Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Buppies, Blipsters and other black unicorns

By now, the traits of hipsterism are easily recognizable to culture vultures: Hipsters are white, urban, occasionally privileged, attitudinally earnest and functionally alternative. They live life at the intersection of Pabst Blue Ribbon and day-glo leggings—worn with irony, or maybe not. They listen to indie darlings like Pavement, or anthem rockers like Arcade Fire. Maybe even a little Wu-Tang. Everything obscure is good; a headband on some longhair of a man; a waifish girl sporting several thick gold chains.

The hipster—torn between ironic, "who cares if I'm wearing a tracksuit" detachment and the exhibitionism required to perform the trend—is complicating traditional ideas of identity and sexuality. And this lifestyle is all the more striking when the kids mixing white-boy silhouettes and post-punk swagger are already culturally conspicuous—when they are black. Read more...


No offense to writer Dayo Olapade at The Root, but something about the article "The Rise of the Black Hipster" is pinging my nerves--and not just because hipsters are often quite naturally annoying. (Though, if this blogger's definition is correct, I might actually be a hipster. Cripes!) I think what rankles is the unspoken assumption that black culture is so monolithic that it is noteworthy that some of us "live life at the intersection of Pabst Blue Ribbon and day-glo leggings—worn with irony, or maybe not. They listen to indie darlings like Pavement, or anthem rockers like Arcade Fire. Maybe even a little Wu-Tang. Everything obscure is good; a headband on some longhair of a man; a waifish girl sporting several thick gold chains."

Check The Root's description of a hipster:

Hipsters are white, urban, occasionally privileged, attitudinally earnest and functionally alternative.


Really? "White, urban and occasionally priviledged...?" Why the racial labeling? White people own these qualities?

In pop culture, black people have our niche to fill. Our musical choices can range from smooth jazz to hip hop, our sartorial ones from white tees and baggy jeans to maybe some conservative Sean John. We prefer broad comedy to irony. We like our hair fried, dyed and laid to the side. We need ham hocks with our veggies. We do ghetto fab not indie boho. We are always city folk, always Christian (ok, maybe there's room for a few Muslims)...and poor, always struggling.

So consistent are we in who we are that on the odd occasion that one of us moves a toe out of the box, it requires media fanfare and special terminology, unique branding. We are not hipsters--that's for white folks. We are blipsters. You will recall when some of us started having corporate careers, driving Beamers and moving into gentrifying neighborhoods. We were buppies (Black Urban Professionals) then, not yuppies like everyone else. Think of it this way. It's like how how a funny woman (yet another cultural unicorn) is a comedienne rather than a comedian. We must find a way to identify these anomalies.

I hope my snark is loud and clear. Look, there is not a damned thing wrong with rocking a white tee, digging traditional soul food and bumping Lil Wayne on the stereo. But those are not the parameters of blackness. We are as varied a race as any other. We have our hipsters and yuppies and bohos and soccer moms and Evangelicals and gamer nerds and...and...they're all there. That being the case, I wish the media would cover variances in blackness without the breathless tone of a big game hunter who just stumbled upon a rare rhino.


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