Friday, December 11, 2009

"This is as real as it gets"... The RACE edition!

Forget cuing the Jay-Z song right this second and seriously put all your notions about race aside... Ok? You ready... Let's go on this journey real quick.

It is not my youthful idealism and naivety that forces me believe what I do. It's not because I grew up in the "inner-city", rural Texas, and an affluent suburb either. Sorry if I sound pompous, but I see it the way it should be... I believe in that good old fashion concept of equality in all factions of life.

As we sit here in 2009 with our nation's first Black President, those who are afraid of "racial progress" are doing all they can to stir up irrational, yet deeply rooted fears in the hearts of people, who I feel are good people but are being bamboozled into believing these old stereotypes are true. It's unfortunate that the election brought all of these issues back to the surface, but maybe this is what we need. Maybe we should stop sweeping these issues under the rug and acknowledge that there are still some serious tensions in this country.

Random side-bar: I put "racial progress" in quotes, because for the millionth time, I don't advocate the concept of race. Sorry. Race is a sociological phenomena and biologically there is nothing inherent in ANYONE that makes them better than the next person. So that would mean that we are equal. Ding, ding, ding. So back to the quoted phrase, I put it in quotes b/c I firmly believe that and sociologists, anthropologists, etc., are there to back me up. We are all different. I will acknowledge that and respect it wholeheartedly, but we are all equal. There are different histories and cultures for people all over this planet, but the one thing that we all have in common is our humanity. So I feel progress isn't needed on something we should just accept as is b/c it is the truth. I know that may seem a bit radical, and I am one indeed, because I feel like I can not budge on that. I feel the same way about gender, but at least we all know that there are biological differences between men and women. With that being said, I firmly want it to be know that it is also nothing that makes a man inherently better than a woman or vice versa.

Random side-bar 2: All the presidential bashing is just out of control. At no point in American history has their ever been something this ridiculous. Yes, presidents have been criticized by their opponents and allies throughout time, but this is on a different level. I can not recall learning in history class about those opposed to George Washington, Andrew Jackson, John F. Kennedy, insert any name here, evoking racial fears or questioning their citizenship b/c race was never an issue with them. Despite their differences in opinion, these men were perceived as legitimate, because they were the norm of that the President had been and should be in their eyes: An older, White, well-educated man. The closest thing we have had to this was the anti-Catholic sentiment that occurred with JFK's campaign.

Random side-bar 3: One day I hope to live to see a female president of the United States... And I'll honestly admit that I am overly-analytical person, so I wonder sometimes what would have happened if Hilary would have been the nominee and won the election rather than Obama? Do you think she would have received the equivalent to Obama in sexist acts? Would posters of her portrayed as a 'Femi-Nazi," etc., be the norm rather than our President's face photo-shopped on the body of a witch doctor? Would "bitch" be her version of being called an "illegitimate citizen" b/c of one's ethnicity? Would they be calling her a "Communist" and "Fascist" at the same time too? (Lol... That still gets me.) Honestly, yes I do, and gender issues would have bubbled up to the surface rather than race. Just something to think about.

Sorry about that... I can get a little long-winded at times, but I felt it needed to be pointed out and since I can't do footnotes on a blog, you get to read my side-bars. Haha. Back to the task at hand...

I was on Global Grind this morning, Russell Simmons' blog site dedicated to the hip-hop community, and read some comments that spurred this whole blog. So Mr. Simmons posted a blog about how Rush Limbaugh is stoking those good, ole racial fears and how no one is going for it. It was a pretty good post to say the least, but a comment on the page said something to the extent that multiculturalism is impossible, blah, blah, blah and another one that said that racism should be abolished, but Blacks should worry about "Black on Black crime rather than White-on-Black racism" led me to compose this entry. To address the first comment as a serious position is a joke in my opinion, but I shall anyways. I feel like I have to through a calender at people sometimes and tell them to wake up. It is 2009, and before anyone attacks me for my nostalgic love of history, esp the 1960's, I love the fact we are all acknowledged as equal under the law and the racially motivated legal restrictions that barred integration are gone (although there is still progress to be made in that arena, and equality for the LGBT community still needs to be addressed fully). But as much as we know that, we don't accept it. And that's the problem. That's why comments like those continue to be made. Look, there are some norms in our specific communities that I don't like, but that's beyond the point. I hate to sound cliche, but there truly is no Black American or White American culture. On many levels, we have the same culture. Oh no, did I say that? I SURE DID! Africans, who were sold into slavery, were stripped of their native cultures after that horrendous voyage from Africa to the Americas and basically left to fend for themselves in an unknown land, all while being treated as chattel. The Black experience is the American experience just as much as the White experience, so naturally the cultures overlap and share a lot of the same customs. The true difference lies in the treatment of Blacks throughout this country's history, but culturally, the similarities are astounding. Yes, I acknowledge there are differences between everyone, but we need to stop latching on to them.So back to multiculturalism, the founding of this nation was multicultural from the get go, and I am not sorry if I point that out all the time b/c it seems like it didn't sink into people's minds. Let's not forget that there were Native Americans here when this land was colonized by Europeans, Africans were sold into one of the most vile crimes against humanity and brought to this land for labor, my home state (Texas) used to belong to Mexico (Cali, Arizona, and New Mexico, as well) so there were Mexicans here, and although it was acquired later, the great state of Hawaii, the state that produced our current President, is an island located in the Pacific Ocean, so the native population there is of Asian descent. I can not forget about the Russian and indigenous cultures of people in Alaska, as well. I am not that naive to get all "Pie in the Sky" on you, but we seriously have to do better. Can utopias exist? God, I hope so, but for right now, what we can do is acknowledge equality and respect our fellow man/woman regardless of their ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, educational level, religious beliefs, age, or their level of ableness.

So on to the next one... "Blacks should focus more on Black-on-Black crime rather than White-on-Black racism." Really? I mean seriously. Do we need to another lecture in why Black-on-Black crime exists? Clearly. It does not exist because Blacks are inherently criminal or anything of that nature. That's foolish. Systemic and economic racism has kept many Blacks in a place subjugation for decades, but it is a vicious cycle that CAN be broken and don't let anyone tell you differently. Blacks have preyed upon each other and countless lives have been lost, because poverty has run rampant in the community due to discrimination in the workforce, which has led to a lack of equal pay to workers of color (if you're a women, even more so), and the educational system in the country is so backwards that it neglects to fund the schools in the neighborhoods that need it the most (the same could be said for the schools in rural communities). So yeah, if we want know why the first part of that statement exists, the answer was in the ending. :)

But not to get too pessimistic on you all, the last comment I read was the most important, so I wanted to close with it. One poster states that "non-racist Whites should align themselves with racist-Whites and let them know that it is not okay to harbor such negative feelings towards people based on their racial background." [paraphrased] While I don't know if I would say align, I would say EDUCATE. People hate what they don't know. I get it. It's not right and seriously we live in such an age of uber technology that one should not allow themselves to be ignorant to others' cultures, but it is something that we all have to just acknowledge. Regardless, non-racist Whites can play a large role in shaping the racial landscape, and they have throughout history i.e. the Kennedy's. :) My favorite family. Haha. And there are so many more. But yes, we owe it to future generations to stop this nonsense. To get all MLK on you all, but I don't want my children growing up in a country where they are only seen as Black or any other superficial category. I say race is superficial b/c you can't and shouldn't want to change the color of your skin. We should take pleasure in knowing that there is such diversity in this country and for the most part, I say we do a good job. Yes, I know there is much room for improvement, but let's not harp on the negative this second and enjoy the progress we have made in our great country. Shout out to all of us!!! :) At a certain point, we have let history be history. It can be interpreted still and needs to be learned, but we can not be upset with each other because of it. This country has many negative aspects in its past, but let's not forget that we have achieved many great successes together.

I would just like to throw out there, that I graduate from college in less than ten days and I needed to be studying for my Spanish final, but I am blogging instead. PRIORITIES, PRIORITIES. Haha!

Peace and Love (or should I say Paz and Amor?!?! Haha!),


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Jay-Z should give Miley Cyrus a high five if he ever sees her...

So, I have a ton of things that I SHOULD be doing, considering I graduate from college in less than 3 weeks and start Grad School in less than 2 months, but such is life. Haha! I had this thought when I was at the gym earlier and decided to blog about it... Enjoy!

We all know the saying, "there's nothing better than free publicity", right? Well, this is definitely the case for the catchy summer anthem by pop princess Miley Cyrus, "Party in the USA," which gave a shout out to Jay-Z and Britney Spears. And while Brittney isn't doing to bad for herself (post K-Fed was rocky at first, but I am proud of her for her stellar comeback), we all know what's going on with Jay-Z these days. Numero uno: He is married to the amazing Beyonce, herself. The fact that he gets to talk to Solange makes me totally jealous. Haha. He has his eleventh number one album, and his first number one single on Billboard w/o being a featured artist (see "Crazy in Love," "Heartbreaker," and that one song that made Rihanna a superstar... "Umbrella"... I think that's right. :D) He and Alicia Keys performed their hit at the World Series, for crying out loud. And most impressive in my opinion, Jay-Z was on Oprah. Let me say that again... Jay-Z, Shawn C. Carter, was on Oprah Winfrey's show, the woman who notoriously refuses to allow rappers to grace her set or gives them a hard time if they do. Do I need to mention how Ludacris was not going to be allowed on the show at first with the rest of the "Crash" ensemble, and then when he did appear, he was lectured for his lyrics when plugging the movie and discussing racial discrimination? Yeah so clearly, bro is doing good for himself. And yes, I just know these things off the top of my head... The man is my idol. Hehe!

While a brief review of Jay-Z's career accomplishments may be interesting, the reason I wanted to discuss the song is because I feel it plays well into the the topic of the racial politics of music. Huge jump, eh? It all goes together... Let me take you on a journey...

If you all could rewind your clocks back to late June/early July of this year, the King of Pop passed away from unfortunate circumstances and everyone from President Obama to P. Diddy (or just Diddy... I don't know. He changes his name toooo often) had a comment on his death and his legacy as a musician/humanitarian. And despite the horrid accusations against him for the last decade, Michael Jackson was a seemingly good man and one of the best performers to ever grace this Earth. A lot of the conversation after his death, rightfully so, had to deal with his impact on American culture and I remember watching an award show this summer where several prominent Black musicians said that without Michael, there would have been no President Obama. While I am not going to even touch that with ten-foot pole, even President Obama himself stated that Black entertainers and athletes paved the way for easing racial tensions, because White America now has a sense of familiarity with the formerly unknown. While I don't disagree with this sentiment at all, Michael Jackson dominated in the 1980s and was the first Black musician on Mtv, but is that still true now? Can't be? We are so closely connected nowadays with blogs, Twitter, Facebook, video phones, etc, that still can't be the case?

Well, I beg to differ.

While the circumstance are slightly different, I think there is something to be said about Cyrus' hit song and the comeback of "The Best Rapper Alive." I know some hip-hop heads would probably tear me a new one for insinuating that this 17 year-old Disney star has anything to do with his return to dominance in the rap industry, but think about it for a second. And I would never want to take anything away from Mr. Cater's accomplishments and putting out an amazing album, esp. a beyond catchy and inspiring single with Ms. Keys. And, I love hip-hop. I truly do. I get the genre/culture and I respect it. As a a feminist, I don't feel the need to villify these artists anymore, because I understand where they are coming from.

With that being said, let me point out a few things. Jay-Z had been working on BP3, The Blueprint 3 for the non-believers, for a good amount of time and after the lackluster success of his last two albums, many critics and younger rappers *cough* haters *cough* claimed that the rapper was aging, losing touch with the trends in music, and "falling off." Some foolishly said that he was only known for his marriage to Knowles. Also in an unprecedented move, Carter became the President of Def Jam around mid-decade, but was leaving that position also to create Roc Nation. Money and romance were obviously a-ok, but in all honesty, he needed something to secure the crown and rightfully boast that he was the truly best.

Cue Miley Cyrus. Whatever she touches becomes gold. Just call her Midas. And while she has recently stated quite openly that she had never heard a song by the artist she helped return to mainstream relevance before and that "Party of the USA" was written by someone else, she did him a favor by crooning about a Jay-Z song being on in a taxi while she was getting ready to party. She planted a seed. The title of the song mentions the country and out of all of the artists in the US that could have been been used to epitomize American music, a rapper and a pop superstar were choosen. And yes, Cyrus did not pen the song, but she gave a bit of validation to the rapper by giving him an ever-present pop culture reference. She brought him back to the mainstream. The pop princess gave props to the rapper. On even more basic terms, the young White girl gave the ok to the older Black man's music, his livelihood. Is that a stretch? Not to me. Cyrus exposed him to a new audience, both racially and generation-wise. If we are truly to believe that she had never heard a song, she still did him an subconscious favor.

I don't think that anyone can deny the role that music has played in bringing together people of all races/ethnicities, but who would have ever thought that this song could have sparked something and led a triumphant return of a rap superstar. And while I am well aware of the D.O.A. craze from this summer, the Cyrus record was already out and in heavy rotation when this occurred. I was sitting at my computer that Friday night when Hot 97 debuted the song and Twitter went nuts. Oh wow, I really admitted that... Yikes! But those who were excited by that particular song, were true fans and possibly not even aware of Cyrus and her hit. Needless to say, there is something interesting about the fact that this teenager legitimized the rapper in the eyes of some and to me, made a statement in doing so.

And while I think that the sheer mention of Jay-Z in the song was a great positive for using music to bridge the gap, here is an example of it taking an opposite turn: the Kanye West and Taylor Swift debacle at the VMAs. I remember clear as day when that occurred and while I do recognize that "Kanye is Kanye" and he pulls stunts like that because he is an opinionated person, the bottom line remains that he still had no right to take her moment away from her. That incident will live in infamy, because he was the well-known arrogant man i.e. the aggressor ganging up on the sweet, blue-eyed country chanteuse. That's enough to make everyone dislike him, but amazingly race was brought into it as soon as it happened. Posts on Twitter and Facebook evoked shame for the Black community because of his actions and how this was setting back race relations. Really now? I think everyone was disgusted by his behavior, but just to note, West has rightfully apologized multiple times to Swift since the outburst. Once again, I was sitting at my computer reading all of these comments about Kanye and annoyance with his behavior, but the unexpected happened with Beyonce, herself, outclassed everyone and invited Swift back onto the stage to give a proper congratulatory speech. Immediately the internet conversations changed. People joked that "Beyonce saved the Black community," and while the statement is meant to be hyperbolic (I HOPE), there is some validity to it. Society judges many off the actions of few, and Kanye, as an artist and highly public figure, maybe the only exposure some kid in Wisconsin has to Blacks. So I understand why people were aggravated and felt that way. I'm glad it didn't turn into something unnecessary, but I will admit that after like a day, I was about to snap if I heard another lame Kanye West joke. Haha. I will openly admit that I do not believe that she deserved that award of Lady Gaga or Beyonce, and some felt that this was a foul move by Mtv in doing so. Such is life tho.

I don't know... I read too much into things. I am just VERY analytical. I dissect music. Maybe it's a stretch, but it makes sense to me! Oh well... Yyyyyeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhh, it's a party in the USA.

Peace and Love,