Month: September 2016

Lena Dunham: Why she made a Giant mistake | Kendrick Williams

     Hello Spartans! For this issue of the Mosaic blog, I will be discussing Lena Dunham’s actions regarding the 2016 Met Gala and why her words are dangerous and how they encourage the “fatal” sexualization of black men. Even though this story was quite a while ago, I still believe it is important to talk about right now because of all the social implications and microaggressions connected with it.

     For those who are unaware of what the Met Gala and Lenny’s Letter are, the Met Gala is an annual fundraising gala for the Metropolitan Museum’s Art Costume Institute in New York City. The Lenny Letter is a weekly online ‘white feminist‘ newspaper created by Lena Dunham with her friend and co-writer for the show Girls. This year,  the Met Gala was held on May 2nd, 2016 the annual Met Gala was held in New York City. While at the time, no drama was discussed about this event on September 2nd, 2016 during a Lenny Letter interview, Lena Dunham discussed her feelings below:

 

     “I was sitting next to Odell Beckham Jr., and it was so amazing because it was like he looked at me and he determined I was not the shape of a woman by his standards. He was like, “That’s a marshmallow. That’s a child. That’s a dog.” It wasn’t mean — he just seemed confused. The vibe was very much like, “Do I want to fuck it? Is it wearing a … yep, it’s wearing a tuxedo. I’m going to go back to my cell phone.” It was like we were forced to be together, and he literally was scrolling Instagram rather than have to look at a woman in a bow tie. I was like, “This should be called the Metropolitan Museum of Getting Rejected by Athletes.”

     These comments from Lena Dunham were all completely based off what she thought OBJ was thinking during the Met Gala. Lena Dunham recieved an extreme amount of backlash for her comments regarding the Met Gala, especially on twitter. Dunham later apologized on Instagram stating:

     “Despite my moments of bravado, I struggle at industry events (and in life) with the sense that I don’t rep a certain standard of beauty and so when I show up to the Met Ball surrounded by models and swan-like actresses it’s hard not to feel like a sack of flaming garbage,” she wrote. “This felt especially intense with a handsome athlete as my dinner companion.”   

The 30-year-old writer and actress added,

     “most importantly, I would never intentionally contribute to a long and often violent history of the over-sexualization of black male bodies — as well as false accusations by white women toward black men.”

    Now it is possible that OBJ may have just not known who she was. Beckham may have just never watched her show Girls before.Or he may have assumed that Dunham doesn’t talk to black people because of the lack of diversity in the TV show. There were many reasons OBJ simply chose not to speak with Dunham, but instead she chose to immediately make it sexual. She was practically upset the Beckham had not sexualized her.

     While this can all dismissed as celebrity gossip or drama, there are many social underliers in this entire interaction. Many accused Dunham of participating in the constant oversexualization of black men. Dunham decided to presume that OBJ was immediately concerned about sex, and nothing else. You see, the US has a sad and dangerous history about the over sexualization of black men.

     Black men have constantly been stereotyped as being hyper sexualized, lusting after white woman, and being aggressive and predatory. Countless times, white women have falsely accused black men of rape. The Tulsa riot of  1921, started in Oklahoma and  destroyed one of the most affluent black communities in the country. This riot was started after a false accusation by a white woman, claiming that she was raped in an elevator by a black man.   Another prime example is the Rosewood massacre, a violent and bloody massacre of black Americans and the destuction of a black town on the first week of January in 1923. This all happened because of an accusation by another white woman who claimed to have been sexually assaulted by a black man. Finally the infamous case of 14 year old Emmett Till, who was lynched in Mississippi in for reportedly flirting with a white woman at a convenience store. Although the death of Emmett Till was an informal catalyst that began the civil rights movement, the stereotypes regarding black men and their ‘hypersexuality’ still remain.

      Even as a fictional example, in the book To Kill A Mockingbird *spoilers below*,

     a white woman named Mayella Ewell accuses a black man named Tom Robinson of raping her. It is later revealed that she was only lying to hide her infatuation for Robinson.  We have created a society where it is okay to lust after the black male and objectify his body, calling him well endowed, while simultaneously denying black men of expressing their sexuality by claiming that they’re animalistic predators. *End of Spoilers*

     So, yes, this incident can be chalked up to some silly celebrity story- but it has many social implications regarding not only the roles of men and women, but also the roles of black men and white women in the US. Hopefully, the next time you hear someone sexualize a black male, you will be able to recognize the microaggressions that black people face in their daily lives.

 

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The Power of Music: An Exploration of Social Justice in Rap Lyrics | Emilie Rodriguez

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Image taken from slate.com

Hello Spartans! How has music influenced your life? If so, how?

     Music is a universal language that has power to communicate a variety of messages to listeners. There are songs about being in love, being sad, being happy, and every mood in between. There is power in music. Some artists take it a step further by using their craft to communicate social and political messages to their audience. A couple of weeks ago I attended the free YG concert here on campus. His performance inspired me to write this reflection piece.

 

The Influence of Music on My Life

     Anyone who knows me personally knows that I love music. Since I was little I was surrounded by 60’s and 70’s soul music and R&B.’ When I hopped in the car with my parents the voices of Smokey Robinson, Sade, War, Etta James, and Marvin Gaye were on repeat to school and from school. When I was younger I wondered why my parents played this music over and over and would ask,”This song again?” Now that I am older I look back, and have a greater appreciation for the exposure I had to such iconic artists. Music has always been a huge part of my life, and attending concerts has become a hobby of mine.

Social Justice Realizations at the YG Concert

     I have attended close to thirty concerts. Each concert, venue,and artist provides a unique experience. With that said, when rumors circulated during the Summer that YG was coming to San Jose State for free I was all for it. I coordinated with friends to make sure we got spots in line- since there was a limit of students they were letting in. I have seen YG before, and expected him to put on a great show as usual. Little did I know his performance, and the crowd would inspire me to write this.  When YG got on stage the crowd went wild, students started dancing, and singing along. He walked on stage wearing a red and black button up, and on the back read,”Police Get Away with Murder”

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Image taken from Twitter

 

     This statement on his shirt is also a song title off of his latest album,”Still Brazy”, but there is power in this statement. As an artist (like many others) he has heavy influence on pop culture. Even deeper broader than pop culture, he represents the society he comes from.

     Towards the end of the night I decided to step away from the crowd, listen, and observe in the back. A couple minutes later he started performing “FDT.” I looked into the crowd, and to my surprise I saw someone waving an American Flag. I watched them wave the flag the entire song. I looked at the flag, and felt conflicted. I also felt like it was not appropriate to wave the American flag around while YG was rapping about current issues our country is facing, Donald Trump, and institutionalized racism being one of them. The American Flag is supposed to be a symbol of freedom, and patriotism for our country. Contrary to expectations of so called mainstream American culture in the United States, I did not feel proud. I asked myself,”Why don’t I feel prideful, why does the waving of the American flag feel so inappropriate at a moment like this?” I felt confused. We live in the United States where we are expected to be grateful for the freedom we have. Unlike other places around the world we are fortunate to have the freedom of speech, religion, etc. We are supposed have equal rights, and the right to fair justice.  I thought how could this  flag bring me a sense of pride  in a country where police get away with murder, racism is institutionalized, and one of our leading presidential candidates is a full blown racist. From my experience justice does not mean the same thing for everyone. Justice is often overlooked when it comes to people of color. I took these thoughts home with me, and turned to more music for some clarity.

      I began looking through my music library for other rap artists whose lyrics have references to social and political statement. I asked myself a couple of questions,”Is rapping about social justice and political issues a form of activism? Are these lyrics a form of resistance to oppression?”

      As I dug deeper, I found the answer to both of my own questions in the music. For years I did not realize how powerful of a platform music is to communicate meaningful messages. I think rapping about social justice and political issues is a form of resistance, and activism. Music can be used to symbolize the conditions of a society; social problems, and political.

     YG’s choice to acknowledge the reality of social injustice (in this case police brutality) was very intentional.  He is doing more than sharing his personal opinion about politicians, he has shed light on issues that are impacting an entire country via music. Music is a mode of communication. His lyrics show a level of social consciousness, and an opinion about social injustice. Many other rap artists I looked into have used also music as their medium to express opinions  on social issues.

Where Rap Genius Came in Handy

     I was able to narrow my selection down to four songs, and artists. I chose to take a closer look at specific songs by: Joey Badass, Kendrick Lamar, Tupac, and Nas. Here is the list of songs I chose: “Paper Trails” by Joey Badass, “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar, and “Changes” by Tupac. The lyrics to all of these tracks were provided by Rap.genius.com.

 

#1: Joey Badass

Capitalism, and the Paper Trail

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Image taken from Ootylyfe.com

 

     The music video for “Paper Trails ”by Joey Badass begins with Joey Badass saying ,”They say money is the root of all evil. I say it’s the root of all people. Cuz at the end of everyday, no matter white black, or blue collar worker- we still share the same common search for that paper trail.” In these few lines Joey Badass is making a reference to the power money has over us as individuals living in a capitalist society. Regardless of our differences as individuals we all need money to survive. One of the main differences between each social class is that some individuals are making more money than others, and are able to do more than survive (pay bills and put food on the table). Wealth is not distributed proportionally. Typically, people who are wealthier also have higher status in society. They are bosses in charge of workers, large companies, and have higher salaries than the employees they oversee. The white collar workers are at the top economically, and often hold positions of power. An example of these positions of power are politicians. People with higher economic status’ are also going to be able to afford better lawyers, and have higher chances of winning a case in court. For example, the Brock Turner case. He has the white male privilege, means to hire a great lawyer, and dodged correct sentencing for raping an innocent human being. On the other hand individuals who are working class, and being paid lower wages are less likely to be able to afford a luxurious lifestyle, hold a position of power, or afford a lawyer to properly defend them in court. According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute,”People of color will be a majority of the working American class in 2032.” In the song Paper Trails, Joey Badass infers he knows what it is like to have financial stress, and to struggle. Joey Badass says,”Before the money there was love, but before the money it was tough.” He makes a reference to his own personal realization. He was not making money right away from his art; rapping. He pursued music because he loves the art, but love won’t pay the bills or relieve his family of financial stress. Despite the varying opinions on the economics of our country we all share a common goal: to have a roof over our heads and food on the table.

#2: Tupac’s “Changes” is Still Relevant Today

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Image taken from npr.com

     Two days ago radio stations, and people around the world paid tribute to the death of Tupac Shakur. He was shot September 13, 1996. This rap icon is known for his poetic lyricism, and his outspoken personality. He did not shy away from voicing his opinion on racism, and social injustice in the United States. The song I chose by Tupac is the popular track,”Changes.”Tupac says,”I see no changes, all I see is racist faces, misplaced hate makes disgrace to races.” Tupac sheds light on the disproportionate amount of racism African American faced in the United States in the 90’s. The racism continues today. The racism is institutionalized and perpetuated unequal treatment of individuals just because of the color of their skin. When he says,”I see no changes all, I see is racist faces.” I thought about who serves as our political representatives in the United States. Not to say all politicians are racist, but a lot of politicians are not colored. Therefore, how could changes be made to help benefit people of color when the people making laws, policies, and passing legislation cannot relate. Second, Tupac continues this verse by saying,”Take the evil out the people, they’ll be acting right. ‘Cause both Black and White are smoking crack tonight.” Tupac is shedding light on the fact drugs are a “color people problem,” but the society we live in, the justice system, and the media has portrayed people of color as the ones who are hooked on drugs. In contrast, both white and black people participate in using illegal substances such as crack and cocaine. The difference is that a disproportionate amount of African Americans are incarcerated because it. If you are interested in learning more about Tupac Shakur’s viewpoints on racism and social injustice  click here for to watch this video!

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Image taken from Villagevoice.com

 

#3: “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar

     The final artist I chose to take a look at was Kendrick Lamar. It was hard for me to narrow my choices down to one song! From Section 8.0, Good Kid M.a.a.d. City, to the most recent “To Pimp a Butterfly” Kendrick Lamar uses so much symbolism. His lyrics are packed with biblical, social, and political references. I chose a few lines from the song,”Alright.” Kendrick Lamar makes a reference to African American history in the United States. During the Reconstruction period, post civil war in the United States there was a promise made to provide some kind of reparations to newly freed slaves. The Federal Government offered 40 Acres and a Mule to newly freed slaves. In comparison to the psychological, emotional, and physical damage slaves faced this was a way of repaying them. Kendrick says,”What you want you: a house or a car?

     40 acres and a mule? A piano, a guitar?” It’s almost like a rhetorical question Kendrick asks. The reality is individuals were separated from their families, treated inhumane, and degraded for years- and all it came down to was some type of materialistic reparation. He continues to sing throughout the song,”but we gon’ be alright.” These lyrics are a metaphor for the argument that there was no real reconstruction of the South post civil war. Much more needed to be done to heal the pain, suffering, and degradation former slaves, and African Americans faced. Until this day racism is still an issue, not only in the South but throughout the nation.

Reminders for upcoming events at the Mosaic

     Don’t forget the Mosaic Cross Cultural Center has two upcoming programs this month. If you missed the workshop,”A Battleground: Rape Culture and Consent Culture” last Thursday, have no fear we have two more workshops in September. On Thursday, September 22 we are holding a workshop called,“What’s Wrong with White Privilege? at 6pm-7:30 pm in the Mosaic Cross Cultural Center. The last workshop for the month of September is called,”Savior Halo: Discussing Allyship for the Disabled Community” taking place on September 29 at 6:30pm-8pm in the Mosaic Cross Cultural Center. As usual there is free food!

 

 

 

 

Harambe, Comedy and Police Brutality | Chelby Gill

      Before we get started let’s clarify what a meme is, it’s best described as an internet punchline. It’s a picture, gif, or phrase that can be attached to a situation in order to enhance a joke. It is copied with slight changes and is passed rapidly throughout the internet.

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Throughout this article, there will be images of memes, some of which have racist intent. Please read on with caution, especially if you are sensitive to racial prejudice. Many linked videos do not contain CC. 


     May 28th, 2016 was supposed to be an ordinary day on the web, people taking a human interest story or trending topic and conversing about it, make a few jokes and a think piece would follow suit and by the end of the week it would be forgotten. However Harambe was no average story , he was special. The story of Harambe being shot and killed while in an enclosure of a zoo captured the internet’s attention immediately, Harambe lost his life because a little boy had fallen into the mote and zoo officials felt the best decision was to shoot harambe with a bullet rather than a tranquilizer in case he reacted violently and could hurt or kill the child. Folks then started to draw parallels to police brutality cases and how the African American/ Black victim is shot while not posing a physical threat, the officer who shot the victim will claim they did so out of self-defense. In these situations the main questions asked are,

Why did they have to die?

Were they really posing a threat?

Was the use of such force necessary?

What could both parties of done to prevent this tragedy?

Would this person of been shot or seen as a threat had they of been White?

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Now if the internet could have just left at that it would have been fine, there’s nothing wrong with drawing parallels between two events to create a dialogue on social justice issues. I probably would not even be writing this blog if we could have just left at drawing parallels between two situations

    However twitter is not responsible, in fact it is quite the opposite, it’s a racist, antagonistic, misogynistic, misogynoir, pretty-much-any-phobic, filled cesspool. As a young Black womyn despite the memes and jokes and good conversation I can only protect myself so much by having a carefully curated timeline.

    Racist jokes on the internet are nothing new at all, for the most part they are unapologetically racist meant to offend and antagonize. That is why I reacted to the Harambe meme differently, it managed to be overtly and covertly racist at the same time. The jokes being made were satirizing and parodying police brutality and Black pain whilst using Harambe as a placeholder for an actual Black person. Therefore folks used it as a shield to avoid accusations of racism. In short folks on twitter were anthropomorphizing Harambe as a Black man in order to get out all the racist jokes they could in 140 characters or less.  (cw: Racist image)

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     Adding insult to injury there is actually a very sad and long history of African Americans being compared to monkeys, gorillas and other primates, it was to humiliate, dehumanize and fetishize Black people.  Some of that language was ingrained in the American Lexicon when referring to Black people up until a decade ago  (i.e. Jungle Fever). I am more than sure those who know of that stereotype who participated in that meme were using that to add to their punch lines as well.  We recently saw an example of this usage of gorillas towards Black people when online trolls tweeted pictures of Harambe with Leslie Jones face photoshopped onto it. (cw: Racist image)

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     Let’s go back to the parodying black pain, it’s been a common theme on the internet, I first noticed this when Antoine Dodson most famous for the “Bed Intruder” song (“Hide your kids, hide your wife”) ring a bell. The internet took a clip from a local news interview where Dodson is describing his fear and concern for his loved one because there was a serial rapist in the neighborhood. “Sweet Brown” best known for the “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That” phrase was again a clip from a local news interview and she is talking about how she escaped an apartment complex fire. This meme found humor in AAVE (African American Vernacular English) and the misogynoiristic trope of sassy and mammy type black woman. The media took these traumatic experiences from low income African American people and turned it into a mockery and reduced them to cartoon characters.

     I have used these micro aggressions to see how non-Black folks view our lives and our pain, and from what I have gathered it is nothing but entertainment to the rest of the world. Participants in the meme parodied the outrage that usually follows the news of another victim of police brutality.

     Does the rest of the world see our outrage as a community as outlandish rather than the cry for respect and human treatment that it is?(this video does not have CC.)

     Now do not get me wrong I love comedy, whether it’s black, blue, topical, observational, insult or sketch. I appreciate the sophomoric humor of Adult Swim to the white, socioeconomically upper class New York hegemony that is Saturday Night Live. I think comedy is a great tool and can be used to poke fun of social norms and taboos, but if there is one thing I know about comedy it is that you do not punch down on a person or a group of people. I enjoy all different types of humor but my “wokeness”, (which I might add I did not just decide take on this consciousness, as a Black woman I do not have the choice to be asleep) will not allow me to simply look over microaggressions in comedy no matter funny it may be.

     Harambe’s legacy could have been used for good. We could be using the attention on this story to talk about the fact that more people were concerned for the animal than the Black child. We should have spent more time discussing why many people went on to harass the family and even publish personal information regarding previous arrests that were completely unrelated. The only purpose of drudging up past arrests was to further the “Black people are irresponsible parents” narrative. On the contrary Harambe’s death could of also lead to a discussion on speciesism and interspecies intersectionality and justice. If Harambe had of been a domestic animal would officials had been so quick to shoot him. The greatest question that was seldom asked is why was Harambe in a zoo/enclosure in the first place? The idea of zoo’s and having animals on display for human entertainment is antiquated and we really should end those institutions. But the internet does not know how to be responsible so instead we are left with a racist meme that is 3 months old and that no one plans on ending.

 

Spotlight on Sports – Do Race and Gender Impact the Degree of Social Media Backlash?

 

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image taken from https://www.olympic.org/

 

Welcome back Spartans! As we begin to muscle through the start of the semester, a persistent longing for the freedom that summer vacation provides looms over us like a dark cloud. Luckily, there’s still time to get settled and shift gears before midterms sneak up on us.

If you’re one of the countless people who watched the 2016 Olympics, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil over summer break, then you probably remembered the memes and scandals that flooded everyone’s social media. My favorite Olympic memes are the snapshots of Olympic athletes at the perfect moment.

But not everything about the 2016 Olympics was cheery. A few athletes created controversy as the games progressed. Ryan Lochte found himself in hot water when he lied about being robbed at gunpoint at a local gas station. After telling his mother about the incident in confidence, she took to the news to seek justice for her son. As the media began to get involved, the swimmer couldn’t keep his story straight, and security cameras revealed that Lochte and a few of his fellow swimmers vandalized a gas station. The ‘robber’ turned out to be a security guard who used his gun in order to keep the rowdy swimmers from fleeing the scene without paying for the damages

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AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa De Olza

Ryan Lochte is not likely to be reprimanded for lying, and has still maintained most of his sponsorships & will appear on the next season of Dancing With the Stars. The Rio Olympics spokesman, Mario Andrada, was nonchalant when speaking out about the incident. “No apologies from [Lochte] or other athletes are needed. We have to understand that these kids came here to have fun. Let’s give these kids a break. Sometimes you make decisions that you later regret. They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on.”

But for Brazil, a poorer country, Ryan’s story could mean losses for potential tourists, something most countries that host the Olympic games are aiming for. After spending large amounts of money to make the games look on par with countries that have higher GDP’s (*Cough, London*) Brazil ultimately hopes to gain money from tourism both during and after the games. It’s clear that Ryan didn’t think that his story would be released to the press, but it’s clear we won’t be getting in as much legal trouble as he should have.

Around the Games - Olympics: Day 7

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 12: Ryan Lochte of the United States attends a press conference in the Main Press Center on Day 7 of the Rio Olympics on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)

Gabby Douglas on the other hand, faced severe backlash when she zoned out during the USA’s National Anthem. Many people went on twitter to tweet their outrage, calling her unpatriotic and even slinging slurs at her. People also began to comment on her hair texture and tease her for her physical appearance. One article published by the LA times attacked Douglas’ body language, and made sure to note that she had been less successful during this year’s games. While researching for articles for this blog post, many articles were quick to mention how accomplished Lochte was at swimming instead of the severity of the issue. Many articles talk about Ryan in the same way you’d expect a mother to talk to her son who just spilled sauce on his shirt (slightly disappointed, yet passive). In fact, the LA Times article about Lochte is almost purely factual, and calls out the country of Brazil for “a long history of not extraditing its own citizens to other nations.” Ironically, Lochte was already back in the United States. Gabby’s mistake was quick to hold the attention of many bloggers and tweeters, forcing her to own up for her mistake. In contrast, Lochte only apologized when met with backlash on social media, and had the backing of the Spokesman for the olympics.  It’s interesting to see what people choose to report on when a white male is in trouble with the law vs. a black female who didn’t lift her arm.

And while it’s speculated that Gabby didn’t raise her hand over her heart because of the Black Lives Matter movement, she herself has not confirmed the rumors. Another U.S. athlete is currently under fire for sitting down during the anthem. Colin Kaepernick, a football player for the San Francisco 49ers, took a stance supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. While many people took to twitter again to protest their outrage, Kaepernick stood by his protest and was backed up by the 49ers coach, Chip Kelly. Verses of “The Star Spangled Banner” which used to a poem, contains a line about slavery. Kaepernick is aware that the social media backlash might ruin his chance at endorsements, something that many football players rely on to stretch their (careers and paychecks) further. Colin said “ If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right,” after he confessed to the press that he did not get permission to sit down during the anthem. The Young Turks has a video regarding the Kaepernick issue if you would like to know more (with captions, trigger warning for ableist language, swearing, & death mention).

          What are your thoughts about these three athletes? Is vandalizing a gas station as big of a crime as not putting your hand over your heart? Do any of these athletes deserve backlash? Do you find it surprising that channels like ESPN are defending Kaepernick’s freedom of speech?

     Have a great week Spartans! For more info on the crossroads of sports and activism,be sure to read up on Tommie Smith and John Carlos who were both former students at sjsu!