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 Kyle Nazario
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Houston Subreddit Gets Seriously Racist

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Most internet comments are shit, but some are so shitty that you want to grab the person and shake them like their parent clearly did when they a baby.

That is how I feel reading the comments of a video posted to r/Houston. Our city’s subreddit needs only a video of a shooting involving black people to start spouting racist comments (backed up here).

The video is linked above. It shows a group of African American men driving slabs around in circles throwing up smoke. An argument between two men escalates into a shooting. No one died, thankfully.

“Their culture legitimizes violence and ignorance, listen to 97.9 for a couple tracks and see why these guys think this shit is cool,” wrote user GeauxHouston22. “If you call it out, guess what: you’re a filthy awful racist.”

You know why people call you a filthy awful racist? Because calling black culture synonymous with violence and ignorance is racist. You’re discriminating by race and making unfounded generalizations about an entire race of people.

The Black Culture That Isn’t

These comments annoyed me precisely because they aren’t just idiots mouthing off behind their keyboards. These lovely commenters have the same opinions as a whole lot of other people in this country.

Quick: what do Bill O’Reilly, Don Lemon, Bill Cosby and these commenters have in common? They all criticize black culture for encouraging poverty and crime. The idea that black culture supports violence is not new.

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It’s also absurd. You can’t honestly criticize “black” culture for any perceived fascination with violence when mainstream (“white”) culture gave us “Kill Bill,” “American Psycho” and “Mortal Kombat.”

Furthermore, what people like this redditor call “black culture” is the shit that multi-national corporate record companies produce. It’s a bullshit image that sells a lifestyle, an idea, a theoretical paradise full of mocha-skinned women and fast cars and excessive profanity. (Not unlike the “72 virgins” touted by Al-Qaeda propaganda and mainstream beer commercials.)

Remember what Master P told Congress? “Hip hop is a $4 billion business.” There’s a lot of money there.

Steve Johnson, writing for the University of Pittsburgh, tracked the progress of rap music (aka “black culture,” according to some people) through the 1990s.

“Music label executives and artist promoters heavily pushed ‘Gangsta Rap,’ often to the exclusion of other forms of rap, thereby creating a new culture and mindset,” Johnson wrote. “Whether the rap artists actually lived the lives they spoke about in their music, they felt that to be hugely successful, they had no choice but to do ‘Gangsta Rap’ if they expected to survive in the industry.”

Why wouldn’t the record companies sell this stuff? Everyone’s buying, not just the black kids. Hip hop is global. The “black culture” which internet commenters bemoan is bullshit hype made for the global market, not just African Americans.

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The whole thread is an absolute shit show of racists and people arguing against the racists. It’s a miniature reflection of American race debates.

The Critical Difference

Those commenters also misunderstand the difference between the effects of poverty and those of race.

“If you looked at the cultural practices of poor black people in cities, how much would they differ from the practices of poor people in cities historically?” Ta-Nahisi Coates wrote in an excellent essay for The Atlantic.

That is the key point here. The easy and racist thing to do is to lump black and poor culture together and say skin color causes it all. That’s what Houston’s Redditors are guilty of doing: taking the convenient and racist way out.

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It’s much harder to dig into the history and causes behind what is shown in the media as “black culture.” That might require acknowledging things like persistent inequality, modern-day discriminatory practices or even America’s long history of racial violence.

“Only if black people are somehow undeserving can a just society tolerate a yawning wealth gap, a two-tiered job market, and persistent housing discrimination,” Coates writes in another article.

The stereotype of black culture being violent hurts black people, families, and communities. It has been used throughout history to justify discrimination and even violence against African Americans.

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“How many lynchings and race riots have resulted from false accusations of rape and murder leveled against so-called black brutes?” David Pilgrim, a professor of sociology at Ferris State University, asked rhetorically.

How many generations would it take a people to recover from such systematic terror? And these redditors want to call “black culture” violent?

While overt violence such as lynchings against blacks has dropped over time, the savage stereotype is still used to justify policies which damage black communities. That’s why minorities are disproportionately targeted by stop-and-frisk policies. That’s why black men receive sentences that are 15-20 percent longer than white criminals convicted of similar crimes.

The Easy Way, and the Right Way

Shitty internet comments are always annoying and always best avoided, if possible. The ones on this video are doubly irritating because they represent a common misconception of “black culture.”

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This persistent misunderstanding of what constitutes African American culture is ignorant and harmful. The least we can do is not spread it.

Internet, that means you too.

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