Das Racist: “Emblems,” “Emissaries,” “The Friends I Never Made”

This isn’t about Das Racist’s Thursday night performance at Toad’s Place, which I hear was cray-cray, or at least geographically pertinent enough to warrant a YouTube embed below. (Did anyone make it out there? How was it?) Nor is it another piece on Relax, the group’s latest LP. There are enough of those. We’ve already published one—and if you care about the bizarre visual tapestry that is the “Michael Jackson” video, chances are you’ve seen it.

Nor is it an account of hanging out with Victor Vazquez ’06 or Himanshu Suri ’07, or even meeting them and maybe exchanging numbers. The author of the piece, Annalisa Grier ’08, certainly overlapped with the duo at Wesleyan. But hers is a story of not hanging out with Das Racist. Of not even knowing how to pronounce Das Racist (“because you have never, not once, heard the words spoken in conversation with your friends”). Of living on the same campus and in a different universe than Das Racist—of friendlessness, and jealousy “lodged in [her] skin like ringworm.”

Grier’s piece is not an essay about Das Racist. It’s an essay describing one alumnus’s intensely personal reaction to Das Racist—or to the idea of Das Racist, or the sheer could-have-been fantasies provoked by the simple words Das Racist—as interviews and features and photo spreads about the group flood today’s media:

The articles never fail to note that the members of Das Racist met at college; when I read this, I always envision them late at night in someone’s dorm room as the sun sneaks up on them. (My vision of this scene is vaguely homoerotic.) I imagine with a jealous pleasure that Das Racist had precisely the experience that would be summed up in the words “they met at college”: to my mind that phrase shorthands college as my peers (well-educated, ambitious, perpetually underemployed) knew it, or as they have recounted it: the red Solo cups, the eyeliner, the sweatshirts.

The college fantasy embedded in four simple words—”they met at college”—gives way to bitterness and lonely dread. “My aloneness was mixed up in my jealousy,” Grier wrotes, “my jealousy in my aloneness, until I could no longer have told you which came first, much less how to extricate them.” Das Racist signifies an alternate route: “something I thought I would be once, and never was; something I might have had a chance of getting, at some intersection, some fork I didn’t take.”

The author is a member of the class of 2008, and somewhere along the way, during her (and Das Racist’s) Wesleyan career, Wesleying was founded. It quickly “turned into a phenomenon,” Grier writes, five years later, recalling the time one of her roommates mentioned starting a new blog and asked if she wanted to get involved:

In my senior year of college, a girl I knew . . . asked me if I wanted to write for this blog she was starting, about campus life at our university. I didn’t. The blog turned into a phenomenon. It’s still being published now, years after our graduation. It recently ran an interview with my roommate and a friend of hers, the founders. In the interview they mentioned the alumni listserv: “It’s so busy,” one said, that she actually had to unsubscribe. “The alumni are really connected,” said the other; “the alumni are all still friends now.” I read this with a monocle in one eye: studying it from a distance, turning it over, again and again.

And so, too, the piece becomes a gnawing reminder that not everyone’s college experience is the same, that some land on the cover of the New York Times Arts page, others alone in dorm rooms on weekend nights—eventually happily adjusting to grad school life, with an “MA in Pubs of Northern England” (say what?). You can read Grier’s full piece here, via The Awl, and you can read the referenced Wesleying founding interview here, and you can read about Das Racist in a lot of places but not quite here.

[The Awl]

[via anonymous tipbox submission]


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  1. Pingback: CONAN O’BRIEN / A MILLION DOLLAS / YOU FEEL ME? / HOLLA – Wesleying

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