White Hipsters

When Your Trend is my Culture
Written by
Fong Tran (Photo: Vanessa Hsieh)


Fong Tran, a spoken word artist, youth activist and Director of Student Activities at the College of Alameda, has a few things to say about white hipsters, and a few things to tell them.



White Hipsters

Let’s “beard and handlebar mustache” face it
you’re a hipster 
But by literal definition
hipsters never called themselves hipsters
you’re too urban outfitters cool for dat
but come on now
Everything about you hipster
you dress hipster
you go to hipster ass places
You act like you’ve been thriftshopping and 
going to flee markets well before immigrants and poor people did
wearing yo lumberjack flannel and skinny jeans with the holes right above the knee caps
All hipsters know how to accessorize 
So you rock out with your yarn threaded friendship bracelet
that you got volunteering in Ghana
Matched with your fake gold plated arrowhead necklace from Forever 21 
You must all your hipster superpowers from dem energy crystals
you do to culture what you typically do with jewelry
Try too much of it on
Wear once or occasional
dispose when out of fashionable trend
You make it seem like culture
Is a dream that you can catch
So you get a forearm tattoo of it
You must understand this horrid but fundamental truth
your ancestors colonized mine
so inescapably, you are accountable
stop appropriating the riches of third world peoples
allow the silk in our swag
The majesty in our weave and braid
The complexity in our patterned step
Remain sacred to us
You have the privilege to
Dress up culturally for sense of fashion
but never for a sense of identity
Know we bear these threaded beads for survival
Cause everything around us
tell us to slaughter ourselves
mare down and gouge out our ancestral roots
Tells us that we are inadequate
And please 
I don’t care how many times you traveled to Vietnam
don’t ever tell me how to eat my pho
The stab wounds of telling myself
That I’m not Vietnamese enough
Already burns deep
without you squeezing your
Trader joe’s sriracha sauce on top of it
You take time to afterschool tutor me
Give me lessons on my own history
Gentrify my language
And tell me how my accent tones are not sharp enough
You seem so sure of it
Hip hop probably called something like that
“Macklemore it”
Our culture is not yours to possess
Not for you to dictate authentic
Authenticity lives in between the loud banter
Of aunts from Hue and my mother from Saigon
Arguing the proper herbs in canh chua and banh tranh
There is no one way to do it
But authenticity is knowing that it is ours to claim
Whenever I go to a white own ethnic restaurant
I always feel like I got the wrong order
Me: “Hi, sorry but I asked for the spicy Pad See Ew”
The waiter says,“Sir, there’s already spice in your pad see ew
And I’m like “hmmm…What kind of spice? like Pumpkin Spice”
US appropriation has properly conditioned Ethnic people 
To always ask is it hot or like white people hot
as much as I want to pour that mircrobrewery beer down your head
And slap you with organically grown kale
I have to admit
I’m just like you
I mean, look at my thick frame glasses
I’m basically asking someone to hand me a mason jar
So if there’s anyone to give you advice
its me
your very very very distant cousin related to you 
by pure oak coffee tables and boats shoes
As much as I’m annoyed by white hipsters
I know the movement will need white allies
But I need you to be better
you are special by nature
And not by whatever contrived counterculture design 
that you think you’re undermining
stop acting like a unicorn
I get it, you don’t wanna be mainstream
But it’s far more necessary to critical 
Then just to avoid conformity 
It is not coincidence that 
In these dark times of denying water and life
and ugly orange hair presidents
We are in the era of hipsters
Young people that want be something different
We are the reaction to what this world needs
But there is a careful line that we tread
A line that separates of what’s hip 
to what’s just basic to whats subculture
To what’s just appropriating it
To what’s just a selfie to what could be a political statement
That line for me is to simply ask myself
Is it just about me
Or is it really about everyone else
do you want to just be different
Or do you want to make a difference


Read more of Fong Tran's work at fongtran.com.


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