When the #NFL Goes So Wrong, Only Satire Can Make it Right!

sat·ire
ˈsaˌtīr/
noun
  1. the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
― Margaret Atwood

I wish there was more intentionality around posting on my blog, but hey!…”It’s my party and I’ll …” write when I want to. You know why? Teachin and writin’ (like pimpin’but different) ain’t easy. I thought I’d try to be funny this time cuz I am always so serious here.

A reminder about the purpose or mission of my blog. Black Girls YouTube is designed for two things.

  1. To have a space to express my thoughts, feelings and critiques of what’s happening when teen and adolescent black girls YouTube (“YouTube” is a verb in the blog title). I’m thinking of girls under 18 who vlog and/or twerk, who create content and engage with others on the platform, and
  2. To feature other online videos or talks about the social lives of black girls, especially the girls as distinct from women over 18, or that simply speak to issues affecting their self-presentation online.

The Power of Satire in YouTube Vlogs

As I organize the overall class schedule for my latest semester of a digital ethnography course that focuses on black girls who twerk on YouTube, I ran across a great video of satire about the Ray Rice controversy. I’ve basically been too busy to jump into the fray. I was searching through Chescaleigh’s latest videos and playlists and found this gem. It’s not one of her classics. She is now a curator for Upworthy and put together a playlist of her curated content. She writes:

I’m now a content curator at upworthy.com which is a new media site dedicated to promoting content that matters. This playlist contains some of my favorite content from around the web on a variety of important topics and social issues. To see more of my posts on Upworthy visit http://www.upworthy.com/franchesca-ramsey and make sure to “like” us on Facebook for more important content! http://facebook.com/upworthy

The latest in the playlist had me in stitches and got me thinking about the power of satire. As Wikipedia states, satire when some event, person or institution’s:

…vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement.[1]

You could read this as a shaming of a professional football player, Ray Rice. But losing his job will serve the purpose of shame very effectively. No satire necessary. You could read it as a shaming of his girlfriend-now-wife, whose name here need not be repeated. She deserves some privacy. No satire necessary there. But the institution, the corporate-person known as the NFL. Well…let’s just saw this satire by Megan MacKay  posted Sept 12th does not fumble the ball about sexual abuse of women by pro ball players.

Teaching about Black Girls in a Predominately White Setting–NYC

I hope that we might find moments of satire in our class discussions since it’s such a pivotal genre on YouTube.

I wish I knew how to make a satire of this fact: I have 18-19 students and only one black student at one of the top public university’s in New York City.  The student, Chris, and I represent [CORRECTION:] 10% of people in the room in a city where black people represent. African Americans represent 19% of the population in NYC, so we’re off by almost  50% [Math is not my forté but I know people who do math!]

The New York City Metropolitan area represents the largest city and metro in America with more than 18 million residents. African Americans have a rich history in this region even before the civil war. The New York Metro Black population is the largest of any city in the United States at close to 3.5 million. This is almost 9% of the entire Black population of the United States. New York City Proper has more than 2.4 million African Americans.

It’s odd to me that we cannot improvise and experiment with other forms of privilege (or even other majorities) in the classroom. The demographic of the college where I work has students from over 120 countries represented. In an average classroom, I have students from 14 different nations. But the black student population seems to be dwindling. So why teach about black girls? Because it matters that we pay attention to the “least” among us.

Hangin on a String

The other day, at an event with a circle of sacred feminine women artists, a string player who is an African American virtuoso shared that a major black pop artist had requested 30 black female string players be hired for a major gala event. They were hired and then 28 were summarily unhired because it didn’t look “diverse” enough for an event in NYC. When was the last time you saw 30 all-black women string players at a major arts event ANYWHERE? Thank god the multicultural censors stepped in. It would have been a tragedy to allow that! We should all thank them for  saving the Metropolitan arts world from black domination one gala at a time!! Big them ONE BIG BAD APPLE for diversity! I ❤ NY.

Given all this satirizing, you can probably imagine that i might be concerned about my classroom. If I have only one black student in a class about the ethnography–the first-hand personal study of online behavior–among teen black girls, how do I help the millennials hear the voices of the people we are studying without dominating them with black femaleness? How do we teach non-black students to avoid the trappings of stereotypes and stigmas usually attributed to black girls’ humanity by our mass and social media.  Think about the comments below YouTube videos that feature or talk about race or blackness. Can you say #trolls 3x fast?

Thankfully, I trust in the humanity of my non-black students.

WE’RE ALL GREEN!! DARK GREEN KIDS ON THE BACK OF THE BUS!!

Monday I did this post-it note exercise giving each student a pink, green and yellow post-it (which I call “stickies”). They were asked to write responses to three prompts about themselves.

IMG_2274 IMG_2273

Below is a transcript of their responses. They made me feel like I don’t need to worry much. We have lots of concerns we share and from there we can co-create together AND bring complexity to both what we see and what we share to a quite diverse network no matter what we learn:

Pink: Major/Discipline

Corporate Communication
Political Science/ Philosophy
Accounting (4)
Economics (2)
Statistics
Math (2)
Sociology (2)
Psychology
Finance(2)
Operation Management
Business Administration

Green: Interest/ Aspect Topic

What is the purpose of posting twerking videos?
Life of young black girls on youtube
Extensivity/ [or the] Reach of youtube
How black girls are affected by racism and their culture
How different races view each other
People and their actions
How young black girls choose to face discrimination against them
Family
Online communication (perception)
Black girl struggle
Philosophy and equality
Interested in how much i can learn about black girls twerking
Sub groups online
Why certain actions are done
Negative stigmas: Origins, solutions, results
Culture vs Society

Yellow: Self Identity/ Fears of YouTube Videos:

Chinese + Vietnamese
Italian + American
Asian American + Chinese American
Albanian + Caucasian
Napalese
Girls in a man’s world

Peoples Comments
Privacy Issues
Fear of peer opinion
Don’t know what to vlog about never filmed myself before
I view YouTube videos as permanent. if someone quotes you/ screen shots what you say on twitter, its nothing in comparison to YouTube
I fear that my videos won’t be worth seeing
Going viral
Broadcasting myself
If it doesn’t turn out as planned
Fear of sounding like i don’t know what im talking about

BROADCAST!: Are Black Girls’ Voices Out-of-Print…Like Our Books?

Out of print refers to an item, typically a book, but can include any print or visual medium or sound recording, that is no longer being published.

The abbreviation OOP (also OP) is a more general term that encompasses craft, hobby, toy, and collectable items that are out of production. (Wikipedia)

 

Is a Black Girls’ Dance Her Primary Voice?

Most teen girls never speak with their mouths in their twerking videos. Many viewers misconstrue their mute-ness for a lack of agency. But dance plays such an important role during black adolescence and during youth for many Americans. It makes sense that they learn to “talk” and express themselves with their body. What complicates things is the objectification that a video frame creates for the viewer who is no place (not in the bedroom of the girl, not in their ‘hood, not conscious of their mind or cultural insights into the power of being in one’s body as an articulation of joy and doing your best. It’s the other narratives that come with projecting a teen black female body into a public that we overlook.

 

YouTube Vlogging: Empowering One’s Voice

This morning I recorded a vlog related to voice and out-of-print concerns.  I posted it after visiting Maria Popova’s brilliant site BrainPickings.org. She wrote a blog post about a book titled BLAST OFF!, which is out-of-print. It’s about a black girl who describes space exploration.  I wrote more than expected below (I always do). I guess I needed to make plain some of the politics of black publications and publishing that surrounds being a black girl/women in the U.S. Voicing those critical politics — using my voice and inviting black girls under 17 and those committed to them to bring voice to such matters — becomes increasingly important as I consider my legacy in life.

I’ve known that my voice is a key to my own empowerment after having people in my youth invade my private journals in ways that thwarted my freedom to write and speak for decades. So considering vlogging as a way out of that mind trap occurred to me years ago as a right of passage to liberation. This really intensified as I started having my students vlog in my anthro classes the last 18 months. But still I’ve resisted vlogging. So, here I go again. Take a listen!

 

 

Black Girls Gone (OOP): Blast Off! & Bushmen 

Curious connections occupy my thoughts often and this is no different. The vlog above is the result of a connection made between out-of-print books and visual media by/about  people of African descent esp.  children’s books by/about black girls as well as the seeming lack of voice in user-generated twerking videos by teens.

I was listening to my favorite Sunday morning radio show On Being with Krista Tippett featuring an interview with renowned citizen-cellist musician Yo-Yo Ma. During the interview, Krista mentioned that Yo-Yo Ma had performed with the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, a well-documented and abused ethnic group of hunter-gatherers who now reside nationally within South Africa. They are urban and continue to protect and practice values that urban life has encroached upon as their traditional way of life. Anthropology has invested much ink into the research and study of the Kalahari Bushmen and you can find a great deal of video about them on YouTube.

When I searched for the music, I found the name of the project: Distant Echoes: Yo-Yo Ma and the Bushmen, but I found nothing to access the documentary that had once appeared on KLRU-TV, an Austin PBS channel. Nothing was available. Despite Yo-Yo Ma’s commercial success, the DVD was nowhere to be found online. There was barely anything written about the project online either. I found one great article from Harvard Magazine (so students and alumni at the nation’s most elite university were introduced to it). In in Yo-Yo Ma recalled how his obsession began with his undergraduate study in anthropology at Harvard. They described for readers who the Bushmen are and where they reside: The “Ju/Wasi (the name means “the proper people”) [are] a subgroup of the hunter-gatherers known as the Bushmen of the Kalahari, a desert region bordering Namibia and Botswana.” But other than that no evidence of the project is available or for sale, even on Ebay. Nothing public exists. OOP.

What Does a Public Role Mean for Teen Black Girls Who Broadcast?

As I continue to think about how we see adolescent black girls who twerk on YouTube, I constantly confront sociological issues as well as ethnomusicological ones. The word adolescent comes from a Latin word meaning “grow up.” What we do during adolescence tends to be considered critical by teens themselves, by their parents and guardians and by social scientists of every field including childhood studies.

If a quote from Proust tells us anything, then black people and black girls should be among the freest people in public given the constant of out-of-print publications about us.

Certain favourite roles are played by us so often before the public and rehearsed so carefully when we are alone that we find it easier to refer to their fictitious testimony than to that of a reality which we have almost entirely forgotten.

MARCEL PROUST, Within a Budding Grove

But the omission of critical texts about us, written to defy stereotypes and uncollapse how others tend to limit how we are see because of our skin color or myths about our difference as a “race”, is much more restrictive. So when publications go out-of-print, and for reasons too complicated to discuss here, we cannot compete with the dominant public discourse of lies that travels farther than our face-to-face reach can, especially when it comes to online media. We are still a minority in those ecologies as our co-presence with much more dominant media reveals.

It’s been my experience as a mid-career scholar of black culture and history as well as an ethnomusicologist that black and/or African-descent music and literature… let me clarify, that the books and the music of Africans and African Americans tends too often to be out-of-print in United States publications and worse yet when searching among the Internet of supposedly everything. We still don’t exist or are hard to locate despite our myths that the Internet makes everything accessible to all.

More from Wikipedia OOP:

An item goes out of print when a publisher does not reprint, re-press, or reissue after all copies have been sold to retailers. Reasons may include:

  • the perception of the publisher that continuing to produce the work is no longer a commercially viable venture, i.e. that there is no longer a market for it
    [We need targeted marketing to minority groups in publications to create a healthy democratic ideology of e pluribus unum. A diverse public based on white norms will not do in the USA or any other diverse nation. It breeds disintegrated public selves.]
  • a limited print run (Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern)
  • antiquation, or the obsolescence of content or format (laserdisc, VHS, compact cassette).
    [Does black lit and visual media about black girls or other mean WE are not viable? WE are obsolete in our American public?]
  • plans for a revised or reformatted edition
  • the presence of errors, flaws, fabrication, offensive content, or plagiarism (sometimes preceded by a recall)
  • banning or censorship
    [This is particularly thorny when it comes to YouTube which rarely bans but they do sort of censor twerking videos with the persistent community “flagging” of twerking videosas “age-restricted content” which is common for videos that feature black girls under 17 . Since these videos will persist on the Internet, it’s like tagging or stigmatizing black girls as deviant online. It’s becomes a Scarlet letter marking difference or “ratchtness”.]
  • intellectual property obstacles, such as the expiration of a publisher’s license to release content owned by another copyright holder. For example, a novelization of a film that was released 10 years ago is likely to go OOP for this reason. See licensing section in The Criterion Collection article for an example.

Out of print items are often pursued by collectors through aftermarket retailers such as used book stores, record shops, and online auction sites.[This has not surfaced much with black lit and visual materials like the old video sellers in Harlem or the cut-outs of records] Sellers of out of print merchandise on auction sites will typically include “OOP” or its equivalent in product descriptions. The designation is sometimes misappropriated—an example is in keyword stuffing, where the acronym is used to generate numerous search results even as it does not apply to the items retrieved. The abbreviation is sometimes placed in descriptions of items whose publication or production status is unclear (such as DVDs said to be returning to the “Disney Vault“) to affect interest in the product.