Free our Minds from This: Minaj Cover of Malcolm X (El-Shabazz)

The Miseducation of our Minds by the Media of Black Folk

The Miseducation of our Minds by the Media of Black Folk

Thanks to Brooklyn-based filmmaker and FB friend Stacey Muhammed for inspiring a rich conversation on her FB wall about Nicki Minaj’s latest video “Lookin A** N***“. Thanks for challenging us and reminding us to think about how black folks are exploiting our own radical history and libration.  I will not add the link for the video.  I refuse to give any eyes or promote the video’s views (literally and figuratively). I do not support the view count or the view WorldStarHipHop!
All I will say is that the use of violence, sexual misrepresentation and “lookin ass nigga” discourse with Malcolm X’s image is worse that the proposed (and beat down by an NAACP petition) Zimmerman fight. This is peculiarly significant in my mind. It’s like saying it’s ok to indoctrinate girls into this imperialist, twisted white supremacist, gun-totin’, school-shootin’, patriarchal system of misrepresentation as if it’s part of our freedom is to say whatever the f*ck we want on social media. That ain’t liberty! It’s cultural narcissism.
Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition in which people have an excessive sense of self-importance, an extreme preoccupation with themselves, and lack of empathy for others.
This is narcissistic: No empathy for the impact on those of us who stand in and with the legacy of the life of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. No empathy for releasing this ish during black history month. No empathy for the commitment Brother Malcolm was for black folks’ liberation and for the liberation of ALL people before the ending of his life.
The music industrial complex’s freedom to do this kind of marketing and sales is a 21st century version with wartime overtones of Step-and-Fetchit. Those actors made lots of money. For them, it was  the only option in white mainstream entertainment. Nicki Minaj, Cash Money and WorldStarHipHop.com got other options. We need to start pressuring them to take ‘me.
Facebook comments on thread by Stacey Muhammad today.

Facebook comments on thread by Stacey Muhammad today.

Standing for the Liberation of and Power to ALL People especially black girls and women!!
Kyraocity works.
POSTSCRIPT from  a Newsone blog post on Feb. 13, 2014: “In a post on Instagram, the Trinidadian barbie, who clearly has no concept of appropriate context, said that she meant no harm by using the picture and has nothing but the utmost respect for Malcolm X’s family:

What seems to be the issue now? Do you have a problem with me referring to the people Malcolm X was ready to pull his gun out on as Lookin Ass Niggaz? Well, I apologize. That was never the official artwork nor is this an official single. This is a conversation. Not a single. I am in the video shooting at Lookin Ass Niggaz and there happened to be an iconic photo of Malcolm X ready to do the same thing for what he believed in!!!! It is in no way to undermine his efforts and legacy. I apologize to the Malcolm X estate if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued. The word “nigga” causes so much debate in our community while the “nigga” behavior gets praised and worship. Let’s not. Apologies again to his family. I have nothing but respect an adoration for u. The photo was removed hours ago. Thank you.”

My thoughts after the apology

My thoughts after the apology

A Crisis of Privilege (and an Opportunity)

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.”
Helen Keller

“I have come to know that if we sell one house to a Negro family, then 90 to 95 percent of our white customers will not buy into the community. That is their attitude, not ours.” (builders had no say over the resale of houses)

“The rock, weighing less than an ounce carried tons of hatred with it.’

(Aug 1957 Quotes from NYT  during integration of first suburb in Levittown, PA.)

This past semester, as I do every semester, I confront the unconfrontable of Jet 2nd Family Levittownrace and racism whether I am teaching ethnomusicology, sociology or a racism course. Being a black woman professor means dealing with race as well as gender politics.

In early December 2012, a Facebook friend named Suzanne Broughel insisted I post a Facebook thread and dialogue on race and privilege about my final weeks teaching two intro to sociology course last semester .

The question reprinted below led to such a great discussion – which yielded so many great resources. Suzanne was so captivated by the conversation that she pulled all the comments from my Facebook wall and archived the resources mentioned for easy use. Thanks Suzanne!! And now I share it with you all here on my blog.

This thread includes sociologists, museum curators,filmmakers,  and a host of other folks from different occupations but all who are committed to the transformation of conversations of race and other “differences” just as I am.

December 7th, 2012 – A Crisis of Privilege

On Dec 7th, I asked a question of my social network on Facebook after a long day of teaching. I asking just a week after another colleague ethnomusicologist Joe Schloss, Ph.D. had asked a professional question about teaching and race matters that also solicited a great deal of interaction. So I was following Joe’s lead when I posted the following knowing I’d get a response at least from sociologist David J. Leonard, Ph.D. and historian Mark Naison. Ph.D..

I knew there were a number of scholars and interested intellectuals who might reply. Sometimes being a black woman talking race incurs a shot the messenger phenomenon and my white male colleagues’ voices were useful to bridge a gap I was sensing after an extrememly long day of teaching. Their comments as well as others’ saved me hours of hand-wringing.

Here’s how I led up to my question:

In the last section of my Intro to Sociology course, two white students — one a 20 y/o 2nd gen Russian man and the other a 2nd gen Irish woman whose in her late 50s — voiced their discomfort with the ‘privilege’ part of white privilege as a term. The male student said he could understand that minorities are disadvantaged but he doesn’t like the term ‘privilege’ for whites. How would you handle this educational moment? Would love some suggestions. I have some but I could use some outside insight into how this black woman professor might help them see, feel, and understand what is meant by white privilege. The textbook we used is stellar in discussing it. I already shared a video of Peggy McIntosh. I am sharing this video with them today (EHL: Little Rock Nine – Elizabeth Eckford http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAPOvdOEYE8) but I realize these historic images keep it at a distance for contemporary thinking. Any video suggestions or exercises you use that I might borrow?

How do I get them from the personal view of “privilege” to a sociological view of it? — exercises or websites are welcome.”

That was my plea. I never shared the Eckford video with them because one of the sources below trumped it for me. I showed the episode of the documentary Race: The Power of Illusion titled “The House We Live In” about the history of redlining and housing discrimination in the U.S.. The next day of classes went extremely well AND I learned so much more from the unique demographics of Baruch College when we did the privilege line exercise. More another day on that.

Here’s a short list of resources from the online conversation.  But scroll down below this list for the actual comment thread (edited), which Suzanne urged that I blog and she (as I do) strongly recommend reading for a more nuanced view of this challenging topic and more tips on how to approach it.

A CRISIS OF PRIVILEGE RESOURCES:

The Privilege Walk Exercise

Article: “Dying While Black” by Dr. Mark Naison, Fordham College

Graphic on Intersectionality: here and the same graphic on another website: http://judge-me-not.weebly.com/fancy-terminology.html

Film: Cracking the Codes: The System of Inequity http://crackingthecodes.org/news/ or http://world-trust.org/mirrors-of-privilege-making-whiteness-visible/

Book: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander  http://www.newjimcrow.com

Article: white privilege and definitions  http://www.mpassociates.us/pdf/WIWP.pdf

Film: Jane Elliot, The Angry Eye

Book: Dalton Conley’s untextbook “You May Ask Yourself
AN INTRODUCTION TO THINKING LIKE A SOCIOLOGIST

Film: Documentary “The House We Live In” part of Race: The Power of Illusion

Here’s the Longer Comment Thread from Dec 7th that followed my update (an edited version):

Some of these people I only knew via Facebook. In fact many. I do know Kendra Hamilton from my former days at the University of Virginia, Ali Garrison from grad school at Michigan’s School of Music,  and Liz Marley from a conference for global transformation hosted by the Wisdom division of Landmark Education. I recently met David at a speaking engagement in NYC this past year for the first time. So this conversation thread is a mix of people giving freely to help me solve my dilemma.

Kyra: In the last section of my Intro to Sociology course, two white students — one a 20 y/o 2nd gen Russian man and the other a 2nd gen Irish woman whose in her late 50s — voiced their discomfort with the ‘privilege’ part of white privilege as a term. The male student said he could understand that minorities are disadvantaged but he doesn’t like the term ‘privilege’ for whites. How would you handle this educational moment? Would love some suggestions. I have some but I could use some outside insight into how this black woman professor might help them see, feel, and understand what is meant by white privilege. The textbook we used is stellar in discussing it. I already shared a video of Peggy McIntosh. I am sharing this video with them today (EHL: Little Rock Nine – Elizabeth Eckford http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAPOvdOEYE8) but I realize these historic images keep it at a distance for contemporary thinking. Any video suggestions or exercises you use that I might borrow?

How do I get them from the personal view of “privilege” to a sociological view of it? — exercises or websites are welcome.”

Mark Naison Kyra. See if this short piece I wrote a couple of years back might help http://withabrooklynaccent.blogspot.com/2009/07/dying-while-black.html

David J. Leonard Have you done the privilege line exercise where they take 1 step forward and backward? It sounds like you have already presented it to them; resistance is evidence of their privilege

Mark Naison I think one of the problems is that not all whites are equally privileged and if you don’t account for class you can get moralistic on them. Nevertheless, white have a huge advantage even when they are working class, even when they have been in trouble with the law. You might want to look at statistics on the black white wealth gap and discuss why it is so great. But this is a very tough subject under the best of circumstances.

David J. Leonard I think any exercise has to account for race, gender, class, geography, sexuality; to echo Mark’s point, statistics are always a good place to start and end with

Kendra Hamilton Try talking about intersectionality–most people don’t like talking about privilege because they feel disadvantaged in one way or another. Talking about interlocking systems of advantage and disadvantage allow them to “add up” the privileges they enjoy vis-a-vis others. I back channeled you the graphic I use on your kyraocity account.

Taleta Jones Perhaps you could assign an “essay” using the simple textbook definitions of the words “Black” & “White”… Perhaps this will induce that “Moment of Clarity” for your students, Professor…

Jackie Peraza Kyra – They have a different map of reality. It’s rare to be able to get someone to expand their map unless you can get them to question their own belief systems. Have you tried asking what ‘white privilege’ might look like to them *if* it existed?

Karyn Beth Berger Discomfort is a part if the learning process….

Shiree Dyson [curator of MOADSF.org] Kyra show them the film Cracking the Codes: The System of Inequity http://crackingthecodes.org/news/ or http://world-trust.org/mirrors-of-privilege-making-whiteness-visible/

Liz Marley [from U.K.]  I think the work of Michelle Alexander: The New Jim Crow i.e. the war on drugs / that there are more African-American males in prison now than were ever slaves in 1850. That 34- 36% (I think) African-American) males have permanently lost their right to vote in some states due to ‘convict’ status. This is not even on a ‘white’ radar. And not even knowing it is difficult to get a taxi (until you shared and others since). And when I was 20 or so I had to digest the term ‘white’ and in last the few years ‘white privilege’. I just never had to think of myself as ‘white’ i.e. childhood in NE Enger-land or ‘priviledged’. Period. And get individuals who have experienced extreme abuse not ‘privileged’ (regardless race). Think important TWO WORDS are read together i.e. it’s not privilege as we ‘know it’. May be place to come from. Use if useful. Let me have feedback if anything inaccurate/off the mark. Thanks.

Kyra Gaunt Thanks David, the privilege line exercise is perfect. Karyn, discomfort is already there because as a black woman I don’t always have the privilege of talking about race without it turning back on me (that I am being racist). So there’s discomfort and yes I use it all the time but it’s always a dangerous place for black professors. I had a white student try to sue me after teaching my first racism course. Thankfully we resolved it before the last day of class but for 6 weeks it was hellish.

Kyra Gaunt Great article on white privilege and definitions: http://www.mpassociates.us/pdf/WIWP.pdf

Mark Naison Someone should film a Black woman professor and a White male professor teaching the same subject, with the same material, in demographically similar classes. It would be very interesting to compare student responses.

Natalie D. A. Bennett “white” people aren’t born that way, they become that. You have to show the students how they become white and are assigned privilege. Being 2nd generation Irish and Russian means something; you can’t dismiss it or hide it under “white” or they will not get the message.

William ‘Fridge’ Franklin What helped me understand that I had male privilege while being black was to mull over the notion that all other things being equal, your life will probably be easier as a male of any group than as a female. When you are talking about large numbers of people, that probability becomes a privilege. It doesn’t always work out at the individual level.

Ali Garrison (a white Canadian whose partner and father of her child is a black African) You’ve probably already thought of it, but just in case… for me, the white mother of a black child, a tough but a crucial perspective on the healing and teaching of empathy is the work that Jane Elliot has done. Can you show some of her work to them? She is a ruthless and brilliant warrior for the cause. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neEVoFODQOE

Kyra Gaunt Thanks to everyone who offered guidance, material and exercises. I used the privilege line that David J. Leonard suggested and a great graphic on intersectionalities the Kendra Hamilton sent me from women’s studies. Used in both of my sections. Learned that focusing simply on the male student’s question was less divisive than tackling all kinds of privileges. As Mark Naison said all whites are not equally privileged – a critical point to highlight as a black professor for students who are triggered by my very presence as the authority. This was a needed insight to have become evident in a highly diverse immigrant and citizen student population at Baruch College. That particular student really appreciated it and others did too. I tackled Eurocentrism, heterosexism, colorism (in one section I gad them line themselves up by color light to dark) and class. We spent alot of time on that and discovered that Asians sre thriving economically in ways I wouldn’t have imagined at at public school. It was quite effective. The exercise also allowed the Jewish immigrants from Russia to share their privilege and lack of it (antisemetism) and an Asian looking student (that’s what “others” see) who wears a Mohawk share his embarrassing times when his mother would speak Spanish in public (Anglocentrism and a great moment of complexifying race/ethnicity) and add in a Latina like him shared how that privilege caused conformity to the norm. They both no longer show their multilingualism in dominant public settings.

Kyra Gaunt I’ve been using Dalton Conley’s untextbook and it does a fabulous job at complexifying the issue of race as one nowadays of white vs. nonwhite rather than white vs black. Highly recommend the text.

Denise J. Hart The documentary “The House We Live In” (part of Race: The Power of Illusion) is superb! Highly recommend it for this discussion. Clear, contemporary in examination with history to support the contemporary contextualization. Good luck!

Aishah Shahidah Simmons Kyra, thank you for this post. While I haven’t had this same exact experience in my classes this semester, it is something that I’ve had to face. There are so many wonderful suggestions. I use the word privilege and I also struggle its use. I believe I struggle with it because it doesn’t always get at the heart of the matter which is white supremacist structures, which marginalizes so many, including disenfranchised white people… Simultaneously there are other structures in which traditionally marginalized people benefit from even in the midst of their marginalization. What I try to do is discuss all of the ways that so many of us most especially in the U.S. occupy many spaces of privilege while simultaneously (possibly inadvertently) marginalizing others. When students (people) are occupying spaces/places of power and are resistant to it, I ask them to interrogate their resistance and explain why/how they don’t think they have power… These are not easy conversations to have at all and yet they are so necessary…. I’m still processing and learning. Again, thank you for this post.

Ali Garrison I think with something as important as empathy, we can try to be academic and intellectual about it, but nothing will teach us to feel what others feel like experiential learning. Hence the efficacy of Jane Elliot’s work. (The Angry Eye).

What a brilliant exchange!!

If you found this useful, insightful or helpful, please say so! Leave a comment and share this post. Thank you!

Google Book’s Ngram Viewer: Fascinating Play on Words.

I love words. I love dictionaries. I scored highest on my verbal scores on my SATs and GREs as well as a psychological indicator for ADD I took in my first years of being a professor. I thought I had Attention Deficit Disorder because I had no willpower to finish my work. Still a problem but the psychologist used his data to tell me I was fine.

Data is a fascinating arena. Platforms today can pull all kinds of data together but what it means takes some real thinking. Still it’s fascinating to see what it might suggest. This kind of stuff keeps me curious and learning. It does not answer questions. It raises them.

Anyone seen Google Books Ngram Viewer. Enter a word and map its appearances in literature since 1800s. I tried out some risque words dealing with race, gender, and identity.

With the Ngram Viewer, you can type in a single term or separate terms you want to compare with a comma. This tool is case-sensitive, so be sure you have the word you want right spelled correctly case-wise.

First I typed in “nigger.” The graph spikes in the 1860s, the 1940s and the 1970s. Could go back and analyze what was happening historically and sociologically in those periods that affected their spikes in literature. the 1860s is around the peak of the institution of slavery if my memory serves me well.

Next, I typed in “African.” Made the mistake of entering it lowercase at first and what I got at first justified my bias about Western views of Africa, but the capital  “A” made for more accurate representation though the graph was not that much better in the big picture of things. The word “African” barely registers anything significant until the 1960s–perhaps due to the rise of black power movements in the US and African American scholars entering the literary fray. Then the graph shows a steep incline in the late 1950s with a significant dip in the 1990s. ,

The word “bitch,” a word people are afraid to use for dogs but it household parlance on daytime and evening TV for women and their male offspring, those “sons” of witches, shows on a graph as a steep and steady incline since the 1920s, before that it was pretty leveled off and low by comparison.
I went back and compared “nigger” and “whiteness” and found the graph of these two terms quite revealing.

Check it out for yourself. Do you own comparisons. If the contrast between the sets is too large, one of the terms may show as a flat line at the bottom. If so, try them separately first and compare by sight.

Wonder what you’ll discover. Do share any of your insights.

AGITATED??

If all this stirred up some stuff for you, i hope you’ll agree to be offended and stay connected here. I love to voice what’s unspoken and matters of difference brings a lot along with it.  To ease your pains, check out this TED Talk by Nigerian author and US Professor Chris Abani to soothe your soul and our humanity.

Kyra’s First YouTube Video Upload: AGREE TO BE OFFENDED

Today is one of those Kuloo Kalay Frabjous Days!! I am diverging from my usual topics to share that… I POSTED MY FIRST VIDEO ON YOUTUBE TODAY! Oh Frabjous Joy!! But will the Jabberwock go galumphing back? Will I get comments? Will they like it? Will you? Let me know. It’s a timely piece on race given the recent satire around Michele and Barack Obama. It’s still not fully loaded yet. But stay tuned!

AGREE TO BE OFFENDED

7/16: Quality is poor but I am working out the kinks asap!

Obama, Racism + Sexism, and Agreeing to be Offended

RACISM AND SEXISM LIMIT SUCCESS WITH OPPOSITE SEX
I came across Michelle Obama and the silence of the feminists on the blog THE G-SPOT while creating a subscription for the word “racism” on del.icio.us account at http://del.icio.us/subscriptions/kyraocity. . This led me to the blog Jack and Jill Politics where I found the offensive image of Michelle Obama to the right: she’s being branded by the KKK. The image apparently first appeared on a democratic site (not a McCain or Bush site) that supported Hilary Clinton. Jack and Jill Politics provides insightful criticism about this event. It’s a must read.

“AGREE TO BE OFFENDED”
I gave a workshop on racism on May 18th at Landmark Education’s Conference for Global Transformation in San Francisco. The title of the presentation is “Agree to be Offended: Curious Connections in Conversations of Race.” Stay tuned for a narrated PowerPoint presentation which will be available as a podcast on YouTube and iTunes in June.

I invite us all to consider it is what we never say but is there to be said about racism and being offended by racism or sexism that is keeping what we most despise (stereotypes, hate crimes, etc.) in place. It seems I would much rather flame about racism, gossip to the people who agree with my opinion of that it’s wrong, I talk about the tip of the iceberg and end up ignore what’s behind it, the mountain of racial and racist conversations from people I know and in the end I am left disempowered and waiting for the next time it happens.

I invite people to AGREE TO BE OFFENDED and STAY IN THE CONVERSATION with the very one whom you think offended you. This will happen at the person to person level first and foremost and it’s likely to be your friends and family rather than the KKK whom you can intervene with. Get interested in what’s behind their thoughts, actions and feelings.

A PRACTICE FOR US ALL:
From taking on this practice, I have seen people miraculously see the limitations of their own thinking without me telling them what I think. Just consider they haven’t really been heard out and they keep screaming louder and louder or making images to spread their views without having to face opposition. If they were heard, perhaps they could stop their own hate. I just watched a video of Avenue Q, the musical, “Everyone is Little Bit Racist”. What we have been doing isn’t working to stop it. Let’s try something new.

You may have lots to say about this image. But Michelle Obama continues to be graceful in the face of such harassment. She is going to be an extraordinary First Woman (and Lady). Hope feminists of all walks of life (including male feminists like Kevin Powell and Mark Anthony Neal blog about this one). The Obamas have brought something we have longed for to the country – powerful, authentic speaking and grace under fire. I am proud to be for the Obamas and am inspired to promote his campaign. I have never donated to a presidential campaign before and I’ve donated now 4 or 5 times. It is ok to be offended by the above image, but it’s what you do, what action and talk comes after that that will make a difference. CONTRIBUTE TO and/or VOLUNTEER FOR THE CAMPAIGN OF YOUR CHOICE!! Si se puede!

Latinos for Obama Video
Love this video: had to share it with you all…Inspired by his previous work with will.i.am on the viral web video “We Are The Ones,” acclaimed music producer Andres Levin has united many leading figures of the Latin music and film community in an all Spanish language video in support of Barack Obama.

Song produced by: Andres Levin
Guitar by: Alejandro Sanz
Additional music and programming: Didi Gutman, Good and Evil
Assistant engineer: Ray Aldaco at Fun Machine
Video produced by: Scott Spanjich, Pilar O’Leary
Directors: William Garcia (Miami), Karen Fischer (NYC), Christian Suau (Puerto Rico), Jesse Dylan (Los Angeles), Bob Teitel (Chicago)
Executive Producers: Andres Levin, Scott Spanjich
Associate Producer: Alex Migoya

Talent: Alejandro Sanz, Paulina Rubio, John Leguizamo, Jessica Alba, Kate del Castillo, Cucu Diamantes (Yerba Buena), Pedro Martinez (Yerba Buena), Andres Levin (Yerba Buena), George Lopez, Luis Guzman, Don Omar, Voltio, Lila Downs, Lin Manuel Miranda, Frankie Needles, Huey Dunbar, Nydia Caro,
Ivonne Caro Caro, Brazilian Girls, Carlos Marín and family, Carola Gonzalez, Viva Nativa, Jose Alberti