Season 2 of the series “Dear White People” is now availible on netflix. Dear White People follows the experience of several different black students at a predominately white institution and how they navigate in the face of social injustice. It does an excellent job of exploring intersectionality, as it chronicles how different students adapt when their identities are challenged racially and sexually. The series dispels the notion of black monolithism, as it explores how black students with different backgrounds and experiences organize on campus, often conflicting with each other on the solutions they come up with to fight social injustice on campus. The series follows how the students relationships develop, and are tested by these concepts. The satire in the series will make you laugh, but will not take away from the severity of the issues it highlights. Dear White People is a must watch for anyone interested in seeing how identity and racism interact through multiple perspectives with a satirical twist.
Zora Neale Hurstom’s “Barraccoon: The Last of the African Cargo,” the story of Cudjo Lewis is told through his own words. Cudjo was believed to be the last African to be brought to the United States as a slave. Hurston began interviewing Cudjo in 1927. The book was never published due to the vernacular dialect it uses. Publishers wouldn’t except it. Hurston has used this approach in works such as “Their Eyes Were Watching god.” I remember reading TEWWG as a freshman in High School and disliking the use of vernacular in the book. It made for a rigid, difficult read. However, I did not have the knowledge and understanding that I do now, and believe that the use of vernacular is an authentic approach to story telling. It makes for more rewarding read, as it brings you closer to the story tellers and gives you an opportunity to learn from the dialect itself.
After listening to Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech I decided to see if I could find a speech by President Trump on racial issues to do some comparing. While Barack Obama’s eloquent 37-minute speech was filled with compelling ideas on how to come together as a nation, Trump’s 7-minute interview on “the O’Reilly Factor” was loitered with uncertainties, false equivalences and straight up absurd comments (the title was sarcasm if you couldn’t tell). To kick the interview off, O’Reilly asks trump if he believes that there is a problem with race relations in this country. The first thing he does is mention the shooter who killed five police officers in Dallas. While the shooter should be condemned, highlighting this instance when asked if there is a problem in the United States with race relations frames it as if black people are the problem. He uses this instance to push his white supremacist ideology that he espouses through dog whistle politics such as this and ignores the hundreds of years of oppression beforehand in an attempt to shift the blame to black people. O’Reilly goes on to ask him whether he believes that black people are systematically at a disadvantage in this country. “Well I’ve been saying even against me the system is rigged…” While the struggle of being born a white male into a millionaire family in the United States of America must be unbearable, talking about his “struggle” in a reply to a question about black disenfranchisement is an insult to the black community. When asked if whether he believes that it is a problem within the police department that facilitates discrimination towards black people, he responds in a convoluted, clueless manner. “I don’t know.” “It could be.” “I don’t know if whether its bad people, training….” “I think its training.” He then goes on to say he believes that “99.9 percent” of police do an “incredible job,” and that he is a “big fan” of the police. Not only does Trump bring nothing of value to the discussion of these critical issues, he undermines them and often ends up praising the perpetrator as we see not only in this example but in scenarios like the protests in Virginia when he said, “There were very good people on both sides” (The other side were Nazi’s). Make no mistake. He is not genuinely this clueless. Donald Trump is a white supremacist who distorts and undermines racial issues in order to tap into people’s inherent biases to garner support.
Kanye West has been making news lately for his comments that many people are considering to be absurd. In a series of tweets and an interview with TMZ, Kanye has expressed his love for Donald Trump, his advocacy for “free thought,” and that “Slavery is a choice.” While I think that the media is oversimplifying his thoughts in order to bash them even more, I still think that many of Kanye’s ideas are wrong. Kanye’s affection for Donald Trump is difficult to interpret. While I would like to believe that he is expressing a sort of “love your enemy” type of approach, I do not think this is the case. Kanye has expressed that he does not “agree with everything trump says” but he has not been specific about anything in this regard. Kanye proudly touts his red “MAGA” hat in a picture on twitter but says nothing about any of Trump’s policies and makes nothing but vague statements when questioned about it. I believe that Kanye admires Donald Trump in the fact that he likes his demeanor, and the fact that he came from virtually nothing in the political world to becoming the President. Its hard for me to believe that Kanye could actually support what Trump stands for considering many of the politically charged lyrics he’s written in past works, and a comment on the then-president George Bush saying that he “doesn’t care about black people”, but who knows… maybe Kris Jenner broke out the tea cup one night and really did send Kanye into the “sunken place.”
Kanye has vehemently been expressing his advocacy for “free thought.” I think that Kanye is viewing his statements and controversy as a free thought issue, and making it seem as though his comments are revolutionary and everyone who speaks out against his antics are “mentally imprisoned.” I don’t think that this is what the controversy is about. Most rational people would support this concept of “free thought.” What most people don’t support, however, is when someone is supporting a president who uses racially charged rhetoric and is implementing policies that are detrimental to the black community in particular. If Kanye gave legitimate reasons for supporting some of the things that Trump does then maybe people would respect it. But when you post a picture in a MAGA hat and tell the world that Donald Trump is “Your boy”, and give no semblance of an elaboration then yes, you will receive backlash and rightly so.
The most controversial statement that Kanye has offered us recently is the idea that “slavery is a choice.” While I think that this idea is being simplified and misconstrued by the media, I still think that the idea that he is trying to convey is wrong. Kanye is not simply saying that Africans decided one day “Let’s go be slaves.” He is not saying that slaves could have just walked away from the plantation if they didn’t feel like working that day. Kanye is trying to say that slavery is mostly psychological. He is trying to say that if slaves knew their power they could rise up and overthrow the plantation, given their advantage in numbers. This idea completely ignores history. There were many documented slave revolutions and instances of resistance. The question is: what happens after they overthrow the plantation? Organization between plantations is already extremely difficult, and even if a few plantations manage to overthrow and kill the plantation owner, what happens then? Where do they go in a majority white country with a white military enforcing laws that institute slavery? The narrative that Kanye is expressing is not a revolutionary idea. This idea of complacent, docile slaves is a narrative pushed by many on the conservative spectrum in order to frame the black struggle as a “personal responsibility” issue. Kanye being a black man and expressing this idea does not make him a “revolutionary who escaped the democratic plantation.” Prominent figures such as Bill Cosby and Ben Carson have expressed similar sentiments.
The idea that black people HAVE to think a certain way or support a certain party is wrong, and maybe that is what Kanye is trying to get at. Black people are not monolithic. But there is a reason that conservatives generally get less support from black people. There is a reason that Donald Trump is called a racist. That is not to say that black people can’t be conservative or support Donald Trump. But if you are going to express ideas that are viewed by many as having a negative affect on the black community then you need to, as Professor King would say, come with the receipts.