The New Racism

1.       When it comes to the issue of new racism, how do you think hip-hop culture and the use of the word “Bitch” and the “N-Word” further oppress or build up individuals and society?  Consider some songs using these terms as endearment  however, state your particular stance and opinion.

In general I think hip-hop/rap mainstream culture can serve to present a harmful and unrealistic image that perpetuate stereotypes and serves to oppress. This is not to say that there aren’t artists who put out a positive message and image, both male and female, who are great examples of empowerment and strength. As far as “bitch” and the “N-word” go I am of two minds. First, men calling women “bitches,” don’t do it; white people using the “N-word,” don’t do it. Secondly, I’m more torn on people using either word to “reclaim” them; I think when it comes to using words mindfully as a way to reclaim them that’s a personal decision that people need to make on an individual basis.

2.       Particularly, how do you think the exploitation of women, primarily African-American women influences the new racism?

I think a huge part of the new racism is, as bell hooks often points out, capitalism. I think exploiting African American women for gain, by setting unrealistic standards that encourage women to purchase endless numbers of beauty items that can often cause them physical and financial pain. Even though capitalism often has a negative influence on men as well, women’s bodies seem to be the larger site of exploitation in the new (and the old) racism.

3.       How do you think the media plays a role exploiting the new racism and issues that deal with this particular topic?

The media is a part of capitalism and whatever “sells” will be exploited and drained to the last drop. The media often wants us to accept simplistic and unrealistic images; such simplified views often contribute to racist or prejudiced  views because they are too dualistic. Again, there are some media outlets that do better than others at presenting a balanced view of people and issues.

4.  How does Hip-Hop today differ from generations of the past? Use examples to distinguish the characteristics defining the differences between time periods and the evolution of Hip-Hop culture.

As we talked about in class and learned from the “Hip Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes” documentary, Hip-Hop went from starting as an underground artistic movement that crafted lyrics and beats that were thought provoking or told a story or addressed an important issue within the African American community. One song that isn’t  old-old-school but is from the late nineties popped into my mind. Love is Blind by Eve. The song addresses domestic violence and the helplessness that a friend or family member feels when they see a cycle of violence they are helpless to stop. At the end of the song, Eve turns to fictive violence to redress the violence done against her friend. Even though the song discusses violence, it doesn’t really promote it our laud it the way some songs today do; instead, it speaks to the reality of violence and the reasons that some people feel they have to resort to violence. I am admittedly out of the loop when it comes to popular music today; with the proliferation of so many ways to listen to music I rarely hear a lot of the Hip-Hop that is out now. (Plus, since we don’t have cable, I listen to NPR in the car to try to keep up with the news.) From what I do hear however, I don’t see nearly as much use of popular hip-hop as a platform to discuss issues of concern.

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Politically Curly

After reading the prompt for this week’s blog, I decided to watch Good Hair. I had seen clips, but never watched the entire movie so I rented it on Amazon. Now, I knew a little about black women’s hair from hair school; I’ve applied relaxers, hot ironed, curled, and set hair. But, that was just in school; for the most part the intricacies of weaves, updos, and complicated braids are well beyond my knowledge base. I think I was most surprised to learn how many of the celebrities had a full head weave; I assumed that many famous black women had expensively relaxed shining locks, perhaps bolstered by some tracks in there too. After hearing Reverend Al Sharpton get into the politics of spending money on products mainly owned by large, white-owned, companies and reading about Audrey Lorde’s experience in “Is Your Hair Still Political?” I began to think about famous black women who were known for their beautiful, natural, political, hair.

My mind instantly went to Erykah Badu.

Erykah Badu “Wrapped Up” in the 90s

From her iconic dreads and head wrap of the 90s, to her completely shaved, from her “supernatural” afros, to her impossibly long tresses of recent years, Erykah Badu has almost always rocked a natural style.

Glowing Fro

In this video Badu discusses how it isn’t necessarily the actual “realness” of the hair that you are wearing, more important is the fact that the style looks like something your hair could could naturally do. I take this to mean that the important part of having a natural looking style, the part that makes it political, is a person’s creation of their own identity which rejects unrealistic and “unnatural” standards.

Erykah Badu as the New Face of Givenchy

In an interview with the natural hair blogging “Curlologists,” Erykah Badu stated that while she believes “how you wear your hair is a political statement as well,” because “(p)retty much everything you do as a black woman is a political statement,” she doesn’t want to feel pressured to wear any particular style because “at that point I’d be putting myself into a penitentiary and that wouldn’t be a natural state!” After being asked what she thought of the “natural hair movement,” Badu said “I really don’t [think] a lot about how people wear their hair right now, cause I’d rather see a person with a natural mind and processed head than a processed mind and natural head.”

“Once it rains, then we’ll see who actually has “naturally” curly hair”

In conclusion, hair can certainly be a political statement. This is true for black women, like Audrey Lorde and Isis Brantley, Erykah Badu’s hairstylist who was forced to have her afro searched at the Atlanta airport, who encounter stereotypes that center on hair, but run much deeper. However, hair can be a political statement for white women as well. After all, there aren’t many white women who naturally have the ideal “Barbie” or “Celebrity” hair either! When a woman’s natural hair is seen as unprofessional or unruly, in need of taming, we all can stand with the cause of accepting natural, comfortable, inner, beauty. Just as she is in her music, message, and life, Erykah Badu serves as a hair inspiration!

Privileged

I don’t think there is any question on whether or not people experiences privileges based on a wide variety of their visible traits, qualities, or abilities. Some people, however, experience a bundle of privileges based on these categories and we generally call them “privileged.” Most obviously in this category, in the U.S., would be an economically well-off, white, middle-aged man; let’s call this man John. John experience privilege from his class status, his dominant race status, his age, and his sex.

The thing about privilege, however, is that we don’t always recognize we have it. Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” discusses the ways she realizes that we, as white women, experience privilege every day in small and large ways. Most of the time, because privilege is comfortable and natural, we don’t notice that we aren’t being followed suspiciously in a store, or that people in positions of power are politer to us, or that we aren’t stopped by the police merely because we look “suspicious.” Without understanding the experiences that other groups go through, we can not recognize our own privilege; if you didn’t realize that women of color often are watched more closely in stores, treated with less respect, and assumed to be suspicious simply because of their skin-tone, you wouldn’t recognize your privilege to not go through these same experiences. This blog post provides another interesting discussion of recognizing one’s own privileges and the ways that language plays into privilege.

Because of the classes I’ve taken, and my own life experiences, I try to recognize my own race-based privileges and I also recognize that my gender and my bi-sexuality represent the intersections at which I experience oppression. However, there are some privileges which I feel get talked about much less. The major one I’m thinking of is physical ability. While I try to be conscious of race, class, and gender I often forget to consider differences in abilities like being deaf, blind, or physically disabled. If you have about 15 minutes to spare, I would recommend checking out this video of Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor that discusses physical disability as another form of social oppression.

The Matrix of Oppression

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There are many forms of oppression in our society. People can be discriminated against based on not only their race, gender, sexuality, class, etc. but by any combination of these qualities. The combination of oppressions and the issues relevant across these groups is known as intersectionality. After searching tumblr for “intersectionality,” I went down a long rabbit-hole of enlightening and intriguing posts and now, I offer some real-life examples from what I found.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

#1- Violence Against Native American Women:  This article explains how the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act will help prevent and prosecute crimes against Native women. Native American women experience intersectional oppressions through their identities as both a racial minority and as females. According to the article, around eighty percent of native women who are raped reported their rapist as being “non-Indian men.” This was problematic because tribal courts were not allowed to prosecute anyone who was not a member of the tribe so rapists and domestic abusers who fell out of this jurisdiction could often times get away with their crimes. Luckily, according to the article, the changes being made will potentially put more power in the hands of the tribal courts. (Article originally seen on this awesome tumblr.)

#2- Trans Women of Color: Gender and Race are two of the major intersections of oppression; but trans women experience these dual oppressions in unique ways. This past week Janet Mock, a trans woman of color who writes, speaks, and advocates on behalf of the trans community, released a book about her life and her journey. Piers Morgan’s treatment of Mock on his show caused controversy and resulted in Twitter supporters calling him everything from “ignorant” to “transphobic.” Basically, Morgan repeatedly referred to Mock as a “former man” and focused on genital and surgery related issues; these actions are inappropriate, unnecessarily sexualize the conversation and focuses the discussion on an issue which does not define a trans woman’s identity. A post reblogged by Mock herself points out that living life as a trans woman means “sacrific(ing your) most helpful lifeline to success: family and male privilege.” (This example was initially sparked by this reblog of Mock’s second interview on Piers Morgan when she explained why he was receiving the backlash that he was.)

Black entrepreneurs Candace Mitchell and Chanel Martin.

#3 Black Women Entrepreneurs: A third example of intersectionality is within the business word. This article discusses the story of one pair of black female entrepreneurs, their roadblocks, and their success. A black woman attempting to break into the tech industry will face discrimination based on gender, race, class, educational level, and more. The article cites data which showed in the first half of 2010 that only 8% of start-ups were founded by women and only 1% by black business people (male or female). Clearly, the cause of these low numbers is rooted in intersectional issues facing entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds. (Article originally brought to my attention by this tumblr)