Oberlin students protest the shooting of Tamir Rice, an actual injustice.
For a while now, I’ve been thinking about the slippery slope between objecting to cultural appropriation and demanding cultural segregation. It’s probably appropriation for Eminem to release two of the three top-selling rap albums of all time, but is it appropriation for white kids to listen to Outkast? It would be appropriation for me to write a play about slavery, but surely I can still eat soul food. Anyway, there’s no point in examining these questions now, because Oberlin students have obliterated the field of inquiry with genius satire. At least I hope it’s satire. Per the New York Times:
[An article] published by The Review in November, detailed what students said were instances of cultural appropriation carried out by [food service provider] Bon Appétit. The culinary culprits included a soggy, pulled-pork-and-coleslaw sandwich that tried to pass itself off as a traditional Vietnamese banh mi sandwich; a Chinese General Tso’s chicken dish made with steamed instead of fried poultry; and some poorly prepared Japanese sushi.
First of all, General Tso’s chicken is hardly authentic Chinese culture, and making sushi poorly isn’t appropriation. Would a just world only allow ethnically Japanese people to make sushi? That sounds structurally similar to old-school racism—a system that makes race a totalizing identity and rigidly enforces separation, just without the normative component that declares one race superior to another. But again, Oberlin students are way ahead of me:
Last week, Oberlin’s black student union issued a list of demands to campus administrators, which include the creation of segregated safe spaces for black students on campus, and an annual 4 percent increase in black student enrollment.
There you go. Finally, after decades of struggle, the civil rights movement might achieve a lunch counter for blacks only. Now is a good time to remember that these are well-intentioned young people whose concerns are probably not as ridiculous as news reports make them sound. But they are also students at a private college, and “justice” in their world is not too different from their own comfort. “The food in the dining hall sucks” has become “the food in the dining hall is immoral.”
Irish Roma, better known as Gypsies
On Friday we linked to a weird slideshow about wealthy Roma, pejoratively known as Gypsies—an Indo-European ethnic group that is the target of surprisingly open prejudice in Europe. America doesn’t really have a visible Roma population, so it’s hard to understand how hated they are overseas. How hated are they? When the European Union declared this the Decade of Roma Inclusion and gave Slovakia a billion Euros to fund Roma education and employment programs, popular opinion held that it was a ploy to get them out of western Europe by turning Slovakia into a Roma ghetto. See, by helping them you encourage them. That and other weirdly familiar tropes of racism applied to an instructively neutral ethnic group can be found in this long, uneven but ultimately rad Vice article by Aaron Lake Smith.
The three equally talented dudes formerly known as Das Racist
First your parents and now this: postmodern genius morons and Combat! blog favorites Das Racist have broken up. It was a move that shocked everyone who did not listen to anything Himanshu Suri or Victor Vasquez have said or done in the past year. Both Vasquez—better known as Kool AD—and Heems released solo mixtapes this year, and each emcee was conspicuously absent from the other’s. Then on Friday, Heems was the only one to appear onstage at a Das Racist show in Munich, where he told the audience, “I’m gonna do some Das Racist songs, but Das Racist is breaking up and we’re not a band anymore.” On Twitter, Kool AD indignantly replied that he “quit Das Racist 2 months ago and was asked by our manager not to announce it yet.”
Sunday is Valentine’s Day, which means that if you haven’t made dinner reservations yet, you will likely spend the rest of your life alone. You’re cooking a lovely meal for her at home, aren’t you? That’s a terrible mistake. When a woman looks at you, the last thing she wants to see is a lifetime of romantic holidays spent at home, repeatedly setting her forearm down in the sticky spot on your kitchen table. Chances are, your perceptions of what Valentine’s Day is supposed to be like have been warped by the defining medium of our age: internet pornography. Even if you did manage to make dinner reservations, you are probably still laboring under a lot of misguided expectations. As my father used to say, the only thing that can really hurt you is hope, so you should be prepared for the kind of evening that doesn’t come to you via a fiber optic network. With that in mind, here are several ways in which your Valentine’s Day will probably be different from Don’t Tell Daddy 2.
Alert reader Zach Sanderson sent me this article describing a proposal in the Nebraska legislature to tie welfare benefits to drug testing. Introduced by Senator Charlie Janssen of Fremont—population 26,000—the bill would require new applicants and current recipients of public assistance to submit to random tests, as authorized by the 1990 congressional overhaul of the federal welfare system. “When a taxpayer gives assistance to somebody, it’s assistance so they can get back up on their feet,” Janssen told ABC. “It’s kind of a slap in the face to the taxpayers when they say, ‘We’re going to get up on our feet while we’re doing drugs.'” Janssen makes a good point, whose incisiveness is dulled only slightly by its being echoed from every barstool in the country during tax season. In 2006, Nebraska spent just over $2 billion on welfare—which includes food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid, but not, somehow, Medicare, college scholarships or farm subsidies—to support 320,000 recipients.* Surely, some of those people are wasting taxpayers’ hard-earned money. Unfortunately, administering drug tests to all of them—at an average rate of $42 per test, according to the Department of Education—would cost the state $13.4 million, and that’s just to do it once. Janssen himself admits that the costs of testing would, at least in the short term, make his plan unworkable. “This is part of our budget woes…paying people who aren’t truly trying to rehabilitate themselves and get off the state welfare system,” he said. “But the short-term cost right now is probably going to be overwhelming.” Which raises an interesting question: what, exactly, do we spend money on welfare for?