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The Wigger Fallacy

What I call the Wigger Fallacy is the idea that being black in America is a matter of culture, of how you talk and act and think and dress. It is the mistake that wiggers make, who are white but try to act black.

It is a fallacy because what makes you black is nothing like that. It is how white people act towards you because of how you look. Ask any black person who grew up in white suburbia listening to rock music and speaking perfect White English.

It is this fallacy that seems to lie behind the spread of the idea that Bill Clinton was the first black president. Or that Barack Obama – and the black middle-class in general – is “not black enough”.

The fallacy is rooted in a confusion between race and culture. Yes, Black America does have a culture of its own that is noticeably different from mainstream America. But that culture is a side effect of being black, not the cause of what makes people black.

The cause is racism: if you do not look white, then whites will not fully accept you as one of their own. Not even if you talk white and dress white and act white and think white and listen to white music. Not even if you die in some foreign land defending the country.

Not only do blacks who grew up in white suburbia know this, but so do Korean adoptees. Since the 1950s Korea has sent more than 100,000 babies to America. Most were brought up by white parents in white towns. They grew up white, knowing few if any Koreans, and yet they are not fully accepted either. Because of how they look. It has nothing to do with culture or money or education. It has to do with race.

The Wigger Fallacy lies behind the phrases “not black enough” and “acting white” – that the key to being black (or white) comes down to how you act or think, that it comes from your values, your “background”.

But the truth is you are just as black whether you grew up in the ghetto or suburbia, whether you listen to rap or rock or both, whether you are Afrocentric or not. And, for the very same reason, no amount of acting white can ever make you white.

Both blacks and whites want you to act a certain way. Not all of them, but enough of them. They make you think that it is some golden road to being acceptable. But if you are not being yourself, how can that be acceptable? And will you ever be truly happy?  And what lies at the end of their road?

What makes you “truly black” is living in a black skin in a white country, one that is still racist. The black experience, as they say. It is being yourself in a country that will never fully accept you for who you are.

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Wigger is short for “white nigger”. It is a white person who tries to be black by dressing, talking and acting a certain way. In most cases he is not copying black people he knows, but the kind he sees on television, following hip hop fashions in music, dress and speech. Perhaps the best-known wigger is Ali G, a character played by Sacha Baron Cohen.

Wiggers might seem kind of harmless, but their racist idea of “acting black” helps to spread damaging stereotypes about blacks – blacks as thugs and hoes (the black brute and Jezebel stereotypes).

Most wiggers are white males between 15 and 25, living mainly in America and Britain – with their parents. Like the goths, it is a youth subculture that features dressing a certain way and listening to a certain kind of music – whatever music and dress seems cool and will unsettle their parents most.

Wiggers try to act as if they grew up in some poor and violent black “hood” in the city, instead of the quiet, boring, well-to-do white suburb where most in fact live.

Wiggers get that way not by assimilation – not by living in such a hood and taking on black ways almost without knowing it. Instead they do it by appropriation: copying particular aspects while remaining more or less white.

Whites copying blacks, and a stereotype at that, is nothing new. Just as hip hop has given rise to wiggers, so jazz in the 1940s gave rise to hipsters.

Hipsters had a huge effect on White America: they were seen as cool and many whites copied them. Wiggers will probably not have that kind of effect: too many people seem to look down on them.

Unlike wiggers, hipsters had at least some experience of a living, breathing black world – through the musicians they knew at jazz joints. Wiggers, on the other hand, experience a black world that was made by the music and film industry to entertain white people. Wiggers are not so much copying a black world as a black minstrel show.

It would be like blacks copying the whites they see at rodeo shows: wearing cowboy hats, riding horses, speaking like a Texan and listening to country music – and thinking that is what “being white” is all about. Wiggers make the same sort of mistake about blackness.

Do Michelle Obama or Bill Cosby greet their friends with gang signs and go out of their way to speak bad English? Probably not. Yet they are blacker than any wigger could ever hope to be.

Steve Sailer says that Barack Obama is a wigger:

The brutal truth: Obama is a “wigger”. He’s a remarkably exotic variety of the faux African-American, but a wigger nonetheless. He has no ancestors who were slaves in the U.S. Moreover, his upbringing by his white mother and Indonesian stepfather in Indonesia and by his white grandparents in Hawaii, where mixed-race children are close to the norm, was almost wholly divorced from African-American life – except for what he could see and aspire to on TV.

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Adam Mansbach (c. 1977- ) is an American writer best known for “Angry Black White Boy” (2005) and “The End of the Jews” (2008). He seems to be one of the few white American writers these days who writes about race and whiteness. Tim Wise also comes to mind.

Mansbach is Jewish, but his family was not all that religious and did not practise the old Jewish ways. Instead he grew up on jazz and especially hip hop in a white, well-to-do town just outside of Boston. He loved hip hop when it was still largely a black thing. That put him into a strange position with both blacks and whites. He became an outsider in both worlds.

The day that changed his life was April 29th 1992. He was 15 and heard that the policemen who beat Rodney King were found not guilty. How could that be? He saw the video over and over again on television of the white policemen beating an unarmed black man senseless. Who could doubt their guilt?

He was shocked that the policemen walked free, but what shocked him even more was that no one in his white town cared. No one was angry or anything. While Los Angeles burned it was just another day where he lived.

He and a teacher at school led a walkout and went to city hall to show their anger and make people maybe think a bit.

All this made him think about race, white people and his own whiteness. So years later he wrote a book about it, “Angry Black White Boy”.

It is about Macon Detornay, a young New York taxi driver. He robs his rich, white customers because of their race. Everyone thinks he is black, but he turns out to be white! He becomes famous and calls for a National Day of Apology where whites tell blacks how sorry they are for all the injustice they have done. Things get out of control from there…

Mansbach wrote the book in what he calls a hip hop style – just like Kerouac wrote some of his stuff in a sort of jazz style of prose.

Mansbach says whiteness is hard to understand because it is everywhere. That makes it hard to see. It does not stick out like blackness does. But he does understand that the way society works – from the police to the courts to the banks and so on – that it is all set up to suit whites and winds up screwing blacks.

Some things he has said:

… the legacy of black folks in America is so profound that it functions as a metaphor for all humanity.

I think that for every community there are outskirts, margins… To me, those margins are where art comes from.

Like if you don’t know Diana Ross, you might think Puffy is a genius.

The genius of graffiti is that five million people see your art.

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