The politics of respectability implies that recognition of Black humanity has to be “earned” by Black people by engaging in puritanical behavior as approved by White supremacy…behaviors that Whites themselves don’t have to engage in to “prove” humanity because of White privilege; they’re always viewed as “the default human.”
~~ Trudy @GradientLair
The goal of modern propaganda is no longer to transform
opinion but to arouse an active and mythical belief.
– Jacques Ellul
Some day soon I really need to create a schedule to update my blog. I am learning so much these days and at the same time trying to focus on one or two things. Life gets too busy, too quickly. I happened to see this excellent TEDx Talk today by Gary Wilson on porn addiction and thought it perfect as a new post. The video is at the bottom of the post and provides rich information for parents, boys, men, girls and women alike! Don’t let digital seducesyou without thinking!
My work on the convergence of everyday culture like girls’ games or twerking and commercial digital culture like VEVO and YouTube has reminded me that the study of both femininity and masculinity, girls and men, is essential to my research. Gender and sexuality as well as race and class play significant roles in how one must learn to think to do the kind of analysis needed in the rapidly changing mediascapes and ecologies of new media — available anywhere, anytime. This was one of the most informative TED Talks related to my own work that I have seen thus far.
Now, to get this information to communities of color, to the parents of girls and boys in Black, Latino, and other marginalized groups. The images used throughout the presentation are not just of white males and females but images of darker skinned black or Latinos are missing.
From the YouTube description box: In response to Philip Zimbardo’s “The Demise of Guys?” TED talk, Gary Wilson asks whether our brains evolved to handle the hyperstimulationof today’s Internet enticements. He also discusses the disturbing symptoms showing up in some heavy Internet users, the surprising reversal of those symptoms, and the science behind these 21st century phenomena.
Gary Wilson is host of http://www.yourbrainonporn.com. The site arose in response to a growing demand for solid scientific information by heavy Internet erotica users experiencing perplexing, unexpected effects: escalationto more extreme material, concentration difficulties, sexual performance problems, radical changes in sexual tastes, social anxiety, irritability, inability to stop, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms.
“America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
Education, Liberation – I LOVE YOU!
Just got off the phone with my mom. She and I graduated–spent our last years of adolescent black girlhood—at the same predominately white public school, Richard Montgomery High. It’s located in Rockville, Maryland just outside the beltway in Washington, D.C. Mama was in the 2nd class after Segregation ended (pun not intended, but … take it as it comes). I believe she attended 1958 – 1961. I attended 20 years later from 1977-79. I graduated at the age of 16. With my birthday in September this sounds amazing but it was not. That’s an altogether different story for another time. It sure looked good in the eyes of others to graduate at 16 but the real circumstances were not cute. I might write about it in another postif folks are interested.
It’s early Saturday morning and I’m sharing about my upcoming TEDx talk I’m givingMarch 20th at my alma mater, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The talk will be about race, value and black girls’ self-worth so I can really talk about racialization, sexualization and structural racism on YouTube. I am planning on starting my talk with a story about stage fright at my first audition at UofM.
Somehow we got to talking about our different experiences with Integration across our life courses. I was recording it in case I said something good for my talk. I transcribed the exchange because it rich with meaning and relevance esp. as I finish up an article highlighting the re-segregation of black girls on YouTube. Wanted to find a way to talk about segregated spaces on and off line, the blurring of public/privacy, the meaning of publicity in what are essentially segregated bedrooms broadcast online, and the inherent racialization of adolescent black female body and image while valorizing their white female counterparts. Even though big butts are valued they are stigmatized on black bodies. Kim Khardasian can “Break the Internet” but when black girls try in twerking videos…as Nicki Minaj put it when talking about black girls doing a black thing, “it ain’t that poppin’!”
My new friend and one of the newest TED Fellows (Rock the TED Stage girl!!), choreographer Camille A. Brown articulated the dilemma we black girls face today, young and old,
Your body has value, but not on you!
Un-gawa, Black Powa
My conversation with my Mama is always like a roller-coaster. We cover lots of emotional terrain — sometimes it’s not easy but this was one of the more precious moments I want to remember forever.
She mentions the store Zaire’s which was a local department store in Wheaton, MD that my mom went to most of my childhood. She paid for new school clothes put on law-a-way often working 2 jobs a day. I got my first brown cordoroy bell-bottoms at Zaire’s when they were the “in” thing. Wish I had a copy of my 7th grade picture sportin those pants as the cheerleading squad assistant. Ungawa, Black Power was one of the cheers we black girls brought to the white junior high squad.
I was an integration baby. So you were supposed to fit in. I was always– the only black student in classical music until I got to Michigan. [That’s a little exaggerated. Tony Scales and his friend Virgil were in the music department with me to Montgomery College but no one else for 10 years of my classical training from 1979 until Michigan in 1988].
What made Michigan great for me was that there were THIRTY OTHER BLACK STUDENTS there. It was AWESOME! But…we didn’t see each other, ya know. Even when I was [back] at Julius West [Junior High I thought] all of the black students, I thought we were in different classes, because I never saw them at school [in the spaces of learning, in the classroom; I saw them everyday at lunch. We played Spades on the regular]. [I later learned] They were [all] in another class [tracking them vocational ed and not college prep].
24:19″ Mama: The bad part of that was, in order for you to get a half-way decent chance to go to higher learning [college], I had to be on [them]… making sure you were in the right courses. Because there was some courses where the kids just played in the class all day [ME: a function of curriculum design not student laziness]. And that mighta been fun but in the long run. I mean…
24:59″ I never thought that Integration was the best thing.
I wanted to have the experience of being… [of] graduating from Carver High School. GeorgeWashingtonCarver high school!! I wanted to graduate from there!!
25:09″ But..but they– said–[parents and school authorities brokering the transtion], I was a student that who would be successful in going to the white schools. I didn’t like it!!
And when I started to have problems with the teachers, my father said “you oughta be glad you’re going to school with whites.” That’s what he said.
Me: Ye-ah! Our…our experiences are like mirrors ..
25:35″ Mama: We all had things we had to go through, ya know? and I had a few teachers at Richard Montgomery — my U.S. history teacher — probably if it wasn’t for her I probably wouldn’t had — her and maybe Mr. Preston — I would have had just a TERRIBLE time at Rich’rd Montgomery alltogether. I mean 9…well…I had…well, less than 50% good experience there most of my time there, and I was just glad to get outta there! (she laughs at the irony)
26: 19″ And I had to work at Zaire’s behind the food counter! [It was] my first job after I got outta high school.
Me: Wow, I didn’t know that. [She’d never told me this before. And we continued shopping there for years.]
Mama: YE-AH!!! So what was the… ya know.. Me: ..the benefit… Mama: Ye-ah!
Me: You got to go to a white school with white people but you didn’t get any better of a job. Mama: Right!!!
Mama: … an’ COULDN’T SIT AT THE COUN’ER!
Me: WOW!!!!!! <pause> Really??!?
The Flawed System of Race
Notice how even as black woman’s own daughter, I respond in disbelief at racism. That my moms went to a predominately white school–we have arrived–to still deal with segregation in the rest of society, in her first workplace, after getting her degree. This ish is a trip! And this trip around the sun for black folks has come with way too much ish. Situations matter. There is not global solution to the racial ideology that still fools far too many of us into thinking what we do online or off is ok if I own my own body. No man, woman and child is an island.
We are all accomplices, co-creators — past and present — the shaping black girls’ social identity and their self-worth. That’s it for now. But our conversation reminded me of a poem set to music in an African American art song by David Nathaniel Baker. Thought the poem was by Langston Hughes. Delighted to learn and remember it was written by Mari Evans, whom I spoke to when writing my first book. She wrote a fabulous poem about black women and the poem “status symbol” [note the lower case spelling] is from her book I am a Black Woman (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1970).
The Right to Protect Your Embodied Self-Expression
This talk on privacy from TEDGlobal in Rio last week is one of the first talks made public. As I shared about the Watching Black Girls Twerk on YouTube data about the ways girls images are essentially being “trafficked” by 44% of the 168 videos we collected, a woman said she wasn’t on social media but then added she made her first selfie the other day. If you carry a mobile phone, you are being surveilled with your phone itself, your calls, your photos and your microphone in ways you surely are just indifferent to.
As women and people of color, the lack of privacy could and probably will be much more harmful and detrimental to us when others perceive our actions of “bad” — whether that’s the state or fellow citizens who ability to flag or dislike your uploaded content, tweets and updates can perhaps lead you to lose your job these days. Factor in the discriminatory biases of race, gender and age, and you might see why I am studying the videos of black girls who twerk on YouTube. I am trying to understand the media ecology of surveillance by other consumers and by corporations like YouTube and VEVO and the possible implications all this has on black music culture, girls’ musical behavior and the social construction of our digital self-presentation. This work is bigger than black girls. It applies to us all.
GlennGreenwald was one of the first reporters to write about the Edward Snowden files and the US governments surveillance of its citizens. His TED talk begins by talking about what I am most passionate about these days–digital self-presentation–and the indifference teens and adolescents (much less the rest of us) have when uploading images of ourselves made in private settings in front of a webcam. The moment initially leads to sense of “context collapse” or a sense that you don’t know who you really talking to out there in Internet land–you lose control of your image the moment you upload it. Greenwald begins:
0:00 There is an entire genre of YouTube videosdevoted to an experience whichI am certain that everyone in this room has had.It entails an individual who,thinking they’re alone, engages in some expressive behavior —wild singing, gyrating dancing,some mild sexual activity —only to discover that, in fact, they are not alone,that there is a person watching and lurking,the discovery of which causes themto immediately cease what they were doingin horror.The sense of shame and humiliationin their face is palpable.It’s the sense of,“This is something I’m willing to doonly if no one else is watching.”
0:53 This is the crux of the workon which I have been singularly focusedfor the last 16 months,the question of why privacy matters
Educating Black Girls: Their Privacy Matters
I posted this comment after the video:
As a digital ethnographer studying how black girls’ images are being “trafficked” more or less to feed their adolescent desires to fit in through social media/online video or to feed the markets of objectifying female body parts, this talk speaks directly to an issue that I find most African American adults–parents, teachers and elders of any age–tend to be indifferent to. Our privacy…We give it away with YouTube in the name of some fake democracy or self-expression that will later be used as data to limit access to education, to jobs and more.
Thank you Glenn Greenwald for your passion, commitment and integrity to journalism’s core values in any society. Your work as a journalist reveals what is often hidden from us by others and by our own words that defy our lived realities. This is why my intention now is to help black girls learn what their elders are not equipped to teach yet.