scared, the jury thought, I would be too. We can’t put him in prison with those people. Just imagine what they’d do to him! On the contrary, the victim was one of “those people.” They see a boy but they don’t see their own child. They don’t see themselves.

Oscar Grant, 1986-2009

If you don’t believe me, try to imagine it if the situation were reversed. Imagine a black man claiming he “accidentally” shot a white man who was lying on the ground completely defenseless and over-powered. That case would be a joke. It would be a guilty-verdict hands down, case closed. No way it would be a story the media clamor to cover all across the country.

Of course all this is conflated by the fact that Mehserle wasn’t just any white man but a man of the law. One could argue that a black cop who shot a young white man would get just the same sentence. Though I find that very hard to believe, it really doesn’t matter. Because black police officers aren’t shooting white men. Tends to happen the other way.

This sends a very clear message to black folks: the law does not protect you. It is here only to convict you. Protection from crime is for “those people.” They already knew this of course. America doesn’t need another black martyr. Hell, Oakland has enough to last us for the next hundred years, ThankYouVeryMuch.

Maybe that’s why there’s no part of me that cares whether Mehserle deep down and truly meant to reach for that taser. He knows that his behavior was inexcusable and unforgivable. He also knows that his identity as a white police officer is the key to him escaping a life sentence. If he had been a man of honor, he would have settled this case quietly, explaining his side while taking a guilty plea. I’m not saying I would have had the fortitude to do that if I were in his position. But it would have been the right thing to do for Oscar Grant’s family. Sure it would have been a sacrifice, but taser or no taser he took this boy’s life and he shouldn’t have, and he knows it.

So I don’t want to hear a word about how the jury are the only ones who saw all the evidence. Mehserle had a chance to step up and offer himself as America’s white martyr. Because everyone knows we have plenty of slots available.

Hard to Keep Up With How Much the World Sucks

Maybe my blog posts are so depressing and fatalistic because it seems like I live behind a veil of privelige that screens me from the things that are happening in the world. Nay, the things my country is doing in the world.
Activist lawyer Bill Quigley recently emailed us a long story about the thirty-three mistakes of Katrina, deliberate or otherwise. Briefing them is beyond the scope of this blog, but you may read them for yourself at Counterpunch: How to Destroy an African American City in 33 Steps.
But this is not the miscarriage of justice that makes me feel the veil is lifted momentarily. I Stumbled Upon an article about the things they don’t show in the pictures of Abu Ghraib. Charges of children being held at the camp, children being rapedand tortured so that their parents might confess to crimes. Women were passing out messages “saying ‘Please come and kill me, because of what’s happened’ and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling.”

The writers of these articles and blogs thought that many of these things that were supposedly caught on tape will soon see the light of day.

That was in 2004.

I remember when this whole travesty happened, the pictures they showed were anti-climactic. And I remember waiting for the American public to get a look at all those darker home movies that would rip open the veil and reveal the Iraqi quagmire up to the elbows in shame. I remember casual mention of children at the camps but no mention of torture of children. And if this did come up, is this the maximum outrage our culture can muster? Is it too late for me to be outraged by these things now? I feel like a Jewish child just being taught about the Holocaust for the first time.

Did I miss something? No, really, please tell me: has anyone reading ever heard anything about this? Or do I have to read newspapers written in German to get the whole story?

Update On the Neighbors

I am classist after all!

I was saying hi to my neighbor the other day, he is about my age, Mexican, drives an SUV.
I got up the will to confront him about throwing away furniture. I told him about the place up the street where they take furniture donations.

He said that that wasn’t their furniture at all. Random people had been dumping it by our trash. That is why they had started locking the gate at night (another thing they were doing that was really annoying because it doesn’t make me any safer and it takes extra time).

All it took was a little communication. Now to figure out why he’s driving that gas-guzzler.

To make matters worse, I found out that their aunt used to live in this apartment before she died. So at that time they had this whole complex all to themselves, one big happy extended family. I feel like an intruder. No wonder they are polite. We are like a ghost in the attic; they are stuck with us.

This Blogger’s White Privilege is Showing

My Mexican neighbors keep throwing away their furniture. I don’t know how they go through it so quickly, but once a month or so I will see sofas and pillows and dining chairs stacked by the trash, like a big-boned house of cards.
I wonder how many tissues, crushed soda cans and credit card offers I can fit in the space these will take up in the landfill.
If they were white, I would ask them about it. I would ask whether they knew there was a thrift store three blocks up that will sell their furniture for the benefit of disabled children. I would say that I know a guy there who would walk the three blocks with a dolly to come get the stuff.
But they are not white. They are first generation immigrants living the American dream: a gas-guzzler in the driveway and furniture that matches the carpeting.
Herein lies the disconnect between us: conservation activism is a luxury. It is only conceptualized in a world of abundance. How can one think about the impact of all they have when all along the most glaring truth is all they have not? Those who cannot afford new clothes aren’t thinking about organic cotton. It is the middle class people that are replacing the innefficient bulbs in their house with longer-lasting ones. And I confess that as a poor college student I bought the cheapest ones because renters don’t stay long enough to see the economic benefits of the earth friendly light bulb.
I’m not saying poor people don’t struggle, on the contrary, their lives are defined by it. But it seems like the struggle of the poor is one for survival. They sure as hell aren’t going to feel guilty for not recycling when there are corporations privatizing their water supply.
Maybe I am wrong about this. After all, my neighbors are paying the same rent that I am. Maybe they are just typical Americans and I am blinded by white guilt. Surely there are no excuses, now that conservation is a matter of survival for everyone. But our exchanges now are smiles and nods and I want to keep it that way. Who am I to give them a lecture?
I threatened this balance the other day while murdering the kudzu in my backyard. There was so much of it that I couldn’t have told you what the fence beneath it was made of. This created quite a pile of lawn clippings. A young man and old woman come out of the apartment above while I am dragging branches to a heap half as tall as I am and just as wide. They look at me inexplicably. I ask if they know where the compost bin is (in Oakland, they have a recycle bin for compost). More confusion, some head shaking. You know, the bin that you put leaves in. The bisabuela points to the dumpster. No, I want the one for recycling. I wonder if she speaks English. But surely he speaks English. I can’t help but think that as a result of this exchange they gather that I am simply too lazy to walk the extra five feet to the trash. I vow to call the Oakland Recycling Center. They smile and nod. I smile and nod.
And isn’t this very same conundrum happening on an international level? Excuse me, China, but I can’t help but noticing that the smog in Beijeng is so bad it would be safest to never leave the house. Our Olympic athletes are precious assets and we’d rather not have them damaged by breathing in all your smog. But then someone comes along and reminds us: China is just getting the hang of the “first world,” give a country a break! And don’t get them started on the banana republics and African countries that are raping the oceans of what’s left of the big game fish. Don’t they get to have economies, too?

Frank Talk About Racism and Classism

I was sitting on a bench during my ten-minute break from work when I was approached by a young black man with dreds. His clothes were shabby and his eyes were damaged and baggy from the level of exhaustion that usually only comes with the assistance of drugs.

He offered me a quarter to use my cell phone. This reminded me of my boyfriend, who looks a little like a “terrorist.” We had an argument once because he walked a mile home to use the phone rather than asking a person on the street to use theirs. He told me that it never works and people usually get scared or annoyed. He would rather walk the mile than ask.

So it ocurred to me that it wasn’t easy for this man to approach me.

I also thought of all of the things my racist and classist culture has taught me: that he must be desparate and willing to do anything, that he is jealous of my luxury and riches and will not hesitate to hurt me in any way if it is to his benefit.

That I am willing to admit this thought even entered my head is only through years of analyzing class systems. I truly believe that most middle and upper class people only think, “he might steal my phone.” And then they make up a white lie (so aptly named!) to cover their racism (really, more classism, few are intimidated by a black man in an expensive suit.) that everyone else can see right through.

This angered me. What is more likely, that this guy needs to use a phone or that he
is part of some con to score a bunch of crappy, beat-up cell phones and resell them for a fraction of what they are worth? I have loaned my phone out to many people on the street, in retrospect all of them black women at the bus stop. This is less of a coincidence and more owing to 1) most black men wouldn’t bother to ask me for reasons stated above and 2) most white women have cell phones.
Additionally, I have borrowed many cell phones from random people. I never hesitate to ask because I am a white woman which equals harmless and demure.

I have never loaned my phone to a man, much less one that looked like a drug addict (now there’s another stereotype: so many drug addicts look as wealthy as they are. Cocaine, alcohol, pills, weed — desparate housewives live in fear of the crackheads and meth-heads sport these addictions of their own.). I admit I hesitated long enough to think all of these things before I handed it to him, which really only took a few seconds.

Ultimately it ocurred to me that I would rather my cell phone be stolen (which is unlikely, and besides I can outrun this guy) then contribute to the cycle of fear that racism and classism neccessitate, and this was the deciding factor. I gave him my phone and went back to reading my book. He was done in less than three minutes. A car showed up — I suppose he was giving them directions. He made sure to look in to my eyes when he gave the phone back.

He told me that it meant a lot to him that I wasn’t afraid.

He returned minutes later on a bicycle that is much too small for him. Then he told me that this bike may not look like much but it saves him from having to walk three hours to work. I told him that I also ride my bike to work but I don’t even look at jobs that aren’t in biking distance. He responded that with “the dreds and the skin color” jobs aren’t so easy to find. I admitted that things are tough; I have a bachelor’s degree and I work in retail. He took a moment to appreciate that as a sign for how fucked up the economy truly is: even a white girl with a diploma works in a shop and hasn’t had health insurance for years.

I know that our little exchange meant a lot to him and truthfully it meant a lot to me too. We each had to take a risk. Such a small risk, something so inconsequential, at least among people of the same race/class, becomes powerful and imbued with meaning simply because we come from different upbringings. We exchanged names and he promised to spit some poetry when next we meet.

I am truly looking forward to it.