Realness, to the Extreme - by Kate Carraway
Illustration by Penelope Gazin
Most of us suck, and most of life is sucky. Considered another way, everything is the worst. But it’s for the best. (Probably? Maybe.) That individuals and organizations and businesses and governments and even the collective consciousness are so roundly selfish and chaotic and banal and usually so ultimately boring is on the surface not so good. And yet couldn’t that consistently shitty foundation of almost everything we are and live with be some kind of necessary substructure of checks and balances? Like, a carefully evolutionary-ed trias politica, in the interest of maintaining a relatively stable level of the Fucking Worst Stuff.
Lil’ Thinks - Witness the Whiteness, by Kate Carraway
Some imperative sociocultural maneuvering was missed when Girls debuted; instead, a really embarrassing junior-kindergarten level of communal reinforcement led to the collective conclusion that Lena Dunham’s show is racist (and, yeah, that communally reinforced idea was right, because that show is racist to the point of making Brooklyn look like a sundown town). It is still being missed, which is cute because of how everyone I know—the “communal” in the “reinforcement”—is sure about race and especially about whiteness.
Following the retrospective social insight of five or ten years, Lena’s trial by ordeal will probably seem painfully, entirely, wholeheartedly retarded. There is, of course, everything right with calling something that is racist what it is, but often, something that is all milky white is criticized simply and specifically for its milky, cummy whiteness and not criticized specifically—and more crucially—for its values, assumptions, casting choices (the first season of Girls skewed very Magical Negro), and antiverisimilitude. (No affluent white girl in urban North America is without rich Asian and Indian friends. She’s just not.) So while the story within the criticism was all “La-la-la-la-la Lena!” whiteness and white culture snuck by unexamined.
Ignoring whiteness as its own thing to be considered is the easy way out, yeah, but it’s also a dangerous re-re-reestablishment of a bad precedent, in which whiteness generally is positioned and congratulated as being the dominant culture. And since whiteness holds fast to the most capital of every variety of culture except “cool” and remains very few generations (fucking one! one generation!) removed from institutionalized and mandated racism, it’s left as the cultural standard to which everything else responds. Which, as everybody knows, is racist.
Two important contextual items, here: America isn’t so white. If you didn’t know or live somewhere stupid, more black, Hispanic, and mixed-race babies were born last year than white ones—and since you and I have been conscious, the internet has (correctly) negated the social, economic, gendered, whatever boundaries of once-discrete subcultures. Sooo, that’s good. But because the collective consciousness moves as fast and elegantly as you do jogging in a hot tub following diazepam and margaritas, whiteness remains understood as this abstract, almost-imaginary but deeply embedded dominant paradigm.