The Week in White People: Macklemore, Yoga Girl, & This Hip Church in Bushwick

As something of a thought leader in Being a White Chick, I am often asked at my seminars, "Ms. Massey, what is the best way to prove that you're one of the enlightened whites? You know, one that isn't racist? One that gets it." The best answer is, "Um, why do you have to prove that? Hand-wringing white guilt that opens every sentence with the qualifier, 'I know this comes from a place of white privilege, but....' is NOT THE LOOK.  Just recognize when you have a racist thought (because you WILL) and try to source it and correct it.  You're never going to get it entirely anyway. No, not even if you do a misguided stunt in blackface for an extended period of time and write a thought piece. Haven't we been over this on the Internet?"

But ladies and gentlemen, I am a lifelong runner-up so I don't give the best answer.  I give the SECOND best answer, "Oh, make fun of fellow white people doing things way worse than you."  And that, dear friends, is what I have done below.  But first, a bit of background...

So this story actually begins last Monday when Dasha Zhukova, girlfriend of bazillionaire and real-life  Bond villain Roman Abromovich, posted a photo to Instagram of herself in a racist chair to celebrate Martin Luther King Day. Just kidding, it was to be stylish and edgy and it was disgusting.

Behold:

"But it's art!" they cried. And nary a soul believed them.

Several white Americans, feeling nostalgic for the Cold War and getting jazzed about the Winter Olympics, were like  "Oh hell no, Russians are trying to outdo us in our home turf of doing-racist-things-but-pretending-they're-not-racist-at-all."

These are their stories.

MACKLEMORE

I regularly listen to exactly one song by Macklemore and one song by Kendrick Lamar. One compels me to sartorial penny-pinching and the other makes me think I have it in me to one day be a real badass. Both are important feelings for different occasions.  But the fact is, I have no opinion one way or another on which album deserved all those Grammys. I'm a woman of the 21st century so I watched the Grammys on Twitter instead of the TV and according to my sources, Macklemore didn't deserve it.

Street cred.

"Macklemore isn't the Grammy judging panel! What could he do? Go SEAHAWKS!" the fans raged against his detractors.  They raged back!  The patients were running the asylum.  What the fans said was true about him not being on the panel.

He is just the guy that wrote a very popular rap song that mocks the (primarily black) rappers that name-check designers and uses the word "MAMMY" in it as if that is just a totally unloaded term that refers to grandmothers.  AND NOT EVEN TO RHYME WITH ANYTHING.  But back to,  "What could he do?"

Well, he could take a cue from Ving Rhames in 1998 (which more people should do by the way) and give his award away to the person he sees as more deserving in a more authentic show of humility and connectedness to issues of equality than I don't know...a massive stunt wedding?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tk3EgDPZD0w

SKINNY WHITE YOGA GIRL

As a seasoned veteran of acting the fool on xoJane and witnessing others do the same,  I thought I had seen it all. But this xoShitshow of an article set a new standard in race-based speculative fiction.  It chronicles the tearful ordeal of a self-described "skinny white girl" seeing an overweight black woman at...wait for it....YOGA CLASS.  Below are some gems.

Animated because no one has ever actually seen a black woman do yoga in real life before.

"Before we made it into our first downward dog, she had crouched down on her elbows and knees, head lowered close to the ground, trapped and vulnerable"- So, "trapped and vulnerable" are generally terms used to describe frightened animals in captivity.  Off to a great start, carry on.

"Even when I wasn’t positioned to stare directly at her, I knew she was still staring directly at me."  How did you know that?  You just made that shit up.  I'll let Julia take it from here.

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"Over the course of the next hour, I watched as her despair turned into resentment and then contempt. I felt it all directed toward me and my body."  Right, she was totally thinking about you. You specifically (not any other person in the class) wield the incredible power to generate DESPAIR AND CONTEMPT  by doing an enviable Warrior II.  On a related note, you might find this test useful.

"I thought about how that must feel: to be a heavyset black woman entering for the first time a system that by all accounts seems unable to accommodate her body." Again with the making shit up, Jen! Did she tell you that this was her first time at yoga when you introduced yourself and offered to help her? Oh wait, you didn't do that you went home and cried about it.  Also, yoga is perfectly able to accommodate her body and any other.  It's your myopic vision of what yoga done well looks (by a thin white person) that can't accommodate it.

The good news is, we got the genius parody "It Happened To Me: I Saw a White Girl on the Train and It Was Not Okay" out of it.  The bad news is everything else about this.

HIP CHURCH IN BUSHWICK

"Oh, she's not going to make fun of a nice well-intentioned little church in Bushwick, is she?" they cried.  NONE ARE SPARED HERE. This article in Bushwick Daily profiles a new Episcopal church that has popped up in Bushwick to meet the spiritual needs of Christian transplants to the area.  It was started by a lady named Kerlin which I like because it rhymes with "Merlin." It's also super refreshing that the church website is unabashedly Jesus-centric unlike young churches attempting to be relevant through vague terms about fellowship, volunteering, and folk bands.

Not an actual photo of the cool church in Bushwick.

According to the author who visited the church, almost the whole congregation is white and they do that thing where they mess with the liturgy to keep it hip and reflective of the creative class that makes up their audience.   They sell beer at coffee hour! There's a band!  But the fact that it is my nightmare church does not make any of it racist.

What caused me to side-eye was this: "Kerlin says that at least part of the reason why she felt the need to start Bushwick Abbey was related to the fact that new parishioners who might have loved the predominantly Afro-Caribbean congregation further in to the neighborhood might not have the access that they would like...."

Right, you know those white Episcopalians who are really into the worship style and spiritual flavor of an Afro-Caribbean church to which they totally relate because their cultural contexts are so similar to those of the parishoners. Come the fuck on.  You built the church because young, affluent, and usually white Bushwick residents are very unlikely to feel at home in an existing church in the neighborhood.

A Week in White People: Macklemore, Yoga Girl, & This Hip Church in Bushwick  httThis is a case not of outright racism but a failure to admit the racial dimension of the decision.  Worship communities are notoriously segregated.  There is too much complexity and history to do justice to the issue of why people often choose to worship alongside members of their own racial group in a single blog post.  But in short, it is FINE if you are there to meet the needs of the changing demographics of a neighborhood.  You don't need to pretend that hundreds of years  (that are ongoing now too) of racial groups having very different experiences with and relationships to authority, power, faith, spirituality, and the holy didn't transform the way communities worship.  Don't blame the L train ride further into Bushwick.

In case you're wondering if this is going to be another banner week for white people acting foolish around race, worry not. Now that it's February, we get a whole month of white people complaining that there's no White History Month.