But why is hipster racism, bigotry as an edgy joke for white people (and other people), so persistent? For answers, ThinkProgress’ Alyssa Rosenberg points us toward an 1979 Village Voice article by influential music critic Lester Bangs, titled “The White Noise Supremacists” [PDF] — and it’s sickeningly familiar. Bangs was an integral part of the late ’70s / early ’80s CBGB’s scene in New York City, a scene which has been posthumously hailed as a high point for racial harmony in which punk, rap, reggae, and new wave all came together. Bangs describes it less charitably as a place where white punks rebelled against everything, and quickly forgot why they’d gotten started. The result? What he refers to as “racist chic,” the employing of swastikas and epithets to get a rise out of some authority or other, and the resulting deeply homogeneous scene that offers no trouble to the actual-racist CEOs of the record industry.
Bangs calls out a lot of people and names a lot of complicated factors, but is hardest on himself. It’s an essential inside look at the mechanics of white-dominated counterculture, a decades-old movement that wants authenticity from people of color and not much else.