These two links are to audio clips from the “Blacking It Up” podcast. I actually don’t subscribe to their podcast (yet), but I do listen to “The Best of the Left” podcast which is where I heard these (and the source for these YouTube links). The first is an interesting conversation about racial slurs and discrimination over a rather incredible clip from ESPN that (somehow) came about as a result of the whole Jeremy Lin hubbub that happened a couple of months ago. The second is a discussion about the Supreme Court’s decision to revisit affirmative action in a case involving the University of Texas-Austin, and it is also a bit of a warning to all of you about what to expect from our illustrious justices later this summer.
Daily Archives: April 28, 2012
I really enjoyed the screening of this quasi-documentary. Stokely Carmichael was a name I hadn’t heard mentioned in a long time, and I had almost forgotten how much I admired him in my youth. Not only was it interesting to see interviews and footage covering a vastly under-reported era of American history, but seeing the key moments of the movement through the eyes of Swedish media was an eye-opener as well. What stood out to me the most about the way Swedish television covered these stories was their willingness to be objective and allow their subjects to tell the story for them. That’s how journalism–at least as I understand it–is supposed to be practiced, but news outlets in our country have consistently failed to maintain objective distance when reporting a story. The several interviews with Malcolm X we viewed in class are a perfect example of how American media treated the so-called radical leaders of black empowerment groups. The Swedish reporters however not only asked fair questions of their subjects, but they allowed their subject to actually answer the question without interruption and without unnecessary goading and instant re-framing of their words.
One of the more controversial moments of the film is the footage shown of African-American youth in a sort of Black Panther classroom singing songs about using guns against police. It is also implied that these young people were being taught how to use guns as well. At first, it is easy to have a strong negative reaction to such footage; in my notes, I actually wrote “what are the ethics of indoctrinating children in this way?” Upon further thought, however, I think the stronger comment this footage shows us is the extent of discrimination the Black Panthers were reacting against. If you and yours have been pushed to such a point that you feel it necessary to teach your children such practices and attitudes, it explicitly highlights how bad the situation really was.
Another aspect of the Black Panther Party and Black Power Movement in general that was highlighted by the Swedish crew was their close ties to socialist ideals regarding community and microeconomic practices. As I have stated before in class, the Cold War and attendant “Red Scare” propaganda has inextricably linked socialism to communism in many Americans’ minds; such historical context is therefore usually left out in American studies of the recent past. What strikes me most about being reminded of this is just how far the black community of today has strayed from such beliefs. The hard right turn hip-hop culture took with the advent of gangsta rap immediately strikes me as a key moment in the culture when these beliefs began to wane. I often lament the direction hip-hop has taken over the past fifteen or so years–so much so that I have made it point to draw a very distinct line between hip-hop music (Sugarhill Gang, Public Enemy, KRS-One, Outkast, Mos Def, etc.) and rap music (Kanye, Eminem, Ludacris, T.I., Lil’ Wayne, etc.). The former classification was not only more interested in treating their brand of music as an art form, but their inspiration came from a desire to raise public awareness and heal their damaged communities. The latter classification seems to treat music as pure entertainment with little to no additional artistic value and is more interested in personal ego and status symbols as markers of their success. That is why it was so interesting that Talib Kweli–one of the few remaining high-profile “hip-hop” artists in the game–was one of the central commentary contributors. From an outside perspective, it seems that the differences in these two eras of hip hop/rap music are clearly reflected in the black community. The concept of the many before the individual seems to be dwindling more and more each day. This is true in all racial communities in modern-day America by the way, but the black community had previously resisted this changing of the guard more fervently and longer than the others.
I’ll leave you with a few quotes from the footage which really struck me. I think they will speak for themselves.
“In order for non-violence to work, your opponent must have a conscience. The American government has none.” -Stokely Carmichael
“Naturally, this country hates the truth.” -Lewis H. Michaux
“White people came to this country with two weapons: the Bible and guns.” -Lewis H. Michaux
“…even the better, if I can even use that term, even the better coloured people don’t visit Harlem.” -Swedish (?) tour guide during his description of the “black man’s ghetto” to a busload full of Swedish tourists
“We as black people must write our own story, because if we don’t we’ll be written out.” -Miss Erykah Badu