We’re Not All That: High School is America in miniature

We’re Not All That: High School is America in miniature

High school is just a bunch of scared people pretending they’re not.
—Cameron Kweller portrayed by Tanner Buchanan in He’s All That (Netflix, 2021)

While not exact, this quote is incredibly similar in tone to a quote from a columnist in June 1928, which has been oft repeated and slightly modified since including versions by Will Rogers and in Fight Club.

Americanism: Using money you haven’t earned to buy things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like.
—Robert Quillen, The Detroit Free Press, Page 6, Column 4, Detroit, Michigan. June 4, 1928

It’s all about image and being what we’re not.

Apparently the message of the original film She’s All That was completely lost. I’m not sure the current incarnation of this remake will be an inflection point either.

This post was originally published on Chris Aldrich

🎧 Seeing White, part 7: Chenjerai’s Challenge | Scene on Radio (episode 37)

Seeing White, episode 37: Chenjerai’s Challenge by John Biewen with special guest Chenjerai Kumanyika (Scene on Radio)

“How attached are you to the idea of being white?” Chenjerai Kumanyika puts that question to host John Biewen, as they revisit an unfinished conversation from a previous episode. Part 7 of our series, Seeing White.

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There are some great questions here that are well worth revisiting in light of the remainder of the series.

Some of this discussion reminds me of a lazy, 20-something comedian I heard recently. He hadn’t accomplished anything useful in his life and felt like (and probably was in the eyes of many) a “complete failure.” He said he felt like an even worse failure because in the game of life, playing the straight white male, he was also failing while using the game’s lowest difficulty setting. I wish I could give the original attribution, but I don’t remember the comedian and upon searching I see that the general concept of the joke goes back much further than the source–so it may seem he was an even bigger failure in that he was also lifting the material from somewhere else. What else should we expect in a society of such privilege?

Composite image: Chenjerai Kumanyika, left; photo by Danusia Trevino. And John Biewen, photo by Ewa Pohl.

🎧 Seeing White, part 7: Chenjerai’s Challenge | Scene on Radio (episode 37) was originally published on Chris Aldrich | Boffo Socko

🎧 Seeing White, episode 36: That’s Not Us, So We’re Clean | Scene on Radio

Seeing White, episode 36: That's Not Us, So We're Clean by John Biewen with special guest Chenjerai Kumanyika (Scene On Radio)

When it comes to America’s racial sins, past and present, a lot of us see people in one region of the country as guiltier than the rest. Host John Biewen spoke with some white Southern friends about that tendency. Part Six of our ongoing series, Seeing White. With recurring guest, Chenjerai Kumanyika.

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Having lived in many parts of the country growing up (Dahlonega, GA; Burlington, CT; Calhoun, GA; Baltimore, MD; Charlotte, NC; etc.), I can attest that the generalities described here do dovetail with many of my experiences. The cultures with respect to racism are very different depending on town, region, state, and histories.

A lynching on Clarkson Street, New York City, during the Draft Riots of 1863. Credit: Greenwich Village Society of Historical Preservation.

🎧 Seeing White, episode 36: That’s Not Us, So We’re Clean | Scene on Radio was originally published on Chris Aldrich

🎧 Seeing White, episode 35 Little War on the Prairie | Scene on Radio

Seeing White, episode 35 Little War on the Prairie by John Biewen (Scene on Radio)

Growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, John Biewen heard next to nothing about the town’s most important historical event. In 1862, Mankato was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history – the hanging of 38 Dakota warriors – following one of the major wars between Plains Indians and settlers. In this documentary, originally produced for This American Life, John goes back to Minnesota to explore what happened, and why Minnesotans didn’t talk about it afterwards.

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These episodes and the brutal history they contain and suggest have been pretty gut-wrenching so far. This by far delves more deeply into the history and as a result is much more hear-rending than the others. It really makes me sick what our “nationalistic” tendencies have wrought thus far, and by all intents continues to continue to do.

If you haven’t been listening to this excellent series, I hope you’ll stop what you’re doing right now and listen to them all. I highly recommend it as required listening for everyone–even if you think you know what the message is.

Though this particular episode wasn’t specifically created for this series, it fits in incredibly well. I almost wish that some of the others in the series delved this deeply into some of the history as this one does. It really brings the problem into high relief and puts a more human face on the problems we may not see around us by looking back at a particular incident.

The Minnesota State Seal, 1858

🎧 Seeing White, episode 35 Little War on the Prairie | Scene on Radio was originally published on Chris Aldrich | Boffo Socko

📺 Divided States of America, Part 1 | Frontline

Divided States of America, Part 1 (FRONTLINE | PBS, aired January 17, 2017)

FRONTLINE investigates the partisanship of the Obama era, and the polarized America that Donald Trump inherits as president.

Ahead of Donald Trump’s inauguration, “Divided States of America” looks back at events during President Barack Obama’s years in office that revealed deep divisions in our country. The documentary offers an in-depth view of the partisan gridlock in Washington, the rise of populist anger on both sides of the aisle, and the racial tensions that erupted throughout the country.

What a stunning overview of the last eight years of partisan politics. In particular I had forgotten about a lot of the rancor and racism stemming from the far right when Obama took office. This two part documentary does a terrific job of reminding us where we’ve all been and puts a lot of our current situation into perspective. The first part here was particularly brutal in its coverage. It seems almost too balanced to the point that the subtext of the documentary is that politicians need to find a better way to get along to do more good for their constituents.

📺 Divided States of America, Part 1 | Frontline was originally published on Chris Aldrich | Boffo Socko