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.


  1. I've seen that mans face all over pinterest but never clicked on the link because I figured it would just be someone making fun of the poor man for being himself. Which is the case. Sad that someone is going to make millions off of his actions. Didn't someone make millions off of Kramers actions (Seinfeld)? Whatever became of that? Maybe if some venomous lawyer has a little extra time on his hands he could help out the black guy. Someone making a profit off of another persons persona is bordering on the lines of illegal, right?

    Also, I always have to pull the poor white hillbilly card because that's where I grew up. I used to be jealous of the black kids that I heard about who got (live in the hood) to go to the better schools because of the de-seg program but the white kids who lived in hillbilly country were not given any such benefits.

    No matter the color of your skin I think everyone should do their best to raise above their circumstances. I grew up in a very poor and rural community. There are tons white people in that area without any college education and a whole lot of high school drop outs. Most people either work in factories (if they are the lucky ones). Others work in fast food (another group of lucky ones). And the high school there is such a joke. I'm SOOOO lucky I actually made it to college. It was a great deal of very hard work to graduate college but I made it. So many aren't as fortunate.

  2. Anonymous3:27 PM

    As a new subscriber, I have been eagerly waiting for a new post, and I must say that your blog consistently makes my day. Such a refreshing, non-finger pointing, thoughtful perspective on race.

  3. Anonymous2:07 AM

    Right after I read the part where you said the Gregory Brothers split the proceeds, I thought "How nice that their schooling allowed them to learn audiovisual skills that low-income schools can't afford."

    Your post is so on point as always, myblackfriend.