Thursday, March 19, 2015

When a black woman thinks Jay Smooth is co-opting a culture, or What almost everyone gets wrong about Nancy Giles' comment

The "anti-racist" internet thinks Nancy Giles, a black woman, thought Jay Smooth, who identifies as black, was white when this happened:

As usual, not nearly as much attention is given to Giles's tweet in an attempt to clarify things: "FYI I knew Jay was African-American. Was intrigued by the voice on the video vs the voice of the guy next to me"

At Awkward: CBS Host Assumed Jay Smooth Was Co-Opting Blackness Until He Said, ‘I’m Black’ - The Root, I left this comment:
I think she was trying to get at the fact that Jay Smooth comes from a privileged background, yet he uses the language of the street. He considers himself black, but nearly 40% of black people would say he's not. As Pew Reports noted in 2007, "African Americans see a widening gulf between the values of middle class and poor blacks, and nearly four-in-ten say that because of the diversity within their community, blacks can no longer be thought of as a single race.""
What Giles seems to be saying is that Jay Smooth is co-opting the language of working class black folks in order to seem more authentically black. It's an interesting notion. What privileged black folks call "code switching" is often just pretending to be one of the people rather than one of the elite. And there's nothing wrong with that, of course—to be human is to appropriate, and to use language is to use as many languages as we possibly can.

Recommended rant about Jay Smooth: L'Hôte: bullshit social climber faux-antiracism

ETA: A gratuitous question about people who identify as the race of one parent rather than "mixed": if you identify as being of your father's race, are you being sexist? The answer partly depends on whether you look more like your father, of course, but since race is only a social construct, that can't be the whole of the answer.