We could go on for days about the massive crimes against humanity committed by my pasty-skinned people. Slavery, the Holocaust, the Spanish Inquisition, the Trail of Tears, the Salem witch trials, and the Tuskegee experiment — we are just skimming the surface of a densely woven tapestry of broad-spectrum, grand-scale assholery.
Also, does “institutional racism” count as just one single crime against humanity? Or is that multiple counts? (Asking for a friend.)
In recent decades, however, organized acts of flagrant racism have fallen out of public favor. This has left many white assholes rudderless, flailing out on their own to commit smaller-scale atrocities in a generally disorganized manner. For whatever reason — the changing of seasons, perhaps, or the shifting of the moon’s gravitational pull — there has been a very visible wave of these high-profile racists lately, and it’s become a real embarrassment to the respectable bigots who prefer to discriminate on a classier, more dignified, systemic level. You know — like civilized people.
And sure, it’s easy to single out and condemn the old white guys throwing around loaded phrases like “those people” and “better off picking cotton” and “Heil Hitler.” But what about the quieter forms of white aggression that surround us on a daily basis? What I mean to say is, what about our crimes against pop culture?
Now, I’m not here today to talk about the fact that non-white families have pretty much disappeared from network TV. This list will also not make mention of the fact that Macklemore has won three Grammy awards for rap. And I’ll give only a passing nod to the fact that Miley Cyrus is currently on tour with a legit minstrel show. (She’s just being Miley, y’all!)
Don’t get me wrong — these are all offenses worth discussing, and they’re just the tip of the chalk-white iceberg. But we’ll have to save them for another day when I’m not SO THOROUGHLY EXHAUSTED BY COLLATERAL SHAME. Instead, today I would like to focus on a more manageable topic: entertainment-based transgressions by Whitey that are somewhat more trivial in nature, yet still cause me to feel a certain, all-too-familiar flush of dishonor at the actions of my race.
White people, we can do better. In so many ways. Here are a few specific, targeted areas where I see room for improvement. These atrocities are all small enough that I’m confident we can work together to eliminate them. And then, if we’re not too tired afterward, maybe we can talk about why blackface is actually never OK … ?
1. Celebrity parenting advice books. Just because you are a famous and overconfident white lady who has conceived and birthed a baby, you should not feel compelled to write a how-to book about parenting. Especially do not write this book if you have yet to usher your first child out of toddlerhood. In this scenario, you are Icarus flying toward the sun on wings made of spun sugar.
I’m looking at you, Alicia Silverstone, and your miso-based cure for postpartum depression. I’m side-eyeing you, Jenny McCarthy, and your gluten-based cure for autism. And no, Mayim Bialik, I do not care if you have a doctorate in neuroscience — I still think it’s a good idea to teach kids to say “please” and “thank you.”
(I want to point out that this transgression gets the #1 spot on the list because there’s a very insidious anti-vaccination message getting pushed out by a lot of these celebrity moms. Historically speaking, you can draw a pretty straight line from smallpox blankets to anti-vaccine rhetoric. In the event these preventable diseases make a comeback, who has the best chance of surviving the outbreak? Wealthy and privileged people with access to top-notch healthcare.)
That said, I will agree that “be a rich white lady without the need to hold down a day job” is excellent parenting advice. Do follow that tip if you can, everybody.
2. Zach Braff’s directing career. UGH GARDEN STATE. I am saddened to say I went to see this movie in the theater, because I heard positive reviews. They were lies. By the time the credits were rolling, I could actually feel the rage rising up toward my temples.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, so I’ll admit my memory is fuzzy. But this is my synopsis: White guy never learns how to feel; manic pixie dream girl teaches white guy how to feel; white guy forgives dad for never allowing him to feel as a child; white guy rewards manic pixie dream girl with his love; SO MANY WHITE TEARS. Congratulations on overcoming your oppressive childhood, white guy, and using a woman as a vehicle to get you there. So. Brave.
I don’t know all the details about Braff’s new movie (which I think is scheduled to punish the world this summer), but I am willing to speculate that it’s about a white man who realizes things about his feelings. TALK ABOUT A FRESH TAKE. Just what Hollywood needs!
3. The Sunday Night Football theme song. I mean, poor Joan Jett. This cover is so underachieving that Faith Hill eventually could not muster the will to continue singing it. Let’s start a Change.org petition to replace the current theme song with this Jenna Maroney gem, at least.
4. The comedy stylings of Jeff Dunham. Here we have a double whammy of (a) racist and (b) not funny. First, he has puppets named “Achmed the Dead Terrorist” and “Jose Jalapeno.” Sample Achmed joke: “I would not kill the Jews. No. I would toss a penny between them and watch them fight to the death!” I just … what? WHAT?
Second, even when he’s not trafficking in ethnic stereotypes, Dunham’s punchlines still fall flat. (Flatter than a white man’s ass? No?) Maybe that’s because they stay in a narrow range between hacky and sexist. For example: Dunham’s puppet “Melvin the Superhero Guy” has a wife. Her power is that “once a month … she becomes ‘evil’!” YEP, LADIES AND THEIR PMS, RIGHT FELLAS?
For reference, here’s a photo of a Jeff Dunham audience. This visual sums it up better than I ever could:
— Jeff Dunham (@jeffdunham) April 27, 2014
5. The fact that SmashMouth is/was a thing. I bet you thought I was going to say Nickelback, didn’t you? Well, I refuse to carry that burden. My hands are very full here in the U.S., so white Canadians are going to need to step up and make amends for their own Nickelback.
I’ll admit that this band is not so grave a threat as it used to be, because we seem to have moved past the era where every big-budget summer movie was contractually obligated to feature a gratuitous SmashMouth cover of some perfectly innocent song that we can never enjoy the same way again. But you know what else can lie dormant for years before resurfacing? Herpes, Lyme disease, hepatitis B, syphilis …
6. The continued popularity ofTwo and a Half Men. Are ratings down since Charlie Sheen left? Is Ashton Kutcher doing a good job? Does it matter that the eponymous half-man was written out of the show? These questions are the sound of one hand giving Chuck Lorre a tug. And the hand belongs to Chuck Lorre.