Race and ethnicity are uncomfortable subjects, even for the punk community. It’s often assumed that racism is dead, or that discussing race is like unearthing bones better left buried. Thecato says fuck that noise. He provides context, reassurance, and matter-of-fact solutions to the problems that plague the black community, but his arguments can be applied to all people of color.
The book is divided into topical chapters: “Ignorance,” “Fun,” “Self-Hate,” and several others. In “Black Friends,” Thecato states: “In order not to bring too much attention and danger to ourselves individually, a lot of us put things that are uncharacteristically black on reserve.” As a subjugated minority, we are often forced to question our preferences as either being authentic taste or, rather, implanted by “white” society through societal pressure. Thecato provides an example from when he was in high school. A black classmate would hide his Dropkick Murphy and Slayer CDs for fear of not being accepted by his peers. Instead, if asked, he would publicly state that he listened to Nas or Ghostface Killah. This duality—a public and private persona—plague all people of color. We are often confronted with the dilemma of ostracizing ourselves with our ethnic peers versus acceptance of our personal predilections. I fundamentally believe that this is where punk should fit in.
Ideally, punk should provide a home for misfits, goofballs, weirdos, outsiders, and anyone unable to fit into the cookie-cutter mold of the majority. Yet, as Thecato points out, the punk community isn’t immune to ignorance, it is still full of racial assumptions and slurs. In the end, we are judged by the most grievous mistakes by those in our community (punks in blackface, unconscious biases, the blatant co-opting of another culture).Yet, the fact that this book and Razorcake should exist is a testament to the continuing dialogue involved in punk education. Ultimately, Thecato seeks to detect bullshit and create a supportive dialogue for people of color.
The only ding against this book is that some paragraphs require multiple readings and re-readings because of choppy language and poor grammar. Although Thecato’s voice is engaging and friendly, cleaning up each chapter would have made each argument more succinct. Regardless, these types of books need to exist for the benefit of everyone involved in our community and for those in need of the honesty found inside. –Sean Arenas (Slash ‘Em Up Press, [email protected])