The New Underclass

by Fitzroy on December 1, 2012

Tattoos have always been, and still are, reserved for the underclass.

Yes, tattoos are common now, and the underclass is growing accordingly. Looking at cause and effect, I think the underclass used to seek out tattoos. Now tattoos are your one-way, non-refundable ticket to underclass status. But the two always go hand in hand.

Is that racist? Maybe you didn’t spot the references to ethnicity in the prior paragraph, but lots of people are sure they’re there.

Take sports writer David Whitley, who suggested that Colin Kaepernick signaled a change in NFL culture:

For dinosaurs like me, NFL quarterbacks were our little Dutch boys. The original hero stuck his finger in the dyke to save Holland. Pro QBs were the last line of defense against the raging sea of ink. When our kids said they wanted a tattoo, we could always point to the Manning brothers.

Read the comments to his post.  The response is mostly incoherence and name-calling.  The charge of racism is so gratuitous and widespread now, no evidence is required. It’s simply shorthand for “shut up.” A code word, if you will.

To his credit, Whitley’s editor responded that it was not racism at all. Then he went all squishy saying it’s just generational. Then he went over the edge: “[I]t was about a new generation doing things in a fresh and different manner.”

 fresh \’fresh\ adj : having its original qualities unimpaired

That term seems rather misplaced; Kaepernick’s original qualities didn’t include tattoos. But “fresh” in the urban dictionary means something else:

Fresh is derived as in the sense of seeing something brand new and is attracting people like cars in commercials. but is used to refer to anything highly approved by someone.

For example, the urban dictionary has a fresh grammatical style.

The tattoo craze may be generational, but only because the tattooed generation is our new addition to the underclass.  We can argue the cause and effect of that another time.

Whitley is right about the cultural message of tattoos.  And although I would like to disagree with his statement that “NFL quarterback is the ultimate position of influence and responsibility,” he may be sadly right about that as well.  That’s not a slam of quarterbacks.  But a culture that has quarterback as its ultimate paradigm is going to spawn a generation with some dysfunctions.  An honorable role model?  Sure.  The ultimate position of influence and responsibility?  No thanks.

Still, a line has been crossed with Kaepernick.  Quarterbacks have as much right to join the underclass as anyone else.  His parents are shocked that anyone would criticize that decision.  The public tells tattoo critics to shut up.  The days of Tom Landry are over.  Underclass is the new normal.


{ 1 comment }

Rob Charles December 11, 2012 at 4-6:36 pm

Tattoos can represent the lower class, but I believe it is about content. Would you say an independent business owner who is well respected in his or her community, but also has a tattoo representing the death of his brother deserves to be underclass? I don’t think it is fair to make generalities about people who have tattoos are underclass. To an extent it is a similar argument about people who have a different skin tone being unequal. You are judging based on appearance. I judge people by the content of their character like I judge a tattoo by its content. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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