Monday, October 22, 2012

The House I Live In.

I put this trailer up on my twitter page a couple of weeks ago, but I thought I would also share it here. Check it out:

I think the saddest part for me was then the little boy was crying for his mother. I know this is cliche, but it is true that once you have children, things like that affect you in a way that they did not when you didn't have kids.

Also, I think it's weird that in Nancy Reagan's Just Say No campaign the main color was green. But green is typically associated with the word Yes, not the word No. It's like a Jedi mind trick.

Now, I know that it is easy to see trailers or movies like this and leave feeling like the problem is too big and there is nothing that I can do about it. But there are things that we as individual citizens can do try to change things.

There are a number of ballot initiatives in states across the country this year that have to do with decriminalizing/regulating certain drugs. Regardless of your own views about drug use, I think it is reasonable to say that the criminal justice system is not the best avenue for dealing with the problem of drug abuse. The more that individual states can relax their laws regarding illegal drugs, the more compelling the argument becomes that a new federal strategy is needed. So if you live in a state with a drug decriminalization issue on the ballot this year, I urge you to become more informed about the measure, and to look at it from the wider lens of The War on Drugs.

If you would like to see when The House I Live In is playing at a theater near you, visit

Questions? Comments? Leave them for me below.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Who owns the fisheries?

Hi y'all.

It's been a minute. I haven't been posting, and unlike most times when I haven't been posting, I also haven't been reading other blogs. So if I'm a regular commenter on your blog, don't worry. Your content didn't suddenly get super boring.

Today, I wanted to talk about an example from popular culture that I think is a good example of structural racism. Structural classism could probably apply too.

Like this previous post, the idea for today's post came to me as I was watching an episode of CBS Sunday Morning . Seriously, why I haven't I been watching that show my whole life? I really like it.

The segment in question was a profile on The Gregory Brothers. Even if that name doesn't sound familiar, it is likely that you have seen some of their work. This family takes news clips and then autotunes them and turns them into songs. They're really big on youtube. I was gonna put up one of their videos right now, but I think it would be better to first put up a news clip, so you can see the raw materials that they're working with:

Okay and now here's the song that they made:

Now here is the point in the post where someone is thinking, "Oh, I know what is going to happen next. Myblackfriend is going to tell us all about the evil white people and how bad they are for exploiting the black man from the projects."


Now, I'll admit I did think that was the direction we were going when I first started watching the segment on Sunday Morning. But then I heard the brothers say that they split the proceeds of all their song downloads with the person featured. I think that is honorable. Especially because there is probably a way that the siblings could have used some legal maneuvering to get out of paying the subjects of the videos anything. And it appears to be something that they really want viewers to know, because did you see how they made it very clear in the second video above?

So, I have to say I don't have a problem with them making money off the colorful characters from news broadcasts, primarily because they are splitting the profits 50/50.


remember in this post when I said that black people own 1% of the wealth in the United States, which is the exact same percentage they owned at the end of The Civil War, 140 someodd years ago? The Gregory Brothers and Antoine Dodson are an illustration of one of the reasons that that is the case.

You see, The Gregory Brothers don't have this one song download that they're making money off of, they have hundreds of millions of views of their videos on youtube. They have an app for your phone that will autotune whatever you say. They also tour, and sell Gregory Siblings merchandise. They are working on a pilot for a show on Comedy Central. Something tells me they are not splitting the profits from all of these other revenue streams with anyone but people whose last name is Gregory.

So Antoine gets a nice chunk of change for being funny on the news, and the siblings get even nicer, even larger chunks of change for coming up with the whole idea.

Which leads me to my next point--how did they come up with this idea anyway? Realize the next paragraph is pure speculation. But if I can't speculate and put out potentially incorrect information on the internet--where else am I supposed to do it?

So my theory is that the brothers have been interested in computers and audio stuff for awhile, let's say starting in middle school. They had parents that had the means and/or went to schools that had the facilities to allow them to cultivate their talents. And since public schools are financed primarily by property taxes, people who live in housing owned by the government (like Antoine,) probably don't have schools with nice A/V departments. So people like Antoine aren't thinking "Hey, I'm gonna mess around with this soundboard, and 15 years from now I am going to think of something that's going to make me and my brothers a lot of money!"

I just want to be clear that I am not hating on The Gregory Brothers. They had an idea, and since they live in this great country that is the United States, they were
able to turn that idea into money.

What I am saying is that there were structures in place that made it much more likely that they would be the ones making the video and Antoine would be the one in the video, instead of the other way around.

Which leads me to the title of this post. You know that saying about give a man a fish vs. teach a man to fish? What happened in this situation?

I personally think it's somewhere in the middle. They didn't give Antoine a fish, because he did do something. But I don't think they taught him how to fish either, because the brothers are in the process of building an empire that Antoine is not a part of. I mean, Antoine wasn't the one being interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning.

I hope that Antoine is able to take the fame and money that he receives from the song and parlay it into financial security and for him and his family. And I also hope that we as a society can take a closer look at situations like this one, and figure out a way that generations from now we won't have a really good idea of who's playing what role based on the color of their skin.

There are a lot of other questions that can be discussed (this whole thing started because of an attempted rape--what's funny about that? Does Antoine make black people look bad because he's keepin' it real? The newsclip has way more views than the song--who's making money off of that?) But I am going to end it here.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts. So don't be shy; leave me a comment.