Under the diversity banner and strategy, what you get is a lot of white organizations “reaching out” to communities of color, to get communities of color to carry out the agenda of these white organizations with all their white leadership have developed. — Rinku Sen, Facing Race Plenary Session
Dear readers, those of you who have been with us for a few years know about the long standing issues I have with the American political machine. Politics is intricately tied to movements for social justice, so it cannot be ignored completely – but it definitely feels like a shell game.
There is a post I need to write about Maria Teresa Kumar’s comments at Facing Race, particularly the part where she explains why people of color need to engage in political organization and action. (Kumar runs Voto Latino with Rosario Dawson.) There is a post I need to write about a panel at Blogging While Brown where Gina talked about how conservatives invest in their bloggers as part of their community, which is a benefit liberal bloggers do not receive.
We are long overdue for some discussions on the intersections between politics and social justice. However, I find myself declining to participate in a lot of political discourse. Part of that is just me – I grew up in Silver Spring, MD, right outside of Washington, DC and the gaps between Washington (where those with power and influence work and play) and DC (where normal folks try to live in the shadow of this power) are in my face all day, every day.
But the other reason why I generally avoid politics is best summed up with Danielle Belton’s post on Representative James Clyburn’s black blogger press junket:
In a fiery presser on Capitol Hill Thursday where he at times seemed visibly frustrated, South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn blasted members of the Democratic base who were withdrawing support, money during the Midterm elections. He said those Liberal and progressive critics who get stuck on things like the health care bill not being exactly what they wanted lose sight of the long battle.
It was close to a year ago when I started research that would begin to answer the question, “so, who exactly is the audience for black rock?” Of course, the unspoken part of that question was the assumption that this was and continues to be, something fringe. But we know that’s hardly the case. In fact, the audience for black rock and black alternative music is growing, and that growth is powered by an ongoing cultural shift.
I won’t bore you with the demographic recap of those who took the survey (50/50 male/female split; 76% African American), as you can read it in the executive summary below. What’s most interesting to me is the psychographic—or attitudinal stuff—that the research uncovered. After all, attitudes drive actions.
These attitudes are important to note for another reason: It speaks to the need/opportunity for broader institutional and, yes, corporate, support for black rock and black alternative music. There’s still the belief out there that
Black folks are monolithic and;
We can all be reached by using hip hop.
The first supposition has never been true. As for the second, hip hop, particularly in its commercial form, is easily a shadow of what it could have been. Moreover, by virtue of its inclination for entertainment over substance, it has abdicated any right to say that it’s representative of black folks.
Here in The Netherlands, racial matters and subsequent discussions are framed very differently from those in North America. I suspect that due to the fact that The Netherlands has lacked an equivalent to the Civil Rights Movement, race issues are still stalled in a colonial phase where oppressive language and the relevant discourse have never been properly deconstructed and challenged (and hardly analyzed at all outside academic circles).
To give a bit of background, the Dutch state has a classification system for those of us who live here. This classification is not necessarily framed on ethnicity but on place of birth (both for the classified subject and her parents). The Dutch state uses a word appropriated from biology, “allochtoon” to refer to us. This term originally denotes any organism which is non native to a given ecosystem. They have, in turn, created a scale of “foreignness” in which a Native Dutch (known as “autochtoon” in Dutch state parlance) is at the top of the food chain, followed by “Western foreigners” (i.e. Americans and other Caucasian Europeans) and then at the bottom of the foreignness pyramid, “non-Western foreigners” (i.e. everyone who comes from a country classified as non Western or underdeveloped).
This foreignness is determined not only by the place where one was born but also by the place where one’s parents come from. So, someone could be born in The Netherlands, but still be classified as a non Western foreigner because one of her parents hails from such place. Because I am South American, I am one such “Non Western Foreigner”. My status as an ethnic foreigner is also made evident by the way I look (I am consistently addressed in Arabic or Turkish because of my completion).
The laws of the country are such that I am obliged to disclose my “Non Western foreigner” status in a multitude of ways: if I am to apply for a job, I am obliged to tell; if I am to take a language course, I am obliged to tell; my healthcare provider demands to know this and I am obliged to tell (supposedly for statistical purposes); education plans and programs are put in place specifically for people like me (and my children if I had any).