Posts Tagged With: White Supremacy

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone?

We all know the stories; there are two of them after all.

1.) First, there’s the story we learn about when we are children, or maybe if we are young adults assimilating into American culture. It’s the classic tale about the Pilgrims, or rather the English separatist Protestants who later formed the [Puritan] Plymouth Colony in present day [southeastern] Massachusetts and eastern Rhode Island, and the so-called-Indians, or rather the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans, whom had inhabited the land for the previous 12,000 some-odd years. They met and put aside their cultural differences in order to survive the frigid Fall of 1621. Their harvest gathering was attributed, by the Puritan settlers, to an almighty [Judeo-Christian] God, the Father. And it is in this colonial spirit that the American people celebrate Thanksgiving each year on the fourth Thursday in November.

2.) Second, there’s the story we [hopefully] learn about as we get a little but older in our education(s), or maybe if we are wise (or post-modern) enough to critique meta-narratives on our own merits, regardless of educational attainment. It’s the story that is a lot less fun to listen to when we sit down and feast upon a dead bird, I mean turkey. The initial social contracts made between the settlers and the native people only lasted a generation, in which the Puritan settlers’ survival owed great thanks to the Wampanoag’s superior hunting skills and knowledge of the land’s fertility.

“The Wampanoag people do not share in the popular reverence for the traditional New England Thanksgiving. For them, the holiday is a reminder of betrayal and bloodshed. Since 1970, many native people have gathered at the statue of Massasoit in Plymouth, Massachusetts each Thanksgiving Day to remember their ancestors and the strength of the Wampanoag.” -Text adapted from 1621 A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac with Plimoth Plantation, 2001, National Geographic Society. Text by Lyssa Walker.

And if you’re unfamiliar with the, “bloodshed,” Walker and O’Neill are referring to, in a children’s version of the story of the first Thanksgiving, by the way, then a better education of North American history is in order: one which begins long before the arrival of Europeans and one that is complicated by the plurality of local narratives. Also, a little accuracy would be nice. To my general horror and dismay, I have come across a great deal of unnerving neo-conservative new media literature – in my research for this blog post alone. And it is disgusting how skewed interpretations of North American history has been convoluted, so as to politicize certain capitalist agendas that are no doubt tied into our [class] discussions of feminism, health and new media.

It is necessary to criticize contemporary interpretations of historical facts so that the systemic erasure of indigenous tribes (via European colonization) does not, yet again or moreover, become eclipsed or occluded by the childish meta-narratives we are all too familiar with. I am not advocating for an overturning of the nationally established holiday, nor am I suggesting that anyone who celebrates the fourth Thursday in November is hypocritical by any means. I believe that offering thanks transcends temporal location(s) as well as any social identity markers, such as race, sexuality and gender. It is a fundamentally human thing to seek closeness with one’s kin, and to celebrate appreciation without shame. I say, let our own local narratives be based in whatever truths we subscribe to.

However, we know this to be far from what [new] media preaches as festive. Like any other national or religious holiday, capitalists have taken full advantage of the spiritual meanings behind people’s cause for celebration and turned out a handsome profit, so to speak:

from Google Images of Black Friday shoppers

And to properly interrogate the hegemonic myths of Thanksgiving, one must pay close attention to their developmental paths throughout the [re]construction of American history. Any legitimate critique of racialized and gendered representations need be historicized, that is, accurately contextualized, before we can even begin an intellectual dialogue; the subsequential genocide of Native Americans by European imperialists is not up for debate…

The reason why it’s so important to defend local narratives is because they can so easily get become delegitimized in the public eye (see: Rush Limbaugh’s version of ‘The True Story of Thanksgiving’), endangering social justice strides made everywhere in defense of those who have been persecuted along the lines of race, gender, sex, sexuality, disability, language and ethnicity.

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Vlog #3: Racialized “Beauty” in India

Special thanks to my Hons 201 partner in crime, Kerishma Panigrahi, for another awesome experience in both filming and editing!

Short Video Assignment #3: In groups of two or three, produce a creative 1- 3min web video that challenges and/or demonstrates resistance towards some of the negative representations of women of color’s bodies online.

The above video assignment was partially inspired by such advertisements as the following, which dangerously conflate whiteness for beauty and femininity:

What are the consequences of standardizing beauty according to white supremacist ideologies?

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2Pac: Critical Race Theorist

2pac.com

This past summer, I lived and worked in Brooklyn, New York.  How exotic, I know.  But my internship was only a couple of blocks away from where Christopher George Latore Wallace (AKA the Notorious B.I.G.; AKA Biggie Smalls) began his fame as a talented young rapper.  My Chief of Staff, at the District Office of Council Member Letitia James (@TishJames/@Tish2013) in Brooklyn’s 35th Council District, used to tell me about seeing him ‘way back when’ on the corners of Fulton and Saint James – nearby where our office was located.  I confessed in her office one day that while I had the utmost respect for Biggie, and the legacy he left behind for Brooklyn as a cultural center for rap and Hip Hop, that my heart truly lies with Tupac Amaru Shakur.  To my delight, she agreed, quoting lyrics from his, “Dear Mama:”

“And even as a crack fiend, mama
You always was a black queen, mama
I finally understand
for a woman it ain’t easy tryin to raise a man
You always was committed
A poor single mother on welfare, tell me how ya did it
There’s no way I can pay you back
But the plan is to show you that I understand
You are appreciated”

Later on that summer, I was on the phone with a friend of mine who had his own connection to Biggie: his mom, having grown up in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, was once approached by the young Christopher Wallace for a date – and supposedly told, “that fat boy,” NO, she was not interested.  I told him I had just finished watching a documentary about the Notorious B.I.G. – but that I resented its depiction of Tupac as solely antagonistic (i.e. an East Coast-centric model of analysis).  He said to me, “Biggie was no doubt a talented rapper, but Tupac – he was something else – he was starting a revolution.”

Now this post isn’t to reify (yet another) false dichotomy of east coast/west coast Hip Hop rivalries, nor is it to claim any authority over who is better, which side wins and so on…  This post is talk more specifically about the late, great rapper and the lyrical legacy he left behind.  Contrary to many other opinions out there, I find Tupac’s rap music to be emblematic of scholarly critical race theory.  He pays careful attention to the dynamic roles of masculinity, white sepremacy, and the LAPD as a hegemonic mechanism of racist, patriarchal practices.  Tupac takes into account the history of the United States, including slavery, laws and policies representing social inequities and the systemic institution of discrimination and ghettoization of Black America.

One such example of this kind of critical work can be found in the lyrics to his song, “Panther Power” [see below].  Shakur’s mother was a former Black Panther and refers to Black Panther co-founder, Huey P. Newton, in his famous song, “Changes” (i.e. “It’s time to fight back, that’s what Huey said.  Two shots in the dark, now Huey’s dead”).

Beyond his observations and critiques of the complicated space he occupied, Tupac presented conflicting messages when it came to feminism and feminist ideology.  Many people will accuse Shakur of his misogynistic views of woman, his use of derogatory language toward women, etc.  I could go on and on about how [I believe] Marion “Suge” Knight (AKA co-founder and former CEO of Death Row Records) to be powerfully influential on Tupac’s aggressive demeanor later on in his career.  If you take the time to watch as many documentaries [about Tupac] as I have, you might come across certain material portraying Tupac as, dare I say, feminist.  Take a look at this film footage of Tupac discussing transformative potentials of youth, gender equity and respect toward women at the age of 17:

If I have the opportunity to pursue graduate school, I would love to write my dissertation on Tupac’s lyrics as deeply layered and representative of late, twentieth century critical race theory.  His music was profoundly influential as his image was widely controversial.  Tupac embodied all that has been demonized in the history of the [main-stream] United States.  Clearly, I am slightly biased in my admiration for his unique voice and presence in the tradition of rap music and in contemporary social landscapes, but I would resist depicting Tupac in the angelic light I [most likely] have done so in this blog post.  The music and words he produced make for compelling social critiques, dialogues and theories surrounding racism, sexism, hegemony and a critical moment in 1990s America.

PLEASE WATCH THIS LINK, ON TUPAC [AGE 17] ABOUT RESPECTING WOMEN.

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