Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘hipster

 

Urban decay: The peril of Hipster economics?

Fighting Urban Blight With Art

When urban decay becomes a set piece to be remodeled or romanticized.

On May 16, an artist, a railway service and a government agency spent $291,978 to block poverty from the public eye.

Called psychylustro, German artist Katharina Grosse’s project is a large-scale work designed to distract Amtrak train riders from the dilapidated buildings and fallen factories of north Philadelphia.

The city has a 28 % poverty rate – the highest of any major US city – with much of it concentrated in the north. In some north Philadelphia elementary schools, nearly every child is living below the poverty line.

Grosse partnered with the National Endowment of the Arts and Amtrak to mask North Philadelphia’s hardship with a delightful view. The Wall Street Journal calls this “Fighting Urban Blight With Art“.

Liz Thomas, the curator of the project, calls it “an experience that asks people to think about this space that they hurtle through every day”.

The project is not actually fighting blight, of course – only the ability of Amtrak customers to see it.

“I need the brilliance of colour to get close to people, to stir up a sense of life experience and heighten their sense of presence,” Grosse proclaims.

“People”, in Grosse and Thomas’s formulation, are not those who actually live in north Philadelphia and bear the brunt of its burdens. “People” are those who can afford to view poverty through the lens of aesthetics as they pass it by.

Influx of hipsters

In February, director Spike Lee delivered an impassioned critique – derisively characterised as a “rant” by US media outlets – on the gentrification of New York city. Arguing that an influx of “… hipsters” had driven up rent in most neighbourhoods – and in turn driven out the African-American communities that once called them home – he noted how long-dormant city services suddenly reappeared:

“Why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the south Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every day when I was living in 165 Washington Park… So, why did it take this great influx of white people to get the schools better? Why’s there more police protection in Bed Stuy and Harlem now? Why’s the garbage getting picked up more regularly? We been here!”

Lee was criticised by many for “hipster-bashing”, including African-American professor John McWhorter, who claimed that “hipster” was “a sneaky way of saying ‘honkey'” and compared Lee to television character George Jefferson.

These dismissals, which focus on gentrification as culture, ignore that Lee’s was a critique of the racist allocation of resources.

Black communities whose complaints about poor schools and city services go unheeded find these complaints are readily addressed when wealthier, whiter people move in.

Meanwhile, long-time locals are treated as contagions on the landscape, targeted by police for annoying the new arrivals.

Gentrifiers focus on aesthetics, not people. Because people, to them, are aesthetics.

Proponents of gentrification will vouch for its benevolence by noting it “cleaned up the neighbourhood”. This is often code for a literal white-washing.

The problems that existed in the neighbourhood – poverty, lack of opportunity, struggling populations denied city services – did not go away. They were simply priced out to a new location.

That new location is often an impoverished suburb, which lacks the glamour to make it the object of future renewal efforts. There is no history to attract preservationists because there is nothing in poor suburbs viewed as worth preserving, including the futures of the people forced to live in them.

This is blight without beauty, ruin without romance: payday loan stores, dollar stores, unassuming homes and unpaid bills. In the suburbs, poverty looks banal and is overlooked.

In cities, gentrifiers have the political clout – and accompanying racial privilege – to reallocate resources and repair infrastructure. The neighbourhood is “cleaned up” through the removal of its residents.

Gentrifiers can then bask in “urban life” – the storied history, the selective nostalgia, the carefully sprinkled grit – while avoiding responsibility to those they displaced.

Hipsters want rubble with guarantee of renewal. They want to move into a memory they have already made.

Impoverished suburbs

In a sweeping analysis of displacement in San Francisco and its increasingly impoverished suburbs, journalist Adam Hudson notes that “gentrification is trickle-down economics applied to urban development: the idea being that as long as a neighbourhood is made suitable for rich and predominantly white people, the benefits will trickle down to everyone else”.

Like trickle-down economics itself, this theory does not play out in practice.

Rich cities such as New York and San Francisco have become what journalist Simon Kuper calls gated citadels: “Vast gated communities where the 1% reproduces itself.”

Struggling US cities of the rust belt and heartland lack the investment of coastal contemporaries, but have in turn been spared the rapid displacement of hipster economics.

Buffered by their eternal uncoolness, these slow-changing cities have a chance to make better choices – choices that value the lives of people over the aesthetics of place.

In an April blog post, Umar Lee, a St Louis writer and full-time taxi driver, bemoaned the economic model of rideshare services, which are trying to establish themselves in the city. Noting that they hurt not only taxi drivers but poor residents who have neither cars nor public transport and thus depend on taxis willing to serve dangerous neighbourhoods, he dismisses Uber and Lyft as hipster elitists masquerading as innovators:

“I’ve heard several young hipsters tell me they’re socially-liberal and economic-conservative, a popular trend in American politics,” he writes. “Well, I hate to break it to you buddy, but it’s economics and the role of the state that defines politics. If you’re an economic conservative, despite how ironic and sarcastic you may be or how tight your jeans are, you, my friend, are a conservative …”

Lee tells me he has his own plan to try to mitigate the negative effects of gentrification, which he calls “50-50-20-15”. All employers who launch businesses in gentrifying neighbourhoods should have a workforce that is at least 50 percent minorities, 50 percent people from the local neighbourhood, and 20 percent ex-offenders. The employees should be paid at least $15 per hour.

Gentrification spreads the myth of native incompetence: That people need to be imported to be important, that a sign of a neighbourhood’s “success” is the removal of its poorest residents.

True success lies in giving those residents the services and opportunities they have long been denied.

When neighbourhoods experience business development, priority in hiring should go to locals who have long struggled to find nearby jobs that pay a decent wage.

Let us learn from the mistakes of New York and San Francisco, and build cities that reflect more than surface values.

Sarah Kendzior is a St Louis-based writer who studies politics and media.

 

What’s wrong with my headdress?

Versatility and creativity in women headgear and hair fashions are the sure sign of a rebellious spirit among women.

When uniformity in hair design and headdress are witnessed in a society, you can be sure that the system is veering toward a one-directional path in religious beliefs, ideological indoctrination, or political structure (see link in note).

Included in headdresses are veils, scarves… that cover the hair and face.

Cynical Idealist posted on APRIL 25, 2012:

 So why can’t I wear it? 
1. Headdresses promote stereotyping of Native cultures.
The image of a warbonnet and warpaint of native Indian is one that has been created and perpetuated by Hollywood. The image  bears minimal resemblance to traditional regalia of Plains tribes.
It furthers the stereotype that Native peoples are one monolithic culture, when in fact there are 500+ distinct tribes with their own cultures.

It places Native people in the historic past, as something that cannot exist in modern society. We don’t walk around in ceremonial attire everyday, but we still exist and are still Native.

  • Headdresses, feathers, and warbonnets have deep spiritual significance.
  • The wearing of feathers and warbonnets in Native communities is not a fashion choice. Eagle feathers are presented as symbols of honor and respect and have to be earned.
  • A few communities give them to children when they become adults through special ceremonies, others present the feathers as a way of commemorating an act or event of deep significance. Warbonnets especially are reserved for respected figures of power.
  • The other issue is that warbonnets are reserved for men in Native communities, and nearly all of these pictures show women sporting the headdresses. I can’t read it as an act of feminism or subverting the patriarchal society, it’s an act of utter disrespect for the origins of the practice. (see my post on sweatlodges for more on the misinterpretation of the role of women).
  • This is just as bad as running around in a pope hat and a bikini, or a Sikh turban cause it’s “cute”.
  • It’s just like wearing black-face.
    “Playing Indian” has a long history in the United States, all the way back to those original tea partiers in Boston, and in no way is it better than minstral shows or dressing up in blackface. You are pretending to be a race that you are not, and are drawing upon stereotypes to do so.
  • As I said previously, you’re collapsing distinct cultures, and in doing so, you’re asserting your power over them. Which leads me to the next issue.
  • There is a history of genocide and colonialism involved that continues today.
    By the sheer fact that you live in the United States you are benefiting from the history of genocide and continued colonialism of Native peoples. That land you’re standing on? Indian land.
  • Lads taken illegally so your ancestor who came to the US could buy it and live off it, gaining valuable capital (both monetary and cultural) that passed down through the generations to you. Have I benefited as well, given I was raised in a white, suburban community? yes. absolutely.
  • By dismissing and minimizing the continued subordination and oppression of Natives in the US by donning your headdress, you are contributing to the culture of power that continues the cycle today.
  • But I don’t mean it in that way, I just think it’s cute! Hopefully I’ve illuminated that there’s more at play here than just a “cute” fashion choice. Sorry for taking away your ignorance defense.
  • But I consider it honoring to Native Americans!
  • I think that this cartoon is a proper answer, but I’ll add that having a drunken girl wearing a headdress and a bikini dancing at an outdoor concert does not honor me. I remember reading somewhere that it was also “honoring the fine craftsmanship of Native Americans”.
  • Those costume shop chicken feather headdresses aren’t honoring Native craftsmanship. And you will be very hard pressed to find a Native artist who is closely tied to their community making headdresses for sale. See the point about their sacredness and significance.

I’m just wearing it because it’s “ironic”!

  • I’m all for irony. Finger mustaches, PBR, kanye glasses, old timey facial hair, 80’s spandex—fine, funny, a bit over-played, but ironic, I guess. Appropriating someone’s culture and cavorting around town in your skinny jeans with a feathered headdress, moccasins, and turquoise jewelry in an attempt to be ‘counterculture’? Not ironic.
  • If you’re okay with being a walking representative of 500+ years of colonialism and racism, or don’t mind perpetuating the stereotypes that we as Native people have been fighting against for just as long, by all means, go for it.
  • But by embracing the current tribal trends you aren’t asserting yourself as an individual, you are situating yourself in a culture of power that continues to oppress Native peoples in the US.
  • And really, if everyone is doing it, doesn’t that take away from the irony? am I missing the point on the irony? maybe. how is this even ironic? I’m starting to confuse myself. but it’s still not a defense.

Stop getting so defensive, it’s seriously just fashion!

  • Did you read anything I just wrote? It’s not “just” fashion. There is a lot more at play here. This is a matter of power and who has the right to represent my culture. (I also enjoy asking myself questions that elicit snarky answers.)

What about the bigger issues in Indian Country? Poverty, suicide rates, lack of resources, disease, etc? Aren’t those more important that hipster headdresses?

  • Yes, absolutely. But, I’ll paraphrase Jess Yee in this post, and say these are very real issues and challenges in our communities, but when the only images of Natives that Americans see are incorrect, and place Natives in the historic past, it erases our current presence, and makes it impossible for the current issues to exist in the collective American consciousness.
  • Our cultures and lives are something that only exist in movies or in the past, not today. So it’s a cycle, and in order to break that cycle, we need to question and interrogate the stereotypes and images that erase our current presence—while we simultaneously tackle the pressing issues in Indian Country. They’re closely linked, and at least this is a place to start.

Miss Cultural Appropriation Police, what CAN I wear?

  • If you choose to wear something Native, buy it from a Native. There are federal laws that protect Native artists and craftspeople who make genuine jewelry, art, etc. (see info here about The Indian Arts and Crafts Act). Anything you buy should have a label that says “Indian made” or “Native made”.
  • Talk to the artist. Find out where they’re from. Be diligent. Don’t go out in a full “costume”. It’s ok to have on some beaded earrings or a turquoise ring, but don’t march down the street wearing a feather, with loaded on jewelry, and a ribbon shirt.
  • Ask yourself: if you ran into a Native person, would you feel embarrassed or feel the need to justify yourself? As commenter Bree pointed out, it’s ok to own a shirt with kimono sleeves, but you wouldn’t go out wearing full kabuki makeup to a bar. Just take a minute to question your sartorial choices before you go out.

…and an editorial comment:  I should also note that I have absolutely nothing against hipsters. In fact, some would argue I have hipster-leaning tendencies.

In my former San Francisco life, I had been known to have a drink or two in the clouds of smoke outside at Zeitgeist, and enjoyed shopping on Height street.

I enjoy drinking PBR out of the can when I go to the dive bars near my apartment where I throw darts and talk about sticking it to ‘The Man’. I own several fringed hipster scarves, more than one pair of ironic fake ray-ban wayfarers, and two plaid button downs.

I’m also not trying to stereotype and say that all hipsters do/wear the above, just like not every hipster thinks it’s cool to wear a headdress. So, I don’t hate hipsters, I hate ignorance and cultural appropriation. There is a difference. Just thought I should clear that up.

A great explanation of why you should stop this hipster nonsense.

Note: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/headdress-sign-of-revolt/


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