Friday, December 5, 2014

Nobody's dreaming of a Caucasian Christmas

I keep telling myself that I'm swearing off outrage porn forever, that I have no further desire to read about minor gaffes and goofs that the political commentariat has decided to inflate into major issues. Then comes an example of something Fr. Erik Richtsteig is pleased to call "STOOPID VISIBLE FROM SPACE"; and not only do I read, I begin foaming at the mouth.

What can I say? I'm human, and therefore prone to sin. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Besides, sometimes it's fun. Because postmodern society occasionally hands you polished, hand-cut gems of 99.9% pure dumbth, and it's almost criminal to let them pass by unremarked. Moreover, social media gives people ample time and opportunity to let their least-considered thoughts come out of their heads; I should know, having set a few free myself. The down side is that Twitter, Facebook, and so forth allow stupid to find stupid and become mutually reinforcing.

For instance, you would think a major C/W star singing a somewhat mawkish but otherwise harmless Irving Berlin tearjerker about holiday snow would be nothing to get fussed about. But somehow, some people managed to find Darius Rucker singing "White Christmas" at the Rockefeller Square tree-lighting ceremony to be ironic, if not a calculated insult to black Americans everywhere:

"Darius Rucker/Hootie just sang 'I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas' at the tree-lighting ceremony. Because America is f**king with us all[.]" [Yes, sentimental ditties are part of a giant conspiracy to torment us and deprive us of our freedoms.]
"Darius Rucker singing White Christmas unironically[.]" [It might be ironic, if Rucker hates snow.]
"Of course they have Darius Rucker singing 'Dreaming of a white Christmas', f**king white people." [And what would you expect him to sing at a tree-lighting ceremony — "F**k da Police"?]
"Somehow, I just watched Darius Rucker sing 'I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas' on national television mere feet away from the protest[.]" [I might be wrong, but the protesters didn't seem to find it especially provocative. Stupid protesters.]

It seems there aren't enough examples of obvious racism to get cheesed off about; some people have to "decode" ostensibly innocent books, movies, and songs so they can fulminate against their "racist" subtexts. It's like trying to uncover government secrets from the ingredient list on a box of Rice Krispies; at the extremes, it almost goes beyond the fatuous to verge on the clinically paranoid.

When I say most white people don't give a rat's patoot about the condition of Black America, I mean that lack of concern works both ways: not only are they not interested in boosting black people up, they're also not interested in keeping black people down. Most white people, liberal or conservative, don't resent or fear successful African-Americans half as much as some poor black people do. (Ever hear of the "crab mentality"?) I don't deny that there are instances of implicit or unconscious racism; I merely argue that one should never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by apathy.

I accept no responsibility for the misspelling of "completely".
Speaking of the "crab mentality": That Rucker sang "White Christmas" at all, let alone without a hint of irony in his voice, should tell us that he found nothing particularly incongruous or racially offensive about the song. Or does the fact that he's been successful in two predominantly "white" musical markets make him an "Uncle Tom"? That, of course, is the cheap and easy way to discount black counter-testimony: imply that the witness is somehow not a real black person, for reasons that are irrelevant to racial categorization.

But then, many common rhetorical tools are all about winning arguments cheaply and easily. Liberals are irritated by the frequent charge of "playing the race card". However, the charge exists for the same reason the charge of "playing the Hitler/Nazi card" exists: because some people will claim racism to get their way when the grounds for the claim are, to put it mildly, sheer cow plop. Does it get overused, to deny racism where racism may, in fact, have been a factor? Sure; nevertheless, the misuse of the "race card" argument doesn't take away from its proper use, just as the abuse of the "racism" charge doesn't mean racism is no longer a real, operative factor in American society.

In pouring so much content into such a small bag, the tweeters exposed their own implicitly racist assumptions about the event, the song, and Darius Rucker. The only racism in the song is the racism they projected into it out of their own souls. That is the real irony.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.
—Edmund Sears, "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear"
(Original verse 5)