Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Smaller Forms of White Privilege

So as we've seen recently (though we've seen it a thousand times before), white privilege is pretty damn powerful. It's the kind of thing that lets you kill an unarmed Black teenager, and then the resulting trial and media coverage focus on how potentially dangerous the dead kid is rather than how obviously dangerous the deranged dude with the gun who killed a child is. Nice work if you can get it, right?

But typically white privilege operates on a much smaller plane. For instance, shitty comedians often use their white privilege to make racist jokes and then jump on anyone who calls them out for it for "being p.c." (as an aside, is there any greater phrase in the English language? It's one of those really handy markers, because as soon as you hear someone use that phrase, you know you can stop listening to them right then and there, because they are a fucking moron).

Here's a good recent example -- after the now infamous incident in which a Bay Area news station reported the names of the pilots on the crashed Asiana Airlines flight as "Wee Too Low" and "Ho Lee Fuk" among others, Patton Oswalt tweeted out something to the effect of their new PR person would be "Wi So Solly."

Get it? Because Asian people talk funny! Har har!

The funniest thing about it to me is how not only racist, but completely out of touch it makes Patton look, especially for a guy who has a lot of fans who seem to think of him as hip and witty (full confession: I've never found the dude funny). When I saw the tweet, it immediately made me think of one of the all-time great Simpsons episodes, Krusty Gets Kancelled. In the episode, to demonstrate how unfunny and out of touch Krusty has become, they show him doing a bit with fake buck teeth and saying "me so solly," as their example of the ultimate unfunny, hackneyed joke. That episode premiered 20 years ago. 20 years ago people who were actually talented comics were using the "so solly" bit as an example of ridiculous, out-dated, hackneyed material. Just to put that in perspective.

Anyway, David Daley over at Salon called Oswalt out for being a racist idiot (and noted the joke wasn't funny to boot). But instead of say, pausing for a bit to think about how maybe he had just made a racist remark, Oswalt instead began firing back and eventually wrote a long missive on his website about how those P.C. prudes over at Salon just don't get his crazy edgy humor. In it, he mocks the idea that he, esteemed white comedian, could ever be racist in the first place, and that if anyone thinks he is, it's only because they're not smart enough to understand his comedy. He also claims it should be obvious to anyone that the tv station was the brunt of the joke, but I can't really see how that's the case. The only "joke" contained within the original tweet is that Asian people supposedly can't say R's, and I'm not certain how that's a joke on the tv station and not just dredging up an incredibly reductive, racist insult for cheap laughs.

But it's not just that fact that Oswalt can fire off racist tweets and not lose his job or many of his fans. The real power of white privilege is in how indignant he gets to be that anyone would dare call him out on his racism. And that instead of taking the time to reflect about how, yeah, that's a pretty fucking racist joke, he instead turns in into a rant about how anyone who sees racism in it is just spoiling for a fight and is so out of touch with reality they can't recognize his genius.

Kinda like how Trayvon Martin was so out of touch with reality he couldn't recognize that he should just sit still while a crazed gunman chased him down the street...

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