Wiggery Wack

« August 2011 »

Memo to Red Wing High School: THAT'S JUST SAD.

Let's talk, somewhat briefly, about the process I use for deciding whether a marginal topic makes it into the column. I know that you know that writing about process is the last refuge of someone who doesn't want to write about content, but bear with me. I've convinced myself that this is both convenient for me AND interesting for you, and I don't need anyone's actual opinion getting in the way of this.

The story, in a nutshell, is that a high school homecoming, ostensibly with a "tropical" theme, was instead celebrated as "Wigger Wednesday", in which suburban white kids dressed up like their favorite "at-risk urban" stereotype. That's enough to get you starred in the RSS feed. There's a fair amount of pathos there for me to work with, plus some good old-fashioned racism.

Even better - it happened in Red Wing, Minnesota. Which puts it in my backyard. Not my actual backyard, which is firmly if microscopically ensconced well within the kind of first ring suburb where high schoolers actually experience diversity from time to time, but my general area backyard. Just barely outside the outer limits of what used to be well beyond the outer limits of the Twin Cities. Go south and east, go past what just recently became essentially the third ring of urban-sprawl suburbs, and a little past that, you hit Red Wing.

Now, this is perfect. Basically, you have a bunch of Scandi-Aryan youth about one generation removed from being farm hicks. Modern enough to know that hip-hop exists, but far enough removed from the modern day that they think pretending to like hip-hop for a day is funny. Which is so 2001, which means they're only about eight years behind the times.

Did I mention that this happened in 2009? And is only making waves now because a former student is suing the district, saying the administration didn't do enough to stop it? In my columnworthiness calculations, that's a big deduction. I can understand not liking it. I can understand going public in order to get it to stop. A lawsuit two years after graduation, based on the fact that all the school did was make the students go home and change out of their baggy jeans, sports jerseys, 'do rags, and presumably every single clock and chain from the local hardware store, and only threatening them with suspension if they persisted? That's a righteous crusade I have a hard time lining up behind.

I thought I had hit the goldmine when I saw the headline "Officials At Predominantly White High School Defend Theme Mocking Black People" on ThinkProgress. I mean, that's comedy gold. Local officials cluelessly defending their harmless cosplay! Unfortunately, as happens way too often, ThinkProgress paired the verb "defends", meaning the school put out an official and very mild statement saying the lawsuit was unfounded, with an object that basically describes the event in the most negative way possible, giving the false impression that the school was actively defending the very idea of having a "Wigger Day". Which they didn't.

So thank fuck the clueless students of Red Wing High School stepped in to defend the breach. On Facebook, of course. An actual Wigger Wednesday group chock full of the kind of blindingly white privilege, general obtuseness, and outright racism can run free. Case in point:

"this is fucking stupid... if a bunch of black people dressed in bow ties and top hats and ate beef stroganof it wouldn't be a problem... this isn't racist at all..." - Alex Salgo. Um, Alex, even ignoring the power dynamic involved in a 95+% white suburb, the very fact that you'd assume a black person in a top hat, a bow tie, and a plate of beef stroganoff would be dressing up like white people is, in the vernacular, racist as all fucking get out.

"Guess what! I accept the color of my skin and if someone wants to make fun of me for burning if I don't apply some 500 SPF every hour then so be it!" - Megan Soundrel. Here, we can't ignore the power dynamic at all, although it's mighty white of Megan to try to.

There were also at least two separate citations of "White Chicks" in the segment of the Facebook page that I could stand to read. So more than anything else, I'd like to issue a hearty FUCK YOU to Nora Sturgill and Ashley Morgan for attacking "White Chicks" on literally the only ground on which it's defensible, and thus forcing me to defend it. I can't defend it artistically, cinematically, comedically, satirically, or even financially, but the fact remains that centuries of basic inequality and institutionalized racism means that black people in whiteface is something entirely different from white people in blackface. Even if they're both really, really unfunny.

Still, it could be worse. I could have spent this time talking in detail about the debt ceiling deal. So thanks, Red Wing, for being such clueless fucking white martyrs.