Break Those Stereotypical Chains

After months of waiting, I finally made it to the Bad Boy Family Reunion concert in Philadelphia last Friday.  For those who live under a rock, Bad Boy is a hip hop record label that reached its peak in the mid-1990s and is known especially for its late artist, The Notorious B.I.G., who was tragically murdered in a drive-by shooting in 1997.  The controversial label is run by Sean Combs, also known as P. Diddy, Puffy, Puff Daddy and, most recently, Diddy.  Throughout the 3-hour concert, the 40-something-year-old made it quite evident that he’s still got the energy and stamina to hype up a crowd.  Every single one of my favorite artists performed at the show, which meant a lot to me, considering the fact that I can’t decipher a word of most songs on the radio these days.  I truly live for nostalgic moments like the ones I’d experienced last weekend; they take me back to my awesome childhood.

A certain part of the show stuck out to me, and I couldn’t help but chuckle and shake my head.  About halfway through, Diddy walked on stage sporting a black, floor-length mink with what seemed like an 8-foot train.  The audience showed their admiration by cheering loudly, as Puffy said a few words, something to the effect of, “Bow before my expensive mink.”  I immediately rolled my eyes and thought, “Black folk…”

Many of us have heard the stereotype that Black people do not spend money wisely.  The notion is that we are driven by material things, and concepts such as savings bonds and property ownership are foreign to us.  The stereotype suggests that Blacks, especially the ones who worship European designers and stand in long lines for expensive tennis shoes, likely don’t have cars, careers, or much money, and thus, are irresponsible for indulging in such frivolous luxuries.  The meme below is a very accurate depiction of how we are portrayed by the media and viewed by those who do not identify with our culture.

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According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a widely accepted theory in psychology that explains human motivation, humans are most driven by the need for self-actualization and not material possessions.  Self-actualization occurs when one has reached his or her full potential and has found true meaning in life.  As a human being, I must say that self-actualization sounds pretty amazing!  However, the commonly accepted stereotype about Blacks suggests that we are most highly motivated by something different from that of humans; that we have tendencies that deviate from human reasoning and rationale.  To be blunt, the stereotype that Blacks are driven by frivolous, material things suggests that we are sub-human.  (Do you see what I did there?)

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

 

The media is working hard to brainwash us all so that we will buy into certain myths about people and groups.  The result of this brainwashing is a society divided, with those who are depicted and accepted as the most trustworthy and most human at the top of the hierarchical ladder –elite whites.  The most disgusting, yet ingenious part of all of this is that the media is able to influence people to view their  own groups negatively (e.g., the misconception among many Blacks that we have an issue with the myth that is “Black on Black crime”).

Let’s revisit the moment at the concert when I chuckled and shook my head.  That feeling of disgust was actually directed at myself.  For a split second, I made the mistake of believing the media instead of relying on fact.  I immediately considered the ridiculously expensive mink to be a “Black thing” because that’s what I’ve been told.  I encourage everyone who reads this post to BREAK THAT CHAIN!  We all have the power and responsibility to write our own stories and we must not let others write them for us.  Stereotypes can be damaging and are created by those who benefit from them, but are often sustained by those who do not.  As long as we keep stereotypes alive, we will never win against a system designed for us to fail.

I’ll leave some food for thought below.  Enjoy!

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An enormous crowd awaits the release of the iPhone 6 in Berlin, Germany.  This phone retailed for anywhere between $650 and $850 when it debuted in 2014.

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In 2015, police arrested 30 people in New York for welfare fraud.  Check out these mugshots.

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Celebrating our Blackness

We often hear the phrase “white privilege”, especially in light of recent events in the US.  Ryan Lochte was able to land a spot on Dancing with the Stars after going to another country and vandalizing public property, and then lying about being robbed at gunpoint- white privilege.  The police officers who targeted and murdered Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, to name a few, walked away without even a slap on the wrist- white privilege.  Then there are the rapists who get laughable sentences so their “promising futures” will not be compromised- white privilege.  We also see white privilege every day when whites are treated more desirably than Blacks by police officers, judges, the government, school system, and the general public, and not as targets.  White privilege is when whites are depicted more favorably in the media, when “whiteness” is the constant and everyone else is the variable, and when whites feel comfortable enough to make statements like “I don’t see color”; the list can go on.

Well, I’d like to use this blog post to celebrate my Black privilege.  But I actually don’t want to call it that because I just Googled the term and I cringed- like 10 times.  So, let me rephrase that: I’d like to use this blog post to celebrate my BLACKNESS.  I love, love, LOVE being Black!  Here’s why:

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1:  I have direct ties to one of the richest continents on this Earth.  Africa, the place where it all began, where human life originated, is the place my ancestors called home.  Contrary to popular belief, we are the constant and everyone else is the variable.  I come from a continent rich in diamonds, gold, tropical fruits, and petroleum; Europe and the US have nothing on Africa’s resources.

 

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2:  This hair!  Black hair is so unique, because it comes in many different lengths, textures, and colors.  A huge plus for me is that I don’t have to wash it every day and I can switch my look up as I please, rocking anything from a fro, to a sleek bun, to waist-length braids.

 

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3:  Black folks have invented some of the greatest things ever.  Thank goodness for the Black inventors who graced us with automatic elevator doors, the dustpan, the traffic light, gas mask, peanut butter, the hot comb, the pacemaker, and the modern lawnmower.  These are only a few of the wonderful and necessary inventions that make life a little easier.

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4.  Black Music! Enough said!

 

images5.  The culture. Let’s face it: cultural appropriation sucks.  Our beautiful attributes and trends, once considered inferior, are being imitated and renamed; in other words, STOLEN.  The magazines call our cornrows “boxer braids”, full lips are popping up everywhere, and recently, a fashion designer paraded his all-white model fleet down the runway sporting locks in their hair.  Admiration is great, but this appropriation is no different than the thievery that this country was built on.  However, on the bright side, we rock!  Black trends ROCK!!! And no one can represent Black Culture better than the originators, so I’ll                                                                 remain unbothered.

 

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6.  Resilience. Black people are known for this.  We made it through the middle passage.  We are creative, innovative, and natural-born survivors.  Our skin is even resilient.  Excess oils and melanin protect the skin from the sun, leaving it supple and wrinkle-free for years.  You know the saying; and it’s true!

 

Let’s face it:  We are mad; I know I am.  Every time I turn on the television or open my Facebook page, I am reminded of why being Black in this country can be so difficult and unfair.  I wonder if I want to raise my innocent Black children in a country that devalues them because of the color of their skin.  Then I look in the mirror and see my chocolate skin, thick hair, and wide nose, and I’m proud.  I play my favorite R&B, Soul, or Hip Hop album and I’m proud.  I see our resilient Black community leaders spending time with the kids or organizing rallies, and I’m so proud!  This country doesn’t want you to remember, so here’s a reminder: Don’t ever forget to love your Blackness unconditionally.  What makes you proud to be Black?

Multimedia

 

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The word “multimedia” is used to describe the various ways in which people obtain and share various types of information.  Types of media include print, television, social media, and films.  Multimedia is a huge part of my everyday life, and something in which my family and I engage on a daily basis.

I rely on multimedia primarily for my studies.  Being a Public Relations major, I view various types of media to complete assignments and gather research and information.  I listen to the radio in the car, music and talk radio, alike, and at home, I like to watch television, read books, as well as surf the internet.

Many would think of multimedia as technology only, but print is also a form of media.  Though technology has taken over (and rightfully so) due to its ability to connect people instantly, as well as provide us with information that otherwise may not be easily accessible, I use books and other printed media to teach my son.  Certain types of printed media may soon be obsolete, so I want to make sure my son experiences the joys of holding a book and  physically turning the pages.

Multimedia is a great way to keep people informed and connected.  Each type of media conveys messages in its own unique way.  A video covering a news story can provide a different experience to a viewer than a newspaper.  With so many technological advances, the average person can now create media that is instantly shared with the world.  I am interested to see the new forms of media that will be developed in coming years, as the realm of multimedia continues to expand.

How Has Slavery Affected Today’s Black Family?

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Following Dr. Patton’s lecture yesterday about the origins of slavery in America, I started thinking about how this barbaric institution still impacts Blacks today.  In this post, I want to dissect the Black American family structure and explore the cause and effect sequence of how and why, in 2016, the Black family is the way it is.  I will explain the physical and psychological barriers that affect and break apart the modern-day Black family as a result of a long history of white supremacy in this country.

First, let’s discuss a brief history of slavery:  “…Vile and brutish parts of mankind”.  According to Dr. Patton, this is how the elitists in America described poor whites years before slavery was introduced.  Before African slaves, America started its proud, rich history with indentured servitude- a system in which poor whites were promised an all-expense paid trip to the “New World” in exchange for 5 to 7 years of unpaid labor.  Some 50,000 immigrants were shipped from Great Britain to the colonies to begin their sentence.  Indentured servants, some Black, were poor and often mistreated by elite whites.  Black and white indentured servants often formed alliances in attempts to upset and even overthrow their oppressors.  The most famous revolt of this kind was Bacon’s Rebellion in 1670,  resulting in the near destruction of Jamestown in Virginia.  These types of alliances, extremely dangerous and threatening to the elitists’ way of life, were brought to a halt with new laws.  A three-tiered caste system was put into place, with the elitists at the top, poor whites right below them, and Blacks at the bottom.  This was a way to ensure that ALL whites looked down on Blacks as inferior, not just the rich ones.  Slavery went hand-in-hand with this new system, as Blacks were forced into lifelong servitude and unimaginable abuse while working on and developing plantations and several other institutions that have become the America we see today.

Let’s fast forward to the Civil War.  The Union in the North won, and therefore slavery was abolished (even though the slaves were the last to find out).  Fast forward again a few more years and we have Jim Crow- slavery by another name.  White supremacy was reconstructed, Blacks had no rights, no job opportunities, and we were mercilessly killed.  Years later, during the Civil Rights Movement, Blacks in America made tremendous strides in fighting for equality.  But was this enough?  The “War on Drugs” and mass incarceration of Blacks following the Civil Rights Movement proves that no, this was not enough.  Tougher laws, longer sentences, and stripped liberties are what Blacks experienced during this period, as well as today.

One in three Black men are incarcerated today.  If and when they are released from prison, they have lost the right to vote, the right to a student loan, they are unable to get a job- at least a decent one- and they often return to society unable to care for themselves and their families.  The Black family is torn apart, or worse, never even created.  Women are left to run single-parent households, which largely contributes to the 50% of Americans who are living in poverty.  According to the 1970 U.S. Census, about 65% of African American households in 1970 that had children under the age of 18 consisted of a married couple.  Recall that around 1970, 1971 to be exact, former President Nixon began the “War on Drugs” and the mass incarceration of Blacks followed as a result.  Skipping ahead to 2015, about 35% of African American households that had children under the age of 18 consisted of a married couple, also according to the U.S. Census.  Compare that number with the nearly 70% of white households that consist of a married couple with kids under age 18.

The agenda of the white supremacist continues to be fulfilled, and in the process, it feeds stereotypes that reinforce the stagnation of equality and overall success of the Black population of America: No fathers, uneducated, violent criminals, immoral, addicts, hopeless.  Numbers don’t lie.  The Black Family is endangered.  Now that we are not “cash cows” working on plantations and developing this country from the ground up, Black lives hold no value to those who support this supremacist agenda; an agenda that is fed by those either pushing it or denying the fact that it even exists.  Steadily, systematically, and worst of all, legally, America is still killing off Black men, and the women and children are following.

I do not have the solution for reconstructing the Black family.  I do know, however, that the process must start with the reformation of the very institution that oppresses and unfairly targets its men, women, and children.  Nothing and no one can truly thrive in captivity.  It is time to legalize being Black.