Editor’s Note: The women of Racialicious asked what the big trends in race and pop-culture were in 2006, and I thought I would respond with my own post. I came up with a list on my own, and then I went and read the comments section on their blog to see what others were saying. Based on those comments I added one more thing to my list, but I was in agreement with several of the commenters over there.
Rather than judging “hot” trends, I thought it would be useful to take a past, present, and future perspective, focusing what topics were out of fashion in 2006, what topics were most popular, and what topics I think are going to be predominant in 2007. I have decided to divide the list into three parts–1)The Been There Done That List of Unfashionable Racial Issues 2)The I’m So Hot I’m on Fire List of The Most Fashionable Racial Trends 3)The I’m About To Catch On Fire List of Racial Trends. I’m only posting the main this list on Alas. You can go over to my site to read the others.
The I’m So Hot I’m on Fire List of The Most Fashionable Racial Trends of 2006
So what racial trends were prevalent in 2006? Here is my list in no particular order. I initially created this list without reading the comments over on the Racialicious post, but after reading the comments I realized one big trend that I left of my list–the Africa is hip and cool trend, which was really big in ’06. It is interesting because most of the other trends people mentioned I had on my list, too. So here goes….
1)The Racialization of Muslims and Middle Easterners: I wrote a post about this a while back, and I know that Tariq is one person who is on board with me. Every time people talk about “racial profiling” of Muslims, it adds a little more fuel to the racialization process. This is an ongoing trend that has been in vogue since after September 11th, but I actually expect it to die down soon; however, this will hinge in part on the Census decisions about racial categories for the 2010 Census. Last time some people tried to get Middle Easterners listed, but their attempts failed. I don’t think it will be listed on the Census this time either.
2) Return of Minstrelsy: Blackface was everywhere, as where crazy buffoonish caricatures of African Americans. We saw numerous cases of college students dressing in blackface, and bloggers manipulating photos to make them look like blackface. Some felt that minstrel hip hop had become a genre, and the popularity of “Flava of Love” also added to the trend. I expect this to continue in 2007.
3) Return of Old Fashioned Racism: I guess this is an extension of minstrelsy, but it also extends to the use of racial slurs and other forms of more blatant bigotry. We even had a potential Presidential candidate bragging about how his state was a former slave state. This type of bigotry had been declining for years, but there appeared to be an upsurge last year. From the anti-immigrant backlash to the Michael Richards rant, and all of the blackface incidents, it felt like we were moving backwards.
4) Europe Confronts It Racism: Many European countries have been very critical of the US on racial issues, but 2006 was a year for them to look in their own backyards. This trend became obvious in 2005 when French suburbs went up in flames, but in ’06 this extended to other areas. In particular, international soccer officials spent the entire year trying to control racist fans. Right wingers continued to try to block out non-European immigrants. Expect this trend to continue over the next several years as European countries confront a demographic crisis that could destroy their social welfare systems. I think the answer to this problem is immigration, but many disagree arguing that immigrants can never truly be French, English, German, etc.
5) The Non-Apology, Apology: This was everywhere. We could start with Rosie O’Donnell, who apologized for her “ching chong” joke, but followed it up with “I might do it again because that’s how my brain works.” The most common version of this was the “I’m sorry you were offended” apology, which posits that the person making racist or prejudiced comments really didn’t say anything wrong, and the upset person just overreacted. In many instances, these apologies were about saving face, but not admitting any wrongdoing.
6) The Death of the Predominantly Black Cast and the Rise of the Multiracial Ensemble Cast: I am very disappointed to see few TV shows with predominantly Black casts, but the disappearance of predominantly black cast shows seems to be to the benefit of the multiracial ensemble cast. So we don’t have many Cosby Shows, but we now have shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Lost, or ER. I have mixed feelings about this trend. I like multiracial ensemble casts. I liked them going all the way back to Fame and Hill Street Blues, but I also wish we still had more predominantly black, Asian, Latino, or Native American shows. I predict this trend will continue in 2007.
7) Anti-Immigrant Sentiment: I don’t even know where to begin. Several towns decided to ban day laborer sites and prevent illegal immigrants from getting work, housing, or any other social benefits. Commentators like CNN’s Lou Dobbs, lead the anti-immigrant backlash by blaming immigrants for the “decline in the middle class.” This issue also seems to cross political party lines, with both Democrats and Republicans speaking for and against immigration. I think this issue is replacing crime as the new political boogeyman issue. Expect it to continue through the next Presidential election.
Africa Becomes Hip and Cool: It seems like Hollywood types (besides Bono) discovered African poverty this year. From anti-poverty and anti-AIDS programs to the genocide in Darfur, Africa became a cause d’celeb. Of course, we can’t forget the “I want to adopt an African baby trend.” I have mixed feelings about this. It is nice to see these problems receiving attention, but I also worry that 1) this is just a fad and 2) some of the important issues like global capitalism, “structural readjustment,” and the legacy of colonialism were not addressed. I think this trend will die out in 2007, which is typical of most causes that celebrities take up–in one minute out the next.
9) The Assault on Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs: Michigan joined California in banning affirmative action, and the Supreme Court heard a case regarding voluntary desegregation programs (which will likely be overturned). There seems to be a sense among many white Americans that any programs designed to remedy the effects of racism and segregation discriminate against whites. This stems in part from the false belief that opportunities are equal and that racial and ethnic minorities somehow have great advantages over whites. This trend has been going on since the 1980s, but it may be reaching it’s peak. I expect it to continue indefinitely.
10) Liberal Racism: From the Joe Biden slave state comment mentioned above to the infamous racism at a liberal blog called Firedoglake, liberals were ready to prove that they were just as racist as anyone else. Is this the beginning of a political shift, where the left and the right converge on racial issues? I don’t really know, but it is cause for concern. It indicates that those of us who are involved in anti-racist activism need to think about some convincing frames that we can use in the battle for social equality. We may have to think about different ways to talk about “racism,” “diversity,” and “equal opportunity.”
What do you think? Do you think there are any trends I missed? Do you think I’m off in my assessments?