Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to stop being racist #20: Stop saying you hate rap music.

[if you are new and wondering what the other things are on this list, you can click here for most of the other ones.]

Remember in my last post when I asked you what were any signals to help identify underground racists? I forgot to tell you one I've already figured out...People who say, "I hate rap music."

Let me explain...

When I was in high school, it was really popular to say "I like all kinds of music except country and rap."

Looking back on it, I'm guessing this was just a way to say "I like pop music," becauseI don't think my fellow Eagles were really that into classical, folk, latin, etc. The music that was most popular at the time was alternative, but "popular alternative" is something of an oxymoron.

Someone who says "I hate all music except rap and country" is less likely to get the side eye from me, because we all know that while black people make rap, white people make country. So they probably just hate the different sounds associated with the different musics.

But when someone says,

"I hate rap...Just rap...Rap really annoys me for some reason I just haven't been able to put my finger on yet."

What I hear is:

I hate young, urban black males and all that they stand for. It is not acceptable for me to say I hate young
black urban males and all that they stand for, but is IS acceptable for me to say I hate rap, so...I hate rap.

I'm not saying this is a conscious thought on the part of these people, or that it is even accurate. It's just my perception. Also, I realize it is a bit unfair to associate things with peoples' unconscious minds, since that is not something that can be proven or disproven in a court of law or a labratory. But don't blame me, blame Freud. Personally, I think he's onto something. And if you're white getting mad, I think this rule applies to people of color too--just put internalized in front of the word racist.

My friend Polly once said that if you say you don't like a whole genre of music, it's because you think it all sounds the same. I think she's onto something, because I don't really like Ska music for that reason (though I do have a Mighty Mighty Bosstones cd.)

But I would never say I hate Ska music. Hate is such a strong word. I know there are people who go around talking about how they hate lots of different things (not just rap,) but I think that might be a habit that is worth breaking. If you hate Cheetos, how do you feel about Hitler? It's like, words have precise meanings--use the one that best describes what you're trying to convey.

I also recognize that while I probably will never be a big ska fan, that someone who is a big ska fan hears a lot of differences between the various bands, knows there are subgenres of ska, and could probably find me some ska songs besides The Bosstones that I would like.

The same is true for rap. Rap is such a varied genre with so many different artists--it just doesn't make sense to write off the entire thing because of the (most likely) extremely limited exposure you've had to it.

There is a great website called Rap Genius, where you can find basically any rap song, read the lyrics, and then read user-submitted interpretations of the lines--just like you would analyze poetry. I would encourage you to check that site out and see what you find.

If you don't like rap that degrades women, say that. If you don't like rap that glorifies consumerism, say that. Understand that people that make that kind of rap often say that they are just telling the world about their harsh reality. Examine that idea and formulate a response. Finally, be open to the possibility that there is a jam out there that you would love...if only you heard it. Then maybe you and I can be friends.

Comments? Feel free to leave me one.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

What is it like to be white?

I have literally wanted to post the video below for YEARS. But I could never find it online. Then I was in a group on facebook that deals with race, clicked 'like' on another video and then this video popped up as a suggestion. Just like this time, the Universe was working for me--you just gotta pay attention.

I saw this skit when it first appeared on Saturday Night Live. I was about 6 or 7. I probably shouldn't have been watching SNL at that age, mom. ;) . However I will say, I didn't get most of the jokes. But I do remember this skit where John Belushi held up a puppet and said, "Happy birthday, Shiela!" Does anyone else remember that?

Ok, watch the video:

Arrrrrgh, I can't get it to embed, so you're going to have to click here to watch it.

Couple things:

Did you catch the part where he says in order to become white he read Hallmark cards? I feel like that is part of the race problem that doesn't have a whole lot to do with white people. This idea that certain things (that I would consider positive,) are quintessentially white. Like, giving someone a card with a sweet sentiment is not something that a person of color should feel like they can't do if they want to maintain an authentic racial identity. Being interested in school and speaking the King's English would be two more examples. So, if there are any black people reading that put these kinds of limitations on other black people--please stop. If you don't want to stop; please tell me why in the comments so I can understand better where you're coming from.

So, I am pretty sure that this is not what happens when there are no people of color around. But you'll notice I didn't say I'm positive...cuz I'm not. Because logically, everywhere I am, a black person is--so I could always be influencing what is happening. Also, we got to where we are now by white people giving each other preferential treatment for at least 200 years--so it's not like this skit is coming completely out of nowhere.

And that's where you come in, white readers. I don't think you give each other free stuff or have parties on the bus--but how frequently do you hear racist/racish comments from other white people when there are no people of color around? What percentage of white people are actually scarily racist and just savvy enough to control themselves in public? An estimate for both of these answers is fine. Last question: any tips on spotting these people?

That's all for now. And if you're a new reader who got here after my mention on the country's best morning show--Welcome! I'm glad you're here.

And if that's not how you got here--I'm glad you're here too.

Feel free to answer the questions I posed, your reactions to the skit, or just share about anything else that's on your mind in the comments.

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