Category Archives: classism

Barney’s Why so Racist? Classist? – On Discount Designer Stores

So I’m sure most people have now heard about the young black man who is suing the NYPD and Barneys. While buying a $350 Ferragamo belt he saved for he showed his ID when using his debit card (they keep saying debit so I assume he used his pin as well) and left the store, only to be stopped by 2 undercover cops  a couple of blocks away because he didn’t look like someone who should have that much money.

Here’s a link with quotes from the young man.

Then the young black woman who was stopped after buying a $2500 purse came out.

Then a black actor talked about what happened to him at Macy’s in June.

Barneys has released a bullshit statement that is a non-apology basically stating that their clerks didn’t have anything to do with it and they’ve hired someone to look into their practices.  Since this has been going on for decades ( look at this HuffPo article quoting a man who had it happen to him 2o years ago at Barney’s.) I doubt anything will change. They’re blaming the NYPD who apparently has undercover folks in the district’s stores all the time because of shoplifting/fraud. Last I saw the highest demographic of shoplifters was white women in their 30s-40s but that was a while ago so perhaps the statistics have changed? I sincerely doubt it. I have no idea about the statistics for credit card fraud.

Whether the stores or the NYPD are at fault (I’m sorta leaning toward NYPD) I’m not at all surprised that it was Barneys & Macy’s where these incidents occurred. These sort of discount designer stores with intense pretensions of frou-frouness often have this assumption of class based on outside factors including clothing and race (which is an assumption many of us deal with on a daily basis in the real word). However in actual high end boutiques and/or designer stores (especially in NYC) you don’t usually get the same assumption of class and monetary worth based on physical appearance. Most stores like those have learned the hard way that you can never really tell how much money someone has by the how they look, act, dress.

I’m not saying I think they’re better politically, in fact I’m pretty sure it’s a purely capitalist motive. Those sort of really expensive boutiques don’t do the briskest business especially in this economy. They rely on every sale and on brand loyalty/returning customers so they really cannot afford to alienate anyone. They also have regular customers who save to have that one great basic piece.  This is not to say that you might not encounter a whole host of other aversive racist behavior there but in my personal experience high-end boutiques are less likely to assume they know your monetary situation based on what you look like or how you dress/talk/act.

We shouldn’t ignore the fact that a lot of people also can’t afford to shop in those high-end spaces. There is after all a reason discount designer stores exist, for those of us who save for that one brand piece . So it’s a horrible, capitalist catch-22 that you might get treated better in the stores you can’t afford to shop in. And I say might because there are always exceptions such as Hermes’ treatment of Oprah Winfrey. Though that was also outside the US which means very different economics and race politics were in play in that interaction.

All the same Hermes really took it in the teeth for that whole thing. I would not be surprised if Ferragamo gives the young man the belt for free or some sort of gift certificate or something just to clearly separate their brand from the stink of Barneys/NYPD issues. They have a real chance to take this bad business for Barneys and turn it into good business and publicity for themselves.

But in the end while I’m saddened by all of these incidents I’m not surprised at all, that anywhere at anytime in the United States of America they could happen. Most People of Color in America live with the knowledge that our monetary existence is subject to a lot of suspicion and doubt at the best of times and these are not the best of times. I also think there could be a lot of aversive/unconscious/conscious racism/classism at play here around the expectation that “that sort of person” should not have the money/clothes/car/life that they do especially when you do not.

These incidents are not all recent either. I don’t know when the gentleman’s incident with the belt happened but Kayla Phillips had her altercation back in February, actor Robert Brown’s incident happened on June. I don’t know if these people only came forward after the incident with Christian and the belt came to light or if the media only picked up on their suits after the first one blew up but either way it’s telling.

It’s either:

We as people of color expect to be treated this badly by society, know how often those expectations are fulfilled and are afraid to stand up without other people around ( and I’ve noticed this in myself, when racist incidents have occurred I will turn to other people that were around and ask them to confirm my experience as if I can’t trust myself or know I’ll need outside <preferably white> validation if I choose to talk about it – but that’s a post for another day).

The media doesn’t care for one person of color being mistreated or even two, it has to be a mass of them (and even then if it can be ignored it will be).

Maybe the saddest part is that both the above things are true I just wonder which is truest in this case.

(I didn’t notice the resemblance of this title to my older post: Glee, why so white? Thinking this might become a series of posts. The ” (BLANK), why so (fucked up) ?” posts. Hmm, maybe. )

Privilege: I’ll Ignore You & It’ll Get Better

So I was watching Kathy Griffin’s new talk show this week and her talkin’ shit guests were Chelsea Handler & Whitney Cummings. I learned two things from the show.

1. Whitney Cummings is actually funny when she’s just being her. ‘2 Broke Girls’ is full of stereotypes and bullshit (which makes me sad ’cause I love Kat Dennings) and jokes about sexual assault so I fell out of that pretty quick. The show ‘Whitney’ feels repetitive and just not that funny. However her manic personality and willing to say anything come through very well when she’s just being herself.

2. Wow Chelsea Handler is both privileged and dumb.

Granted I haven’t had that much exposure to Chelsea. I’ve heard a few of her soundbites, which always seem funny, and read a few excerpts from her books but that’s it. So the first hint that  she really just didn’t know what she was talking about was about being offensive/racist in your humor. Where she basically said you have to start with the groups you belong to and work your way out and that way no one will care.

Okay quick breakdown, making fun of a privileged class is in no way the same as making fun of a marginalized group. So for example when Chelsea mocks someone for being white it does not have the historical weight behind it that making fun of other groups does. Also when people make fun of white people it very rarely has to do with their race directly. One of the things about stereotypes is that very few of them about the dominant group get so powerful as to be called fact “Blacks are more violent.” “Asians are more studious.” and none of them  get coded into laws to be used against your group.  So let’s not pretend that it’s the same thing or even similar. Making fun of the group in power is never as hurtful and damaging in a larger sense as making fun of people who are already treated as other.

That’s not even my main complaint with Chelsea in this show, that comes along when Kathy brings up feminism. Kathy Griffin is actually trying to have a semi-serious conversation about how women make 70 cents for every $1 that men make. Chelsea has the nerve to say (paraphrased) that she doesn’t believe in talking about inequality because that simply leads to more inequality. She prefers to ignore it and it will get better on its on.

What the flying fuckity-fuck?

When we don’t think about things, they get better? Excuse me. I’m pretty sure that no inequality in the history of the world has ever been improved by ignoring that it exists. Honestly being able to say that means that you don’t care about all those people who don’t have the option of not discussing it.  Chelsea can afford that have that opinion, literally. With the amount of money that she has coming in she can insulate herself from the worst of what those who aren’t as wealthy cannot help but  deal with. It seems to come from the same place of “Why are you always bring this up?” which carries the assumption that you derive some joy in discussing the ways we are oppressed in society.

The main assumption being made here though is “It doesn’t affect my life, so it can’t matter right? I don’t have to think about it so obviously you shouldn’t either. And you’re only bring this up to make me uncomfortable of course.”

Privilege is the ability to think that only things that affect you matter. Privilege is asking others to stop talking about inequality because bringing it up doesn’t help you in any way. Privilege is pretending that closing your eyes makes the monsters go away and privilege is not acknowledging that not everyone can or should close their eyes.

Problematic Things I Enjoy – Beverly Hills 90210 (A.K.A. The Brenda Walsh Show)

OKay admission of a child of the 90’s – I used to watch Beverly Hills 90210.

Alright, that’s a bit of an understatement my mother still mocks the fact that I watched every episode of the early seasons and would rush out of conversations if it was starting. My main reason for watching this show was – Shannen Doherty/Brenda Walsh. I loved her. Most other fans of 90210 will admit that Brenda was one of the most interesting characters on the show. Her character arc had her going from a sweet girl from Minnesota to a manipulative liar to an animal rights activist. Her popularity was quite obviously helped by the off-screen tabloid appearances and rumors that spoke of major problems between Doherty and Jennie Garth, the actress who played her best friends/main rival through the four seasons she was on the show.

Okay so why is BH 90210 so problematic? 

The class issues alone are enough for a whole series of articles and while I vaguely remember them attempting in inject some class consciousness into the show it was never enough to take away the fact that like it’s successor Dawson’s Creek it was a show about pretty rich white teens that date other pretty rich white teens and have OMG!Melodramatic problems.

And then of course there’s the fact that anytime someone of a different race or class background or sexuality or ability level or size or etc. showed up it was always “a very special episode”. The show had almost no social consciousness anything that could have been a real learning moment was milked for as much meodrama as possible and stereotypes were relied on frequently to shortcut characters and plotlines.

The show was completely and utterly vapid, over-the-top, and had no connection to my life (or I suspect the lives of most folks) but there was something riveting about the show. Something that kept me tuning in for four years I’ve never been able to figure out what. (Some friends claim the joy is in watching the extreme lengths the writers had to go to to create problems for the pretty rich teen boys and girls and that is part of it).

Really I’m just waiting for “Compton”. The show about youth trying to get out of the ghetto, going to college, police harassment, gang involvement – kinda makes whether Dylan is there to meet Kelly or Brenda at the Peach Pit seem kind of like frivolous bullshit AND IT WAS but I still loved the show.

So yes there is a spin-off coming simply called 90210 (creativity does not live here). I’ve been less than enthused about it and hadn’t intended to watch it. That is until I heard that Miss Brenda Walsh will be returning to the show, now a famous theatre actress/director she returns at behest of fictional frenemy Kelly Taylor (play by real frenemy Jennie Garth) to direct the high school musical.

What sparks will fly?

Will Brenda and Kelly get into a knock down drag out fight about their ex-beau Dylan? (Yes please!)

When will the rumors of backstage fights begin?

Will the newbies bow down to the Queen of 90210, Brenda Walsh as they should?

How will Shannen leave the show this time in joy or anger? Well, some questions are rhetorical but you get my meaning.

There’s already been one cast member pushed out before it even began! Tori Spelling who played Donna Martin in the original show was rumored to be returning along with Doherty and Garth until she found out how much they were being paid. This is all rumors but it’s been reported that when Spelling who was being offered 10k-20k per episode found out Garth and Doherty had range of 35k-50k per episode. She demanded parity and the producers refused. While not Doherty’s fault it sure sets the stage for the drama of this new show. I’m in as long as Brenda’s there, once she’s gone so am I.