Posts Tagged ‘African American’

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This series seeks to help create a body of resistance literature that will chronicle the collective radicalization of a Black Masculinity movement that seeks to decolonize our minds and invent identities, in resistance, that transcend stereotypes. We will speak up and force the world to deal with us. Let the Black Masculinity movement begin.

The Story

In Black Masculinity studies there is a term called cool pose. This term was used by Richard Majors and Janet Mancini Billson in a book called “Cool Pose.” Cool pose is a coping mechanism created by Black Men in order to deal with the oppression of white-supremacy. Majors and Billson define cool pose as “the presentation of self many black males use to establish their male identity.”

The Threat to Survival

As a performance, cool pose is designed to render the black male visible and to empower him

– Majors & Billson, “Cool Pose”

It is the context of making an offense of cool pose that creates a persona and performance that the Black man plays out before the world. In studies concerning cool pose it is often referred to as a “mask” that Black men use. I disagree with that term as I think it implies a willful deception, which cool pose is not. Cool pose is a logical and natural response to environmental conditions. In most cases, I would argue, that cool pose takes place mostly on an instinctive level which has its own frame of consciousness. sharpton9n-4-web

One of the biggest issues with cool pose is that it is constantly being used to diagnose the problems of Black men: drug selling, violence against each other, lack of educational success, etc. In doing so, much of the scholarship is intellectually dishonest. It suggests first the answer and then describes the problem. If cool pose is to be used to study and understand the minds and behavior of Black men, it will have to be honest enough to begin with what is observed and what is known to be fact and from that premise explore the answers to the whys. When approaching cool pose as a phenomenon of Black male behavior, it is easy to see and understand how cool pose is a benign phenomenon and not a malicious attack.

Any creature that is continuously placed in a hostile environment learns to become keenly aware of itself, its environment, and the continuous dynamic occurring between the two. This is because of the survival instinct that all animals have as a biological imperative to survive. A psychological dilemma occurs when, as human brings, who presume ourselves to be the highest evolved creatures on this planet, are reigned to a savage and barbaric level of living that conflicts with our humanity. To be brought to this level of survival is to reduce a person to their base selves. For Black people this psychological dilemma creates other dilemmas and issues. Cool pose is one of those. Cool pose is a psychological coping mechanism meant to protect the mind from the damage of living years under the weight of double consciousness. Cool pose has been called a mask. I submit to you that it is not a mask, it’s a sword and shield.

Cool pose furnishes the black male with a sense of control, inner strength, balance, stability, confidence, and security.

-Majors & Billson, “Cool Pose’

The Sword

Cool Pose as a weapon had serves to repel potential threats. Cool pose as a weapon is the mean mug that Black men wear on their faces: a look that forces people to give them their space and think twice about crossing them. Cool pose as a weapon is the BBoy stance that tells the world that Black men will not moved by the world around them. Cool pose as a weapon is the Black man’s first line of defense. It helps to make sure that “if you don’t start none, there won’t be none.”malcolmx

A man is to carry himself in the face of all opposition as if everything were titular and ephemeral but he.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

Cool pose as a weapon gives Black men the power to control themselves and, therefore, have some measure of control in their environment. The dynamic between a person and their environment is a detailed dance that depends upon the tone and cadence of the song that’s played. If a man is to survive a dangerous and oppressive environment, then he must learn to be dangerous and confrontational. The sword of cool pose offers this. Without being physical it allows the Black man to violently oppose his environment and station in life. He is able to redefine what it means to be cool to allow himself the potential of being cool. He is empowered to redefine success so that it more accurately reflects the world in which he lives. I would argue that it is this inner reinforcement and outward aggression that makes cool pose appealing to everyone – to be desired by women and emulated by non-Black men. Power is attractive and cool pose gives Black man a power that radiates from within and makes them seem larger than life.

The Problem

The problem with cool pose as a weapon is that the Black man must be able to accurately determine who and what are threats and who and what are not threats. This is difficult to do if the majority of an individual’s environment – sometimes down to their own mother and father – has been a threat. How then do make this individual believe that there is anyone or anything in this world that might mean him no harm? This individual has been growing through the earliest stages of their psychological development without one of the basic needs of all human beings: a sense of safety. Or even for those that may have had nurturing parents, there usually comes a time when those parents are helpless to protect their sons. Think of the many Black boys we have lost this year to some hateful act of violence. Those mothers could not protect their sons and, while that is not a casting of blame upon the mother, it is evidence that there is a lack of safety for Black men in America. As Black men grow up and begin to have theses experiences (such as being profiled, stop-and-frisk, wrongfully accused) it spells one thing to the Black man: no one can be trusted to save me but myself.jay-z-stylish-and-cool-look-still.

That mentality is what causes the issues with cool pose because if no one can be trusted, then the Black man can let his guard down with no one. In the research on cool pose I saw it written that because cool pose requires a reserve (not repression) for emotional demonstrations, Black men have trouble forming strong bonds. Well, that’s debatable. Certainly being guarded does not lend itself to the development of an intimate relationship; however, I wouldn’t say that Black men are incapable of developing strong bonds. I would say that it is a challenge for them to do so.

The Point

Cool pose is sword and shield for Black men. It has both negative and positive implications and consequences. What cannot be said is that it is a problem or something that Black men should not access for survival. I am always flabbergasted when individuals seek to decide what a person should or shouldn’t do and how far a person should or shouldn’t go when they are faced with imminent danger and an inevitable threat to their lives. Who can dare to judge the inexpressible price one pays for their life without considering what that life has called upon them to do? It is an affront to the humanity of the individual.

For Black men, cool pose has been a survival tactic and, despite this being the 21st century, the Black man is still not safe. So, why then, we would suggest he not use every weapon in his arsenal to ensure his own survival. If we are looking for a change to be made, make it with the society that has created the circumstances that have made it necessary for the Black man to life by any means necessary and survive at all costs.

 

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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A series, inspired by the CNN special, dedicated to race related identity issues concerning Black people in America.
The Story

For too long Black people have moved throughout the American public space with no real identity except that which is projected onto us. When our public figures, intellectuals, politicians, and celebrities speak out in regards to the general view of Black people, they do so either in resistance to or as an embodiment of an image that has been created (most often not by us).

Collective Identities and Stereotypes

Let me stop for a moment to debunk the idea that all stereotypes are bad; they are not. They are just stereotypes: a collection of ideas and known facts about a particular group. In many cultural groups there is a collective identity that the group finds acceptable as a sort of standard of describing, viewing, or relating to their group. This identity is in fact a stereotype; however, it is one that the group can live with. For instance their is a stereotype about New York Italians; they have strong accents, a history of mafia and mob culture, and they tend to be very outspoken. There is a stereotype about Jewish people: they are money conscious, business savvy, and they tend to favor entrepreneurship. There is a stereotype about Muslims: they are disciplined, socially conscious, and they have stringent expectation of women. None of these qualities describes every person that may fit into that group. Nor does any of these qualities denigrate the individuals within that group. They are generalities that one might use as a foundation for interacting with or getting to know individuals who identify with these groups. At any time one could meet someone who identifies with one of these groups for whom none of these presumed qualities is true. That’s okay. The problem is when the qualities assigned to a group are used to depict them in a generally harmful way.

For Black people there is an excessive amount of qualities associated with our group that are socially unacceptable or unfavorable. This is because many of these qualities are chosen by individuals not within the group or are individual qualities that do not at all describe the majority.

Andrew J. Young;Julian Bond

The Problem

Black people usually describe the Black identity in the negative. They describe what we are not or how the image that currently exists is inaccurate. There’s nothing wrong with that; however, the problem is that these individuals rarely offer a suggestion to fill the empty slot of that which they decry.

One cannot define ones self in the negative. If we were asked the question: what color is the sky? And we proceeding to list all the colors it is not. We would get to the end of the list and find that we still had not answered the question of what color it is. This only leaves the questioner in confusion and forces them to make assumptions. They would have to decide what color was not named and assume that color is what color we are saying the sky is. God help us if we forget a color that it is not because then the questioner may inadvertently choose that color (because we didn’t name it) and assume that we meant that the sky is that color. So they go forward saying that we said the sky is that color. This is most often what has happened when Black people have attempted to describe the collective Black identity.

The Point

It is a dangerous thing to merge to identities with someone who has no identity. As America staggers to move forward and create a unified American identity that will no doubt be multicultural, Black people are at risk. We risk having negative presumptions projected upon us. We risk losing ourselves and the feeling of ownership for who we are. We risk losing the ability to control that which we want most: freedom and equality. In order to combat that we have to prepare for this merging by creating ourselves for ourselves. So that whatever merging occurs in multiculturalism, it will have some reflection of the Black identity.

In a previous post I began to think upon what it means to be Black (in a very poetic and abstract manner). I endeavored to think of what Blackness is instead of what it is not. I would like us to think very tangibly about the definition of what Black people are like. I believe that we should think on these things that are specific to our identity and let that be the guiding language we use to define ourselves. We need a collective imagining for what it means to be a Black person. We have no time to waste. It is an urgent need. If we do not accomplish this task, the future will engulf us and we will be forever lost.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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The Story

I recently had a conversation with a friend who had recently attended a conference that discussed racism in America. As a White person, he expressed how certain exercises that had been performed over the weekend had forced him to come to grips with his privilege in a way he had been unable to before.

He stated that the group was told that they were not going to discuss any other issue besides race. They proceeded with a discussion that made very harsh sexist comments, homophobic comments etc. My friend said that having to squelch his instinct to speak against those comments and not being able to leave the conversation made him realize that a big part of his privilege as a White person is the ability to decide what issues he chose to deal with. For people of color this is a daily reality as we are not able to change the color of our skin and, though some try, at some point we find ourselves forced to deal with the issue of our race and the ways that people view because of our race. The conversation we gave me some insight on what is like for a White person to accept and deal with the issue of White privilege. In turn, I also began to think about the privileges that I have in comparison to others (women, education, literacy, etc.).

Privilege

The reality of privilege is that it is built on objectification. In order for one to be privileged, there must be someone who is under-privileged or un-privileged. One cannot exist without the other. This paradox is what makes the privileged unwilling to confront the truth. If they suppose that the benefits and power that they have comes from a socially accepted delusion, then that means that they have actually not earned their place and that place may be taken from them.

Privilege is about separating ones self from another person in order to obtain or maintain some benefit. When privilege is unacknowledged it is like a child with no discipline: self-centered and reckless. Because privilege needs to objectify something or someone else in order to validate itself, it is, then, only natural that it will do so violently and maliciously if need be. It creates an air of superiority. That superiority when given enough power becomes supremacy because power is addictive and not easy to let go once one has tasted it. This is not always a conscious act. In fact, privilege is at its most insidious when it is not conscious. And when a person becomes aware of their privilege, the call to challenge that privilege can cause deep psychic pain for the individual. This is why many (even those who recognize their privilege) often make no efforts to change or address the effects of privilege.

In America we are saturated with notions of privilege. In the clip above Tim Wise, author of a number of books on anti-racism and white privilege, makes points in his talk about how privilege is embedded in American society (primarily because the controlling forces are privileged rich, White men). The two most important points that he makes about privilege is true of all privilege and that is that is based in ignorance and naturally inclined to oppress. When the presumption is that privilege is actually a natural entitlement or a hard earned benefit, then the logical presumption is that everyone without privilege is naturally inclined towards inferiority.

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The Problem

We live in a society that preaches ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’ The truth is that it is a natural function of the human, when trying to understand the world around it and the people in the world around it, to make assumptions, to make connections, and to draw conclusions. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s a natural thing. The bad thing is when, even with all evidence to the contrary, we refuse to let go of the conclusions we’ve made (or to at the very least rethink them). This is where prejudice comes into play. When we hold on to what we know to be untrue because we are afraid to redefine our thoughts.

There is a tendency in our society to define ourselves according to the most superficial terms. We define ourselves by the work we do, the things we believe, the neighborhoods we live in, the education we have, the people we associate with, and so on. These things may help to shape who we are but they cannot truly define us. In the worst of cases, people define themselves by their station in this country: the wealth or lack of that they possess.

Those that define themselves by their lack become perpetual victims whose cries are so incessant that the world begins to tune them out. It is then that they become overly defensive, dangerously pretentious, and extremely distrustful. Their entire existence is fixated on what they lack or are denied. They lead their lives and interactions according to the either their belief that they do or will have that which they lack or by their hatred of those who have what they possess.

For those who define themselves according to their privilege, they become entitled, controlling, and tyrannical. The world and everything in it becomes things to serve at their pleasure. They have little vision outside the realm of their influence and are ignorant to the existence of the under-privileged. At worst the convince themselves that they have no privilege but have earned their place. This delusion breeds the ideology off of which America thrives: everyone successful has done so by their own merit and those that are not successful are unsuccessful by their own fault.

In both scenarios of identity creation there is a common flaw: fear. It takes courage to shake loose all the notions one has about ones self and the world in which one lives and redefine that according to an uncomfortable truth. However, difficult this is what must be done to strike the power from privilege.

Common Ground

All privileged people have one thing in common: the comfort of the familiar. Privilege is like a well made home that if you live in safely and have no desire to move. The idea of being told you have to, should, or must move, then, is perceived as an attack on one’s safety. There isn’t a creature on this planet that wouldn’t fight for its safety. So it is only logical that there will be resistance.

Conversely, all minorities or oppressed groups have something in common as well: the knowledge of what it feels like to have someone define who you are for you (without ever truly knowing you). That feeling is like a weight on the soul. It’s Atlas’ boulder that he is forced to hold up. For the oppressed the strain of that burden will eventually take its toll. You’re either going to be crushed beneath the weight or find a way to shrug it off.

We all on some level have experience both of these feelings. White people have privilege over other races, men of any color have privilege over women of any color, the wealthy of any race or gender has privilege over the poor of any race or gender, the working poor have privilege over the truly impoverished, people with homes have privilege over the homeless, the healthy have privilege over the sick, and it goes on and on. What we have to remind ourselves is that not every scenario is the same. In some dynamics being under-privileged can be dangerous and for others it’s only uncomfortable. But if we connect with that feeling that we all have felt, then we will have taken the power away from privilege because instead of having distanced ourselves from our fellow man, we have instead been drawn closer to them. We will have found our common ground. And it is on that ground that privilege will be conquered.

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The Point

All too often we are so emotionally attached to our own moments of being wronged. We harbor the pain and the anger so closely that it becomes part of our identity. We have forgotten that somewhere, at some time, someone else has been wronged too (for different reasons). We are afraid to let our defenses down and let go of the false identity we have created based on our lack or privilege.

In order to confront and disarm privilege, we must be willing to have our entire world torn asunder. We have to be prepared to not know the world or ourselves the way they have learned to. This is both dangerous and terrifying. We spend much of our lives finding and defining ourselves. For someone who has defined themselves according to their privilege, the relinquishing of that means returning to a blank canvas to be re-painted. It makes a person vulnerable and insecure and rightly so. However, if it revolution we seek, then that is exactly the place we must go mentally and emotionally. I can think of no single act more revolutionary than for a person to rebel against everything the world has told them and to reinvent themselves according their own will. To redefine ones self beyond the boundaries of popular opinion and acceptable social norms is the most revolutionary thing ANY one person can do.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

20131028-113540.jpgIn a previous post I began discussing the “culture of dependency,” a term used by a CNN writer to discredit social programs and infer that people on these programs are addicted to poverty. This series explores the ignorance of that thought and exposes the truth about America’s culture of dependency: that it is not created because people access (or abuse) these programs, but by the fact that they most have no choice but to utilize these programs at some point in their lives.

In the post, Coding Poverty I discussed the ways in which we code the language that we use to describe poverty. By coding the language we diminish the significance and pervert the truth about poverty in America. We fashion poverty to be a consequence of poor people’s actions and their lack of ambition when, in fact, the economic principles of this country and the prevailing ideals of individualism are the problem and poverty is its consequence.

The Story

I recently had a conversation with a White friend of mine concerning a twenty year old Black boy that lives in his neighborhood. My friend took pity on this kid and allowing the kid to come over and perform odd jobs for extra cash. The connection developed to the point that when the boy began to have trouble at home with his mother he would seek my friend’s house for refuge before disappearing into the streets for weeks at a time.

I had the opportunity to meet the boy once. After the boy left my friend and I began to discuss our thoughts about the boy. My friend felt the boy was a “good kid” but that maybe he had some cognitive difficulties because, to him, the boy didn’t seem to get “it.” The boy had no aspirations for college and a career and the boy didn’t seem to desire to want to make anything of himself. My friend felt that a lot of the boy’s problem was his mother and the lack of a father figure in his household. What my friend could not see through the veil of his privilege was that this boy was living a completely different reality from him. One in which survival is the only aspiration and it taxes your every resource to the point that you don’t have the time or energy to dream of dormitories and campuses and what to be when you grow up.

The hardest thing I have ever done in my life was being poor. It’s exhausting. You put your head down press forward and one day you look up and years have passed you by. You don’t have the luxury of vacations, luxurious holidays, shopping sprees, eating out and partying. Life is about survival and that which does not help you survive each day, doesn’t get your attention.

The Psychology of Poverty

We might shrug at the idea that poverty has an effect on mental health because it seems like common sense. Surely the impoverished are under stress and can’t afford to eat well or get healthcare, but the problem is deeper than that. Sendhil Mullainathan at The Institute for Research on Poverty focused particularly on the effect of poverty on attention and self-control. Mullainathan discovered that cognitive resources such as attention and self-control are limited. These resources are drained by the amount of time that we spend using them. Because the lack of resources means less margin for error, these individuals have to spend more time and more energy on less significant choices as other people. For someone living under the poverty line the decision to buy a combo for seven or eight dollars at Burger King might make the difference in whether or not they have bus fare or gas money to get to work at the end of the week. Therefore, they exert more cognitive resources to make this decision and similar decisions. So we begin to deal with things such as whether or not to go to college and/or planning a career path, they may run out of cognitive resources and pay less attention or cannot cognitively process the details of such a decision. And because this decision has no significant influence over their immediate situation, it becomes an irrelevant thought for which they cannot spare the mental resources to think about. This is the reality of poverty. It is not an issue of intelligence, lack of ambition, laziness, or mental incapacity; it’s a matter of survival and the best use of resources.

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The Problem

The problem is that we disregard the truth about poverty. It is more comfortable to believe that people who are severely impoverished are some self-destructive anomaly because in order to relate to these individuals and empathize with them, we would have to admit that we could be them. There are many people in this country who are a paycheck away from living in poverty. There are many people in this country who are not homeless and have jobs that are living below the poverty line. Poverty does not look the way society would like us to believe. The media shows us little kids in so e third world country with protruding bellies and glossy eyes and we think that’s what poverty looks like. Or we see people walking up the street at stop lights with cardboard signs asking for money and we think that’s what poverty looks like. We see bundled heaps of people tucked into corners of the street and we think that’s what poverty looks like. No doubt, those people are impoverished, but the majority of impoverished people do not look much different from us. Poverty is sitting beside you on the bus, it’s sitting across from you in the staff meeting, it’s standing in front of you in the grocery store line.

We have to have the courage to accept the truth. We have to be willing to look poverty in the face and see what it looks like. Until then we are lying to ourselves about the security of our own station and denying an epidemic the attention required to remedy it.

The Point

No matter where we were born in terms of socioeconomic status or what social class we currently live in, we have to understand that our perception is our reality, but not everyone has the privilege of sharing the wealth or abundance that our perspective affords us. Their reality is built on their perspective on life and we have to respect that reality even if it is foreign to us.

Poverty is an epidemic that is plaguing our country. It affects more people than we could possibly know. That woman beside you on the subway may be dressed stylishly, the man at the desk beside you at work may wear a nice suit and tie, that person you pass on the street might be begging for money, that guy on the corner might be selling drugs. But how are we to know their reality? How are we to know what life is demanding of them? We can’t. But we must consider that there are elements of their lives over which they had no control that have brought them to that place just as there are elements of our lives over which we had no control that have afforded us the opportunity to be where we are in our lives.

Who dares judge the inexpressible expense another pays for his life?
– James Baldwin

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

20131028-113540.jpgIn a previous post I began discussing the “culture of dependency,” a term used by a CNN writer to discredit social programs and infer that people on these programs are addicted to poverty. This series explores the ignorance of that thought and exposes the truth about America’s culture of dependency: that it is not created because people access (or abuse) these programs, but by the fact that they most have no choice but to utilize these programs at some point in their lives.

Coded Language

We live in a society that prefers soundbites and third-hand information because we are too busy or too apathetic to closely investigate information. Often we settle for coin phrases and popular terms to describe things that are so complex that one word or a phrase cannot hardly express the depth and detail of the thing that it is supposed to be describing.

When the terms and phrases chosen for these things is propagandized to give a connotation that deliberately biases the description, well then, you have coded language. Coded language is prevalent in American society. The controlling forces have become adept at coding and using those codes to brainwash the public with a version of certain stories that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Coding Poverty

In America when we speak of poverty we hear terms such as poor and lower class. These words by themselves mean relatively little but once they are coded they take on the connotations such as unwanted, unusable, unable, less than, bad, and/or unworthy. These coded terms then become concepts unto themselves that when used inspire ideas and notions. For instance often when hear about people being poor and lower class we think of them through the connotations attached and we develop ideas such as the thought that those people to whom these terms may refer are in such a place because they are stupid, undeserving, uncivilized, and/or lazy.

Then we can go a little further and see how these terms are applied to specific groups of people new terms emerge that still hold the connotations as the former words but adds an element that allows one to know that it is being applied specifically. For example, when the concept of poor and lower class is applied to Black and Latino people we get terms like project, ghetto, hood, ratchet, and common. When they are applied to White people we get terms like redneck and hillbilly.

The fact that words become coded with connotations and then evolve into fullfledged concepts that fuel ideas and thoughts is neither a good or bad thing. In truth, that is how the human brain processes information and learns and remembers things: through associations and connections that can be made. However, coding is the perversion of this process. It takes what is natural and twists it unnaturally. That is the definition of social propaganda.

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Social Propaganda

Social propaganda is the way that public opinion is shaped and controlled. It is the way that people in society are shaped and controlled without shackles, chains, whips, and plantations.

A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push it.

– Ludwig Wittgenstein

By creating a concept of poverty as so undesirable that even impoverished people do not want to acknowledge it, any possible opposition is neutralized. In the Black community it is prevalent that no one wants to be labeled as poor or lower class. Most don’t want to be labeled as ghetto, project, or ratchet (however these terms have been given different connotations which lead them to sometimes be glorified). Combine the social unpopularity of these concepts with the promise that “anyone can make it out,” and you have generations of Black people living in poverty refusing to acknowledge it because they have more than the people that live next door; because they can buy the latest fashions and appear wealthy; because they can go on trips and eat out at expensive restaurants. They may very well be able to do those things, but at what detriment. And why is that when they do those things, the results are rarely the same as they are for the people who are actually wealthy enough to afford to do them?

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The Problem

The problem is that we are so hell-bent on not being uncomfortable. We are so determined to be happy and optimistic. We refuse to get depressed and/or angry. Our denial of these less than fun feelings are what lead us to deny our consciousness reality and cling to the lies.

Black America isn’t stupid nor are we unaware. What we are is afraid. We are afraid that we cannot change this country. We are afraid that we cannot change this society. We are afraid that we cannot change our lives or our station in life. We do not want to accept reality and experience the not fun feelings only to find out that we can do nothing about them. The truth is: there’s no possible chance to do anything about it until we accept and confront it.

The Point

When we, in the Black community, stop trying to reposition ourselves in a White Supremacist society and escape the uncomfortable reality of the world we live in, then we will get so angry and so passionate about change that we will actually begin to change things. As long as we keep hyping ourselves up on this notion that we can have everything anyone else can have if we work hard enough, or get enough education, or go to the right schools, or live in the right neighborhood, or shop at the right stores and realize that when you try to work hard, you are disproportionately compensated ; when you apply for education, you cannot afford it without going into severe debt; when you choose the right school, you don’t have the pedigree for acceptance; when you move to the right neighborhood, you’re alienated and ostracized because you don’t fit in; when you shop at the right stores, you are monitored for fear of theft and/or regarded as not being able to afford anything.

The fantasy America has sold us is too far a cry away from the reality that we live to continue to be blind. They can code it and propagandize it but they cannot make it be true. Our challenge is to allow ourselves to accept the reality but maintain our determination to change it.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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As Hip Hop lovers struggle to maintain control over the culture, a battle between Hip Hop Purists and those who are willing to see Hip Hop take on qualities of other genres persists. But whose right?

The Story

What inspired this thought was the year long beef that occurred between Nicki Minaj and DJ Peter Rosenberg of Hot 97. It all began at Summer Jam 2012 when Rosenberg made comments about Nicki’s then single, Starships.

After the comment was made and the word got back to Nicki, she refused to go onstage and abruptly left Summer Jam. For the next year Nicki fans attacked Rosenberg for his comments and both Nicki and Rosenberg, when questioned about the incident, gave harsh critiques of one another.

After about a year, Nicki went on air with Rosenberg and discussed the beef and ultimately put it to rest.

After watching the end of that clip (9:00 – 12:49) something stood out to me. When Ebro questions Nicki about the beef and her making pop rap songs like Starships she comments that,

“Everybody knows my story. I didn’t have anything, I grew up here, I really grew up here [NYC]. This was all I knew. So I tell my story – but, but I still grew up loving Cyndi Lauper an Madonna.”

And Ebro responds,

I think it’s our fault in Hip Hop– and I’m the worst one — where we put these boundaries on Hip Hop: what can  be, what it should be, what it could be. And I think I do it — and I cant speak for everyone — I do it from a place of, I know what this music means to the young person who doesn’t have a voice. This was the music of the young person that didn’t have a voice. So all of a sudden when it becomes commoditized and mainstream and all these things that don’t reflect those humble beginnings…I start to be like ‘oh my God, we’re losing it, we’re losing it…”

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Hip Hop Purism

Hip Hop purism is all about standards. It is the an undying loyalty to the original elements of the culture and to the traditional styles of rap music. Hip Hop purism maintains the subculture mentality: glorifying the underground and despising the mainstream. Hip Hop purists, critique, criticize, analyze, and critically think and evaluate the culture and the work it produces.

The beautiful thing about Hip Hop Purism is the fact, like Ebro stated, more often than not it comes from a love of Hip Hop, a respect for the culture and what it has come to mean to so many people, and the influence that it has had on the world. That is admirable — no, it’s necessary. Hip Hop requires and deserves the kind of reverence that is given to it by Hip Hop purists. If we are going to maintain ownership of the culture we have to be the appropriators and cultivators of it.  The other thing about Hip Hop purism that is necessary for Hip Hop is the critical analysis of the culture. All culture needs critique and criticism. In order to critique, one must research, study, evaluate, and then form an opinion. This is what keeps a culture alive and breathing and aware of it’s own evolution and what that evolution means to the culture.

On the flip side, Hip Hop purism has it’s pitfalls or potential drawbacks. One of those pitfalls being the tendency to become so stringent and limiting that the culture is not allowed to grow and evolve. I think Hip Hop purists have good intentions…but you know what they say about good intentions (the road to Hell is paved with them). There has to be some flexibility. While maintaining a standard is great, that standard must evolve as the culture evolves or it will become a stale nostalgia that grinds everybody’s everybody’s nerves and doesn’t benefit the culture.

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The Problem

I think the major problem is that Hip Hop Purists tend to condescend anyone who disagrees with them. I understand why the tendency is there. It’s because all too often the Purists are the only ones who take the time to know the culture’s history, it’s back story, and respect those who have created legacies. Therefore, they come to the conversation more equipped to discuss the culture on an intellectual level. Whereas the average Hip Hop listener (not the Hip Hop Head) tends to only engage the culture and music on a superficial level; therefore, they don’t always have the knowledge or passion to take what happens in the community seriously.

The other problem is that many Hip Hop Purists tend to forget that another essential component of Hip Hop music is innovation. Hip Hop has always been inspired by it’s environment. For many rappers that means the music of their parents or other genres that they have been exposed to. Hence, where sampling comes from. The samples used by Hip Hop producers are usually old school Soul, Blues, and R&B music,which by itself isn’t Hip Hop; however, once chopped, screwed, or looped, it becomes pure Hip Hop. So why then wouldn’t we expect the younger generation of Hip Hoppers to incorporate their influences into their musical creations (even if that influence is Pop music)?

The Point

While I think Hip Hop Purists play an essential part in the preservation of Hip Hop culture, they have to be careful not to try to take it upon themselves to dictate the direction and evolution of the culture. The history of Hip Hop has shown us that no matter how many hybrid moments, or how the evolution occurs, Hip Hop always returns to itself. That is what is happening right now in Hip Hop. We h ave spent the last few years going through Rock-Rap and Pop-Rap and all its various incorprations, but Hip Hop is again returning to itself. So I have no fear of us forgetting who we are and to some degree we have the Purists to thank for that.

I’m not sayin: I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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I went into a store the other day and saw a sign that said that the business would be closed in observation of Columbus day. As I left the store a gnawing feeling persisted in my stomach. I didn’t realize any businesses still recognized Columbus day and I was unsettled about the idea that some still did.

The Story

When I was in school we learned about American history. They often started with Columbus’ exploration of the “New World.” I remember they made us learn a rhyme that helped us remember the facts about Christopher Columbus. “In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue…” When my father heard me recite the rhyme I remember him sitting me down and telling me what made no sense to me at the time. My father said that not everything they would teach me in school was correct. As a child I remember thinking that was crazy. Why would a teacher, under the support of the entire school system, teach us something false? My father told me that there were other people who had traveled to North America before Columbus and that even those people found people already living there. My father said “You can’t discover something that wasn’t lost.”

Despite the fact that I couldn’t conceive of everything my father said, a seed had been planted in me. He had challenged me to ask my teacher about Amerigo Vespucci and Leif Ericson. He told me to ask about how Columbus discovered a place with people already living there and what Columbus did to those people he met in North America. So, I went to school and asked my teacher those questions. She answered vaguely about Vespucci and Erikson but my challenge about the Native Americans made her silent. She basically brushed my inquiries off because she need to “move on with the lesson.” I think that was the day I began to be a truth seeker. I didn’t like knowing that I was being intentionally misinformed. I realized that information gives power to those who wield it and those who never question or seek answers for themselves are manipulated.

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The Birth of American Colonization and Imperialism

Why would we possibly want to celebrate Columbus day in this day and age, with all information we have regarding the truth about Christopher Columbus? I can only think that because America is very good at ignoring and/or disregarding the truth in favor of tradition and nostalgia. We treat the truth as if it is some annoying insect with which we have decided that we can’t kill but won’t be bother by. It’s an ignorant and sad fact. There are businesses and organizations that won’t even celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday; however, we can still commemorate Columbus because it represents a historical moment in American history.

Columbus day can and should be remembered. It should be remembered for being the starting point of European colonization which eventually led to slaughter and enslavement for the “New World” (by New World I mean new to Europeans). It is shameful that European culture was so narcissistic and self absorbed that they didn’t imagine a world outside their own and when they “discovered” it, they couldn’t handle or respect that fact that someone had already “discovered” it. Those indigenous people had to be barbarians that were not worthy or the land, gold, and riches of the land the already populated. So surely they needed the Europeans to come and control it for them. And if those native people didn’t acquiesce, Europe would take it by force. This was colonization and imperialism.

It is not wonder, then, that the European colonists who broke away from Europe to inhabit North America, held within them the same principle of fascism and destruction. Everything they despised the monarchy for, they brought with them to America. The foundation of America is built upon this European inspired need for domination and conquest in order to show themselves powerful and better than anything else they encounter.

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The Point

If we need another paid holiday, can’t we change the name and purpose of this one and still give people the time off?? Or better yet maybe we should celebrate this day the way Latin Americans do with Dia de la Raza, where they celebrate the resistance against the colonizing invaders. I would love to celebrate Native Americans Day or True Americans Day or The Only Americans Day or something that would recognize the Native Americans as the initiators of the first resistance against imperialism. Maybe take the day to give respect to the descendants of those Native Americans, who truly are Americans. But as usual, America is addicted to ignorance and cannot stand to correct its errors.

If Columbus day means anything to America, it is this: that we can trace the history of our greatest sins and flaws. That after all these centuries, we have yet to outgrow our fascist belief that the world needs us to lead it (by force if necessary). So if I should think of Columbus and do anything on Columbus Day, I should repent on behalf of America. As an American I should spend Columbus Day begging forgiveness for the blood that was shed, for the lies that were told, for the enslavement that allowed the country where I know live to exist. If nothing else we should allow ourselves to take this day to see what we have become and how we started on the wrong path so long ago, it’s repulsive to think that we haven’t yet evolved to a point that we can see people as human beings and not opportunities for exploitation, that we cannot see the differences among us as the chance to learn and be better. Instead we fear what we don’t understand, never take the time to understand it, and destroy it when it won’t become like us. That’s the legacy of Christopher Columbus.

I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man