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When Hipsters & Race Collide

throw your set up…even if you’ve only seen gangs in movies.

Yesterday, after a morning spent in the middle of a monsoon in mid-town Manhattan, I found myself seeking the comfort of a long drive home, listening to one of the cities best radio stations, WBAI 99.5. Known for it’s interesting shows which are all produced from an independent perspective, I stumbled on WBAI’s Sunday talk show, Beyond The Pale, which “explores local, national and international political debate and analysis from a progressive Jewish perspective.” While we’re not Jewish (Challah!), the shows topic was of interest for all who consider themselves on the verge of culture: Hipsters. Notably, ethnicity, race and hipster culture. Spurned by the book What Was The Hipster, an anthology published by cultural journal n+1, the show features n+1 editor Mark Grief as he breaks down the grey area of hipster culture when it encounters minority & Jewish culture. Notably, it references one of the best and worst quotes ever given to a publication:

“I love being white and I think it’s something to be very proud of…I don’t want our culture diluted. We need to close the borders now and let everyone assimilate to a Western, white, English-speaking way of life.”

This was given to The New York Times by Vice Magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes in an interview conducted in 2003, at the peak of the emergence of hipster culture. McInnes later went on to say that the quote was a prank, but it does give Grief a good segue into the murky waters that surround the race & hipster discussion. Shout out to Das Racist and Mark’s funny use of the term “people of color.” I may not be 100% with the over categorization of people, but as a woman of color, I found the segment interesting and reminiscent of past conversations I’ve had with my own circle of friends. I have always been a believer of the notion that Blacks, no matter their background, have the ability to transcend labels, and exist in many worlds at the same time, stemming from the historical need to speak “two languages” in our social and cultural worlds. But even still I’ve had the hipster (wow a black girl who likes rock music!) label wrongly thrown at me a few times in the past, nowadays I’ll just settle for fly black chick, or something like that. But damn if I don’t enjoy a PBR now and then.

Listen to the full show below and tell us what you think in the comments below, see ya ladies!

[podcast]http://archive.wbai.org/files/mp3/101212_120001btpale.MP3[/podcast]

Last 5 posts by Shannon Washington

  • Actually you CAN be black and be a hipster, as there are a number of suburban/urban middle class black ppl who have TOTALLY embraced hipster culture, and beyond that are even sort of revered by hipster considering the extreme emphasis on “coolness” most hipsters espouse. It makes me laugh that you feel you have “wrongly” been labeled, as no hipster willl ever admit to being one. However, if ppl get “hipster” when they see you…there’s really no escaping it. Better to just own it. These days hipster are in NO WAY just white. No free passes here, mama.

  • Hi Observer!

    Kindly speaking, if you read the piece you will see (6 lines up from the bottom) I have an aversion to labels, any label. So as much as I reject the “hipster” label I would also reject a…say…”geek” or “socialite” label. I do agree that you CAN be a minority and a “hipster,” especially considering that the term was used to describe the African American jazz community in the 40’s. If you like it, own it. Personally, I don’t embrace modern hipster culture 100% so yes, it is wrong to claim something that you don’t truly represent, that would be “posing,” and no one wants to be a poser. Glad to clear that up for you, thanks for your thoughts!

  • Well said. I live in D.C and all the young middle black kids are hipsters and worked for Forever 21.