l’esprit de l’escalier
[les-pree de less-kahyt-ee-yeh]
(noun) An untranslatable French word, which occurs after the dissatisfaction one experiences in, generally, an argument, unable to produce a “comeback.” L’esprit de l’escalier is the moment one finally thinks of a witty remark far too late, after the opportunity has passed. This is why the French call it the staircase wit, indicating that one thought of that perfect retort on his or her way out.
- literally: esprit (wit) + escalier (stairs) = staircase wit
I never think of the right comeback on the stairs. But the next day after replaying the conversation over and over in my mind I can come up with a real zinger.
Previously posted at the Brennan Center.
It was a stormy night in Brooklyn when he walked into my local bar. The day had been stifling, and then the rain swept in. The lightning outside crackled.
Tom looked around nervously for a friendly face. He sat down next to me. He was a man in…
My Beard wants to become a corporation too, but it’s only for the tax write-offs for the craft beer it craves.
Through all its various name changes — the War on Terror, the war on radical Islam, the war against Islamofascism, the Third World War, the long war, the generational war — the basic shape of the conflict has remained unchanged. It is limited by neither time nor space nor target. From a military perspective, these sprawling and amorphous traits make the War on Terror an unwinnable proposition. But from an economic perspective, they make it an unbeatable one: not a flash-in-the-pan war that could potentially be won but a new and permanent fixture in the global economic architecture.
Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (via probablyasocialecologist)
A good read. I recommend it.
Hey, I’m you from the future. Don’t post this.
"If a white man wants to lynch me, that’s his problem. If he’s got the power to lynch me, that’s my problem. Racism is not a question of attitude; it’s a question of power."
— Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)
Breaking News: A(nother) white guy won’t admit when he’s being racist. If that’s not a shock to you, then you are probably like the rest of us — still wondering how many more times this has to happen before we can have an open, frank conversation about white supremacy without getting derailed into the “but not all” pit of tears. As difficult as it might be for many white Americans to digest, contemporary racism has morphed far beyond what it was fifty or a hundred years ago. Today it is often invisible, embedded deep within the structures and language governing our society, so when an opportunity presents itself to open a dialogue on just how far the depth of its camouflage has become, we have to take it.
Phillip DeFranco, internet celebrity and creator of the YouTube channel Philly D, has often done just that, making a career of reporting/commenting on news and current events. So when he made one of his weekly videos on the racist comments of Donald Sterling a couple months back, no surprise. DeFranco was “doing what he does.” He even went so far as to call Sterling out after watching a follow-up interview where the uber-rich Clipper owner debased former NBA superstar Magic Johnson for having HIV, posting these gifs to his Tumblr page with the following caption: “SURPRISE! Donald Sterling is still (of course) SUPER FUCKING RACIST.”
The trouble with making a career of calling other people out is if and when you happen to BE the problem, having enough self-reflexivity to admit it, allow discussions about it, and correct it comes at great discomfort… Or you could just be a total dipshit like Donald Sterling was and deny any wrongdoing whatsoever.
When Mr. YouTube Sensation himself got called out for making racialized comments about Beyonce’s sister Solange (calling her “ratchet mcsloppy ass,” never mind effectively calling her a b*tch by saying “[F]or the first time ever Jay Z now has one hundred problems”), instead of taking the advice he so enthusiastically gave Sterling of admitting mistakes and moving forward, he seems to instead have taken public relations lessons from the billionaire racist.
Specifically, after a fellow Tumblr user (a woman of color) told DeFranco, “Ratchet is a racialized term. So is ghetto. So is thug. So is welfare queen. Someone does not have to EXPLICITLY say the word “black” in order for something to be racist against black people. Speaking in flagrantly racist terms is one of the least sophisticated manifestations of racism today,” he responded:
“Apparently I’m racist! Sorry every group other than white people. We can’t be friends now. Tumblr says I’m a bad person because at one point I said the word ratchet. Also who says, “Welfare Queen”?
My disdain for most people knows no color, gender, or creed. That said, congrats about complaining about something on Tumblr, playing victim, and getting lots of reblogs. YOU’RE CHANGING THE WORLD Y’ALL!!!
Love yo faces :) Except white people. Fuck those honkies… AMIRITE?!”
One of the most sinister things about normalized racism (and misogyny for that matter) is you don’t have to have bad intentions to be racist; you just have to remain ignorant. With his faux-apology, Philip DeFranco is doing that in strides. Instead of taking some well-placed criticism as a learning opportunity, he decided to go the route of total dipshit, denying all wrongdoing whatsoever.
His response is an attempt to minimize his mistake, to create a straw-man so he does not have to take responsibility for having used racialized language, and at all times never having to look inward at himself at his own racism. It is the socialization of his backwardness —“My disdain for most people knows no color, gender, or creed” — as if equally being a bigot resolves being a bigot at all.
The really unfortunate part is his show Philly D is a small window into a larger phenomenon in our culture, a sort of profiteering off the struggles of real people, with real issues like the perception of black and brown folk in a white supremacist world. But this is, after all, the central problem with white guys with a little social capital: They can say whatever the fuck they want and be loved and paid for it.
In a real sense Philly D is the cheaper, YouTube rendition of white men like Stephen Colbert and John Stewart profiting off the everyday-struggles of black and brown lives. His videos on Sterling and Solange got over a million views, accumulatively. On Tumblr and Facebook people signal boost him by the thousands. His endorsements through YouTube, the merchandise he sells, etc., have aggregated him an estimated net worth of three million.
Yet, with all the upward mobility his skin has helped afford him, with all the fame and visibility, DeFranco is still just another white guy refusing to see his privilege. From his own blog he seems to utterly fail at understanding what institutional racism is, stating, “I have been informed by several people that white people cannot be the victims of racism. THIS. IS. AN. AMAZING. DAY.”
Clearly it falls on deaf ears that to get past the basic Webster’s dictionary definition of racism, he might be required to see the perspective of those oppressed peoples whom face racism every day — you know, those actually shouldering the weight of it. In an epic moment of facepalming it does not register to him that claiming to be a victim of racism while living independent of the ramifications of white supremacy — police brutality, the prison industrial complex, educational, medical, and social discrimination, and fetishization of black and brown bodies — smacks of “reverse racism.”
The last part of his response — “YOU’RE CHANGING THE WORLD Y’ALL!!!” — is the cherry on the cake. Here he insults those of us calling him out by assuming we are doing nothing by educating others (at times through social media, the very mechanism that made him millions) in our private lives, but he again, being a dismissive dipshit, assumes we are not also the foot-soldiers making-by-living the change of creating a better world. All I can say is fuck that guy.
It would be hard to find a more obvious example of a less self-inflated white man getting called out for being ignorant and having an overly inaccurate, generous view of himself, and then effectively telling everybody else we must be stupid not to see his awesomeness.
Who knows though, maybe he will actually apologize. Maybe he’ll do a feature with himself as the butt of his own joke, where he calls himself out as a privileged white dude making a buck off crappy journalism and half-baked commentary. Maybe he’ll even post a couple gifs to Tumblr saying it with the caption “SURPRISE! I’m still (of course) A PRIVILEGED DIPSHIT.”
I won’t hold my breath, just remember: Not all racism comes clothed in white sheets.