Racism: America vs. the World

Whenever I hear people talking about racism in America (or the lack thereof), I can’t help but think of the singular moment in my life that really opened my eyes to what racism in America actually looks like.

I had always known that Blacks suffered from institutionalized racism, prejudice, and in some cases, outright disdain. But I always chalked this up to the last generation’s mistakes.

While in London this past summer, I learned that putting all the blame for poor race relations on our parents and grandparents is nothing more than an attempt to shed ourselves of any responsibility for carrying on some of the racism that has plagued this country for generations.

While interning with CBS, I had the chance to help our foreign editor with a story about diversity in the London’s tech sector compared to Silicon Valley. One of our sources was an American black man who held two doctorate degrees, and was working in London. Our editor decided to let me ask a few questions before the interview was over.

The source had previously mentioned the inferiority complex that some young black men in America could develop as a result of racism and the way blacks are generally portrayed in America. It was his belief that this self-fulfilling prophecy was one reason the tech sector in America wasn’t near as diverse as it should have been.

Me being interested in race relations, and him being Black, I thought I would ask a question about race in America vs. Europe and whether Black people in Europe had to deal with the same issues as Blacks in America.

His answer taught me more about racism in those two minutes than my last three years of college.

He said that he had two identities: a black person and an American (the concept of intersectionality). Throughout the world, people saw him as an American: an identity that commanded respect. But in the U.S., people saw him as a black person first and an American second. In other words, being an American took a back seat to being a Black person.

Which is depressing. Imagine being treated like an American when traveling abroad and being treated like an outsider in your own home

My generation may not have started racism, but relegating every person of color into the “black person” category before identifying them by any other means does nothing to help the problem.

The War on Cops

During the last class, we spent most of our time discussing how the media portrays which players in society are victims, criminals, doctors or lawyers and so on. For whatever reason, the media has a way of disproportionately portraying black people as criminals, victims, or athlete/celebrities. This contributes to, and only enhances the problem of incognizant racism. Incognizant racism is a form of racism that occurs when people are forced to make snap judgements without thinking. If someone consistently sees black people portrayed as criminals or victims, then people will most likely make a snap decision about the next black person they see, based on information they thought was accurate.

So the past few days, I couldn’t help but wonder what else the media inaccurately portrays.

The last two weeks, I’ve heard a lot about the ‘war on cops,’ and how the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is contributing to increasing violence against police. Fortunately, both of these claims are heaping piles of B.S.

According to the AP, The Guardian, the Washington Post and the Officer Down Memorial Page, this year is on track to be one of the safest years ever for police officers. So why all the fuss about some non-existent war on cops? Because if there’s really some clandestine war on police, the police are winning. Big time. Compared to this time last year, around 6% fewer officers have died in the line of duty. But not all fallen officers were killed by an assailant or shooter. Many die from heart attack, stroke, exhaustion, vehicle accidents and so on. This year, only 24 officers have been killed by gunfire. That’s down by 27% when measuring against this time last year.

Of course, you won’t hear that from CNN or FOX.

And who is waging this ‘war on cops?’

It’s hard to tell. Considering that as I’m writing this, The Guardian has counted 804 people killed by police, most of them White, with a sizable amount of Blacks and Latino/as. So plenty of ethnicities could justify their angst.

Or not. In fact, although a plurality of people killed by police are White, at 49%, they make up 62% of the population. 25% of people killed are Black. But Blacks are only 13% of the population. That’s worrisome, to put it lightly.

So are the people behind the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement justified in their anger? The data says yes.

Is there a ‘war on cops?’ Hardly.

My First Post: Country Music’s Objectification of Women

At the end of our first class, Dr. Everbach told us to pay attention to the way different groups of people were portrayed in media. The first thing that came to mind was women in music. But I wasn’t thinking about hip-hop, rap, or rock ‘n roll. I was thinking about country music. Or what millennials think of as “country.” The country music of George Straight, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Johnnie Cash isn’t “hip’ any more among people who don’t have mullets. The country music of women who were valued for their talent instead of looks is virtually dead, save for award show lip service to the greats like Reba, Loretta Lynn and the Judds.
Instead, we have Florida Georgia line singing about partying, and Brantley Gilbert romanticizing bar fights and car chases with the cops. In fact, modern country music in general does a pretty good job of encouraging lawless, drunken behavior, and general atmosphere of dumb-ass-ery. This is the picture of what country music has become.
But an even more disturbing trend in modern country was recently tackled in a song by Maddie and Tae called “Girl in a Country Song.” Wait, you haven’t heard of Maddie and Tae?
Well, since Maddie and Tae aren’t promoting drunken blackouts or demeaning women by reducing them to a hot ass in a pair of Daisy Duke shorty-shorts, they don‘t really get the most airtime. Who wants to listen to socially conscious country music when hitting on chicks, dipping snuff and getting wasted in the bed of a truck is so much more fun?
And terms like “chick,” “baby,” “hot self,” or even “Georgia Peach”  are not the extent of country music’s demeaning attitude toward women.
For example, look at Adam Hood’s 2014 hit, “Trying to Write a Love Song.” The song broke the top five in the Texas country charts. But there was one problem. No one questioned two lines in the second verse. The lines went as follows:
That ain’t a dress, that’s an invitation. And it’s providing a lot of inspiration.
Even before I was thinking critically about women’s representation in the media, I knew something was wrong with that line. Clothing is an invitation for sexual innuendo and propositioning? Good to know. The next time I see a girl wearing clothes, I’ll remember that it’s really an invitation to hit on her. And in the chorus of that same song, is the line,
slide over, closer to where you belong, give me something I can use.”
In this case, “something I can use” actually refers to love song material. But still. It’s good to know that women “belong” in the cab of my truck whenever I decide to take a drive.
But don’t think I’m cherry picking here. Take a look at a few of country music’s top 25 songs last week as ranked by Billboard.
1. House Party – Sam Hunt
You’re on the couch blowing up my phone, don’t want to come out but you don’t want to be alone. It don’t take but two to have a little soiree: if you’re in the mood, sit tight right where you are, babe.”
Not bad. Paternalistic? Yes. Portraying women as a bit ‘wishy washy?’ Yes. As bad as it gets? Nope.
9. Lose My Mind – Brett Eldridge
You make me crazy and I kind of like it. You show me that apple, girl, and I want to bit it. So crazy that I got to have it. And I never want to get out of this straightjacket.”
A bit creepy, but we can do better.
10. Hell of a Night – Justin Lynch.
So give me that ‘aww yea,’ and ‘take me there’ look. I’m a sucker for your kiss, want to steal them from your lips baby, like a crook.”
A bit chauvinistic. Let’s look some more.
11. Strip it Down – Luke Bryan.
Let me run my fingers down your back, let’s whisper, let’s don’t talk. Baby, leave my t-shirt in the hall.” And then, “Cowboy boots by your little bare feet, let it out, tell me right now, everything I need in them white cotton sheets. Dirty dance me slow in the summertime heat, feel my belt turn loose from these old blue jeans.”
Okay, now we’re talkin’. A living, breathing sex toy immortalized in song. Let’s see what else the top 25 has to say about women.
16. Anything Goes – Florida Georgia Line.
Girls headin’ off to the river yeah, Victoria’s Secret ain’t a secret no more.” And then, “Well baby you ain’t nothing’ but a masterpiece, swaying and sippin’ that Dos Equis, losin’ yourself in the big loud beat.”
18. Sangria – Blake Shelton.
We’re buzzing like that ‘no vacancy’ sign out front. Your skin is begging to be kissed by a little more than the sun.”
21. Let Me See Ya, Girl – Cole Swindell
Girl you’re tearin’ that dance floor up, let me see you do it in the back of my truck. You sure know how to shake it, alright. Let me see you do it in the Tennessee moonlight. Woah, baby let’s go down a little road nobody else knows. Just you and me park on the edge of the world. That’s how I want to see you girl. Yea, let me see you girl.”
23. Nothin’ Like You – Dan and Shay
I remember when I first met you, sipping coffee in a corner booth. You were twirling your hair, and I just had to stare. For a minute or two, I was laughing at your stack of books. Then you shot me that smile. Hey beautiful girl, in your own little world, let me in.” And later, “When you’re wearing them worn-out jeans, purple untied shoestrings, you’re a light in the dark and you’re stealing my heart like a gypsy. I love that you kiss me in front of everybody. So baby come and kiss me. They ain’t ever seen nothin’.”
So as you can see, in today’s “bro-country” as it’s called, women are basically just attractive, butt-shakin’ truck-accessorizing bits of humanity in boots and tight denim. Women and their bodies are basically objectified and turned into the personal servants of the male singers. In fact, out of the top 25, only three songs were performed by females.
And those are only the most popular for this week. The objectification gets much worse if you look at the past few years. Just the title of Luke Bryan’s hit song “Shake it for Me” says all you need to know about the rest of that particular little ditty.
It’s no wonder Taylor Swift left country music.
But she’s fat and her boobs aren’t big enough anyway.