Racism or just Antilocution?

Not a gap tooth in the bunch, how disappointing.

Not a gap tooth in the bunch, how disappointing.

Grainne Rhuad

Last week, I attended a community event showcasing talent.  It was, at the time our household signed up for it billed as a talent show.  By the time of the showcase, it became something I was barely comfortable being a part of, maybe especially as an audience member.

The theme which was announced after others in my household were way into their practice was “Hillbilly Hootenanny.”  Doesn’t sound so bad does it?  I mean after all Hootenany is a pretty old word from the Scots meaning party or celebration or sometimes meeting (like meeting of the minds).

But, what the organizers came away with was just ugly.  Arriving there I found adults and children alike dressed up like caricatures of Hill folk.  Some wearing burlap, others with their teeth blacked out with wax and confusingly a good many looking and outright acting like the Robinsons of Duck Dynasty.  Note to dumbshits: The Robinsons live in Louisiana; there are no hills, hollers or mountains and they identify themselves as “Rednecks”.

This didn’t stop a total of 3 Duck Dynasty inspired “skits” and from event organizers announcing in public, “If you don’t know how to dress, just watch some Duck Dynasty.”

Now, how is all of this racist?  When you take a group of people no matter their ethnicity and dress up parodying them, it is belittling and does nothing to seek to understand their culture, music, history or heritage.

In fact two acts, one of them ours, failed the dress up bit.  We had a fiddler and a guitar playing traditional jig and reels.  “Where is the outfits?”

“We are fairly confident that our Scots-Irish cousins in the hills dress just like us nowadays.” was our answer.

The other act was a Piper in full regalia that really went above and beyond explaining the pipes and why they were important as well as the songs.  He was ignored during the talking bit and made fun of for his “Non Hillbilly” Regalia.  This is just sad.  Most of the people who live in the hills hail from Scotland and Ireland, they settled in remote places because they were tired and wanted to be left alone and because in many ways it was like home.

There were so many opportunities to talk about this at this event and for some reason people just didn’t get why they were wrong.  “But, But…Hee-Haw!” This was a frequent answer.

Yes, Hee-Haw, which I never watched until the internet.  But I am aware of it, of course I am. It brought bluegrass and country music to the people.  Hee-Haw is Amos and Andy for white performers.  It gave them work when Vaudeville was over, when circuses no longer mattered and when country and bluegrass was being forgotten, it did nothing for the rich culture this music came from.

Hey but that’s not all, I haven’t forgotten the rest of the races.  Last week I came across an article which was just gobsmacking.  A yoga studio, one can only assume down on its luck or full of people who didn’t qualify for hootenannys, threw a “Dress Getto Fabulous and get in Free.” night.  If that isn’t both racist and missing the point of Yoga, I don’t know what is.

Alternet reported: “The poster encouraged attendees to wear “corn rows,” “snap back caps,” or a “grill” (shiny metal worn over the teeth) and offered to provide “do-rags” and other appropriate ghetto wear free at the door. “- Yoga studio in question was in Santa Barbara.

Of course it was in Santa Barbara and since this article is about antilocution I’ll just insert some of my own here: The home of rich bored white folks.

I’m frankly embarrassed.  As a practitioner of Yoga, I was taught Yoga is for everyone.  It really shouldn’t even be for profit, one should be able to do it on their own, as a form of spiritual devotion and meditation.  I do realize that in our group oriented career driven society, people miss that piece, it’s unfortunate but true and it is very good exercise.  I am so willing to overlook Yoga classes for charge.

But, how on earth can one so completely misunderstand Yoga as to denigrate other human beings by dressing up as them to be funny?  This wasn’t a Yogic protest of Ghetto standards and marginalization it was a for-fun dress-up.  Not Cool Yoga studio and Yoga teachers.

Yoga, I found out, in America has a particularly bad habit of this, the same report went on to let us know: “There was a minor uproar two years ago when an Asian-American yoga teacher posted a You Tube video entitled “Yoga for Black People” that some people found similarly offensive, if not downright racist.   The video combined yoga slogans and hip-hop riffs and used mocking references to Black celebrities like R.J. Kelly and Oprah to suggest that yoga culture was often shallow and pretentiousness.  In one typical scenario, the producer and star of the video shouts “raise the roof” with her hands overhead and then slips into a downward dog pose, saying “raise the roof….on the floor!”   The video concludes with a brief meditation in which she substitutes “O-bammmmma” for the traditional “Om” sound.  “

It seems nobody in the Yoga community wants to address this issue.  There has been no coverage of it in mainstream Yoga journals and when people do ask about it typical answers include some reference to detachment.

The practice of detachment that Yoga teaches is completely different from ignoring wrong doing in the world around you.  We are supposed to work on detaching from our own ego, petty worries and body hungers.  This does not mean stop caring and stop speaking up about clearly bad things.

Lest you think that by staying home and not participating in classes and talent shows you are raising a fist at racism I’d like everyone to think about something that has been bothering me for some time, and we have all done it at least once.

Watching autotuned racism.

That’s right, take a crime, insert Black/Asian/any other race that white ears don’t easily understand  saving the day from the crime, stick a camera in front of them, then autotune the shit out of it  and you have comic gold right?

“Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That.” Ring a bell?  How about Antoine Jackson and His “Hide yo’ kids.”?  Think I’m kidding about Asian; I literally took 10 seconds to find this one.  But go ahead, enter any race you like, you’ll see what I mean.

It all seems simply funny at first but what happens is people begin to not take the heroism of these people seriously and that’s a shame.  Because we need people who are willing to stick their neck out for those little white girls that are a “Dead Giveaway.” We really do.

I was just told by someone looking over my shoulder, that the Reverend Al Sharpton said something to the same effect.  Sounds about right and while I don’t always agree with him I do on this. (If he did indeed say it, my fact checking monkey got fired for eating my hoarded Halloween candy)

We are never going to get past “us and them” until we start trying to understand people other than us and what makes them tick.  It isn’t having a fabulous grill and it isn’t growing beards and mumbling about moonshine.

I wonder what would happen if we all actually started celebrating the really wonderful things about people and cultures that we see as different as ours (or maybe that we spent the last few generations distancing ourselves from.)  Would appreciated people in turn be less suspicious and prejudice towards others?

It’s worth a try.

Now, I’ll play you out with something less offensive than the “Hillbilly Hootenanny Talent Show”.