Basic White Girls and Affirmative Action
October is here, and that means the Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back at Starbucks. This also means that the Internet is again flooded with memes and posts about basic girls. The top definition on urbandictionary.com for a basic white girl is: “A female who conforms to her surroundings and claims she is unique. She often drinks Starbucks, wears Ugg boots in August, and posts selfies…” Other descriptors for the basic white girl include her buying Victoria’s Secret leggings, shopping at the local Forever 21, owning an iPhone, instagramming her Chipotle, and dying her hair blonde. As slang, the term basic doesn’t have an actual denotation showing it to be racist or sexist. I’ve heard all races and genders jokingly call themselves basic, but this is generally a negative stereotype about the airheadedness of the white, popular girls we all knew in high school.
I am not knowledgeable or tactful enough to know whether this is actually sexist, detrimental to society or these girls, or the work of the patriarchy, or even whether this nitpicky level of analyzing society is productive, but what basicness teaches us is that humans will always stereotype. When we tell our children to only befriend certain types of kids at school, what we are telling them is to stereotype. In high school I wanted to make good friends, so freshman and sophomore year I didn’t try to connect with a lot of the cooler girls who partied (this didn’t stop me from hanging with some horrible guys though). As I eventually got to know some of these girls junior and senior years I realized that either I misjudged or underestimated some (but not all) of them. Schools try to their best to be able to stereotype what students they want off of tests like the SAT or GRE. Everyone stereotypes.
Here I am tentative to lay out my hypothesis, as I am open to its erroneousness, but I believe that people are not racist because they actually care about skin color, but skin color is just an excuse for division and hate (I’m not referring to slavery which was economically-driven, just modern American racism). The majority of racist comments I heard around a high school cafeteria lunch table were because the ongoing game at lunch tables is to make fun of each other, one in which funniest man wins. One’s race and sexual orientation were used as ammunition for this purpose. Alternatively, I’ve also heard seemingly non-racist people, both black and white, turn a fight into a racist attack because they were upset at a person to begin with, i.e. I don’t hate you because you’re different than me, but because I hate you I will hate you for your differences as well.
An article on NPR last week discussed the logistics of Brazil’s affirmative action program. “Latino” today does not generally mean a native of Latin America but instead means refers to a combination of West African heritage, Portuguese and Spanish Europeans heritage, and native Brazilian heritage. This makes racial injustice in Brazil much less black-and-white than it is in America. A massive inequality between lighter and darker Brazilians in government jobs has created affirmative action regulations. The article states how a few weeks ago race tribunals were made mandatory for all government jobs. These tribunals hold up a color scale to different parts of the body, and the government “issued guidelines about how to measure lip size, hair texture and nose width.” Because of this test, Lucus Siqueira, who considers himself mixed race (with a black grandfather and native grandmother), had his job offer removed because the test declared him not black enough for the government job his Foreign Service exam earned him.
Brazil seemingly needs affirmative action, don’t get me wrong, but like many Brazilians the idea of measuring noses or defining people based on slightly different shades of brown makes me uncomfortable. Similarly, subconsciously measuring a girl’s ditzyness by how many Pumpkin Spice Lattes she drinks makes me uncomfortable. Perhaps she just really enjoys the taste of Starbucks. Perhaps some stay-at-home mothers aren’t impediments to progress but just love being a mother. Perhaps the person in an easier major isn’t dumb but just loves what he or she does. However, after basic white girls and Brazil’s race tribunals, what I can be certain about is that in fifty years, when Americans are all predicted to be brown-skinned, the human race will find a new stereotype or a new “ism.” We will always find an excuse to hate.