at the risk of seeming ridiculous…

A Piano, a Bass, and a Bowtie

Posted in written thoughts by Charles on September 22, 2008

A friend of mine came into town this weekend.  It was nice and sobering to have him here.  Nice because it’s comforting to have a friend visit you in your new setting.  But also sobering because it means that you’re actually here to stay.  Anyways, we had a good time.

On Friday, we were walking down Mass Ave near Newbury St (downtown Boston).  It’s a really nice area.  Boutique stores everywhere, musicians and painters on the street, great food…  I personally love it because it’s where the Berklee School of Music is housed.  When the pretentious halls of Hah-vuhd get a bit dreary, Berklee is my fantasyland where I get to roam around and find young cats testing out their chops.

We walk into this music store called Daddy’s.  It’s right across the street from Berklee.  So by virtue of the area, you’ll generally find the next studio ace messing around in there.  As we headed over to the bass and keyboard section, we couldn’t help but vibe to the soulful rhythms and chords we started to hear.  Just one bassist and one keyboardist exchanging solos… with about 6 others bobbing their heads like pigeons.

Then something all-too-familiar happens.  We hear two over-driven amps blasting to the left and to the right of us.  Another bassist… another keyboardist.  One is playing Red Hot Chili Peppers licks… and the other is playing jazz.  Unfortunately, we were stuck in the middle.  This goes on for about another 5 minutes before we have to ask the bass player to turn down… which he does grudgingly.  The keyboardist, however, just leaves after banging on the keyboard.  Not a word.  Just struts off with that I’m-a-badass kind of thing goin’ on.

I’m guessing a lot of you are visual people.  And I’m guessing you already have an idea of what these two musicians look like.  If not… I’ll help you a bit… white people.

Now, in all fairness, not all white people are like that.  I’ve gigged and hung out with a lot of respectful and sensitive white people.  But white privilege is too pervasive of a reality to ignore it.

My academic advisor (who is white and conscious of her racial privilege) told me that the biggest shift that I, a KoreAm SoCal-ian, would have to make would be cultural.  New England is a climate that is heavily dominated by white culture, she says (although, where is it not?).  It is a completely normal thing to see men walking around in full blown suits with bowties in the middle of the day.  Not to say that bowties is linked to racial hierarchy, but hopefully, you get the image.

The longer I’m here, the more I realize that I have moved to a foreign country.  I do enjoy it here.  But it is New England… perhaps the cultural bastion of whiteness.  Or rather, liberal northern whiteness.  For many of you that know what I’m talking about, it’s not necessarily anything that is said, or explicitly revealed… but rather, it is the vibe of the area.  It is what you have to be aware of.  It is what you aren’t “allowed” to say… or express.  It is the pressure to distance yourself from your history, your culture.  It is that something in the air that you just have to deal with.  It is what W.E.B. DuBois called “Double-Consciousness”.  That one must learn to act in one’s own cultural setting… as well as the dominant white cultural context.  White people don’t have to do that.  They can live their whole lives without having to learn about another culture and still do fine.  For the social system in which we live plays by their rules… or rather, it is defined by their rules.

But… I did choose my cup of tea.  I did leave home to come here.  And it is what I must learn to deal with… as well as undo… during my time here.

On a lighter note, this post is probably a subconscious attempt to voice my homesickness.  =P


5 Responses

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  1. benson said, on September 22, 2008 at 05:43

    bro, i love how you are able to see the world. miss you in san diego.

  2. becky said, on September 25, 2008 at 13:11

    The Journalist, Revised.

  3. transi3nt said, on September 26, 2008 at 17:40

    I can’t imagine living outside of the United Cities of California.

  4. sohndave said, on September 28, 2008 at 01:18

    if this is what it takes to take me even higher…

  5. dano said, on November 25, 2008 at 20:23

    If we could only learn to give away that privilege like crazy…

    And Daddies is awesome. I played an outrageous fretless thing there: a Godin Glissentar.

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