Followup thoughts on how to get away with racial slurs on NPR

The “raped by a spic” thing from the other week deserves an essay of its own. It felt like a seminal moment in NPR history. Ew, I shouldn’t spout outbursts like that; I didn’t go to school to be a seaman. I didn’t go to school to do a lot of things, for that matter, but writing about this seedy shit is closer to my duty to Engage the World than hustling deposit bottles, which kinda sorta pays the bills.

There are other things that I could chronicle instead, but I might as well say the same thing about NPR first. That, after all, is where I learned the phrase “I want you to be raped by a spic or an N-word.” This really felt like an eerie unleashing of the Brahmin Id. Frank discussions of rape can be newsworthy (e.g., a recent item on All Things Considered about the forcible stripping of a Christian grandmother in Egypt by a Muslim village mob), but the crazy bitch from Georgetown wasn’t describing an actual rape. She was talking about vague trash talk from an internet troll who was taken with the idea of the sexual assault of his political opponents by racially denominated model felons. The difference between actual rape and what this Beltway dipshit suffered is the difference between the stomp whiteys who came after me in Black Kensington and someone hanging out on the internet all afternoon posting “whitey ass cracker bitch” into the void of some AOL flame war. Grown-ups don’t get bent out of shape over the coarse invective of total strangers on the internet who show no ability to cause them trouble in real life. Sure, there are misogynists on the loose here and there, and there are racists, but my problem with the stomp whiteys was that they assaulted me on a public street, not that they didn’t care for white folk; we didn’t have no internet to mediate that interaction, but man, I never will forget the way the one guy didn’t look more than about half black himself. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t care to be assaulted by white thugs, either. These things shouldn’t have to be spelled out, but we’re dealing with some awfully immature people yelling at us from positions of power, so they do.

Hearing a professor go on NPR and utter “spic” without hesitation but practically choke with embarrassment before self-censoriously sanitizing her other fantasy rapist as “an N-word” was revealing. The insistence that “nigger” is a uniquely offensive, inflammatory, and dangerous slur is not entirely off-base; there is something to be said for erring on the side of caution in societies with black-white racial histories as ugly as the one we have in the United States, even if such a taboo is fraught with hypocrisy and opportunities for cheap provocateurs to angrily mutter the unholy of unholies into their phone all evening. This may sound like a San Diego thing, but I’ve heard it on Amtrak coming into Stockton, too, and dude wasn’t even getting off in Stockton. (To my own misfortune, I was.) Still, it’s better than fucking MTS, and I’ll put up with a dipshit if that’s the cost of a ride on the California Clipper.

The thing about the Here and Now piece, though, was that the racial invective was every bit as gratuitous as some asshole blurting out high-frequency racial slurs on the train for no discernible reason. The punks giving m’lady lip over the internet were not credible threats to her safety, and the initial provocation was a pissing match between a bumptious academic and a prominent member of the neighborhood fash over which of them would be kicked out of their members-only gym.

There was no good reason for NPR to be devoting an entire segment to this horseshit. The decision to air it was driven by an interest in sensationalism, not newsworthiness. More cynically, it can also be reasonably inferred to be a capitulation to laziness and budgeting, since interviewing a single crazy bitch about her fight with a blowhard failson over his shock politics takes less work, organization, and money than actual reporting. I have too hard a time with deadlines myself to be very harsh on radio producers for throwing some embarrassing crap together at the last minute to fill the dead spaces, but WBUR presumably has entire staffs devoted to the advance work needed to get its shows on the air, so it’s worth asking how someone so nutty and salacious slipped through the cracks.

An even more cynical take (please, do heat your cabin with this) is that whoever was responsible for this sorry bit of journalism realized on some level that it was exactly the sort of thing that would psychosexually stimulate the listeners. Maybe Robin Young’s scrupulously well-mannered calmness is just a pretense used to head-fake the suits into assuming that she and her team aren’t airing a bunch of Howard Stern content.

There has certainly been an awful lot of carrying on about the very white Richard Spencer and the even whiter Brock Turner in a time of not very much mainstream press attention to Daniel Holtzclaw or the all too real possibility that an active-duty NYPD officer has been serially murdering prostitutes on Long Island. What the Id wants from Turner is obvious: rape, but not really rape in the sense of sexual intercourse against one’s will, just quasi-rape in which the “victim” is pleasantly very drunk but still able to enjoy submitting to Blondie. If the mob had any standards, it would be much more horrified and alarmed by the specter of a calculating serial rapist in uniform, even one convicted and incarcerated, than that of an opportunistic one-timer who took advantage of a woman he found passed out and used such sloppy tradecraft that he was promptly caught and placed under citizen’s arrest by passersby. Of course, Turner was an affluent white guy operating in a power center of affluent white girls, not an Okie Hapa preying on black women in the ghetto, most of them with criminal records.

What the Id wants from Spencer is a bit harder to discern, but it seems to be maybe a less fully consummated experience of vague quasisexual subjugation. If you, too, are a good girl, I know you want it, but I can’t really say what it is. Spencer is clearly being associated, if indirectly, with sexual danger, and not in the sense of Carlos, because that’s just plain gross. This is a bit odd for a guy who sure looks like he’d be into some damn weird forms of submission to the working girls, but we’re talking about an awfully handsome fellow who styles himself a sort of highbrow Nazi and who’s being smeared before an audience with a great deal of politically tinged sexual repression. The looming experience of sexual degradation with Richard Spencer probably works out to something like him cornering m’lady at a house party, calling her a kike while he slaps her ass, Supermanning her with a Star of David that he appliqued onto scrap material from a used T-shirt, and then wandering back to the couch to bounce around between Unz and Roissy comment threads on his phone. Yeah, the guy’s kind of a dork, but he’s exceptionally handsome, exceptionally white, and coded (correctly) as affluent, so if anyone’s going for a 50 Shades of Schindler thing, he’s the man for the job. Any sexier and he’d be Lynn Majors.

Shit, that was dopey, so to speak. The difference, of course, is that where Spencer is a little prick, Nurse Lynn tells you that you’re gonna feel one, and if you don’t want it to be your last, you’ll high-tail it for Rochester and get it from Hastert instead. That was terrible, but it still wasn’t NPR. And that’s probably why I’m still writing this shit for free. I’m not the one serializing badly written BDSM porn for the big screen and then advertising it all the time in the breaks between arguably less fucked up SVU and Criminal Intent reruns. I write effusively about meta-rape only because NPR makes me do it. It’s really a shame that I managed to hear Robin Young dignifying that nutcase’s beef with Richard Spencer but still haven’t dialed up whatever Scott Simon and whoever he had on that weekend had to say about Aaron Hernandez’s career-ending neck injury, pursuant to #SPORTS. These things are through my most grievous, etc. But really, I’m just here to #RaceTogether and to make sure that no discourse about theoretical violence involving African-Americans and Puerto Ricans is put to bed for the evening without a recapitulation of my enduring hope against hope, as a former Philadelphian who still checks in on the old dump from time to time, that Josey’s on a long-term vacation far away.

Come around and talk that over.

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