I’m trying to get into my dissertation grind mode. I frequently find myself in bookstores and online looking for titles that might possibly help me with my endeavors. As I was glancing through my latest search of books, the term “Post Hip Hop” came up. I turned my head slightly sideways and said, “que?”
I went ahead and ordered the book and have yet to receive it. First thought that immediately came to mind while looking at the title: “what the hell is ‘Post Hip-Hop?'” My second question: “why?”
Derricotte: When I first started out as a poet, I was afraid of going to an artist colony because I was always the only person of color. The first time I went to one was in 1984. The day I arrived another black poet left. My whole time there, I was praying that another black poet wouldn’t come on the day I left—and they did. That’s the way people integrated then: one person at a time. It was degrading and not very compassionate.
Cave Canem gives poets a chance to talk about these types of experiences and form their own community. This way they know they are not alone and they are much more comfortable even in situations where they are the only person of color.
Hoover: Since the election of President Barak Obama there has been a lot of talk that we are in a “post-racial age.” Why do you think Cave Canem is still relevant?
Derricotte: Because we are not post-racial. This year at the Associated Writers Program’s conference almost no white people came to the Cave Canem panel. Things have changed in the sense that a lot of poets of color have been published and are teaching at great schools, but you can’t say that American literature represents in an integrated way the diverse voices of the American people. There are still these separations that have to do with class and money and power and race and all those things.
Hoover: Does Cave Canem implicitly support that segregation by being exclusive to black writers?
Derricotte: Look, the integration plan just hasn’t worked. In fact, this has worked better. There is more integration of black writers than before and that has to do with the visibility of Cave Canem. We have high quality writers because the program is so competitive. We get 150 applicants for 20 spots. People can’t buy their way in because we don’t charge tuition.
It also has to do with the way Cave Canem empowers its writers. Writers don’t grow in solitude. They get their confidence and they study their subjects in dialogue with other writers. If black writers are being forced into narrow categories then that dialogue is cut off. When you have brilliant people discussing literature or just the issues of being alive today, it’s very inspiring and it encourages you to keep writing.
By Guest Contributor Fiqah, originally published at Possum Stew
I recently had the pleasure of visiting New Orleans for the very first time. Having grown up in South Florida, the city by the river was intriguing, but not as big a draw for me as the metropolises that grace the Eastern seaboard. Going to New Orleans – with its similar swamps, oppressive torpor, casual appropriation of local Native American culture, and alligator jerky – sounded about as appealing as hanging out with a rowdy, sweaty cousin. However, years of being regaled with tales of every manner of fun that could be had in the Big Easy had intrigued me. NO ONE comes home without an epic anecdote. More than one jaded and well-travelled New Yorker in my circle got that faraway look in their eyes talking about New Orleans. My recent desire to explore the regional diversity of Southern cultures (I blame True Blood) and shake off some one-horse-town dust pretty much sealed the deal. So, with a deep breath and a few mouse clicks, I was ready to go.
And New Orleans didn’t disappoint. From the start, I was smitten: by the architecture, the streetcars, the museums, the sweetness of the regional drawl, the overpriced souvenir shops, the heavenly food, the decidedly French celebration of debauchery, and (sweet merciful McGillicutty!) the take away cup. By the second day of my trip I was calculating moving and living expenses. (Really. I was.) These were the thoughts that danced merrily in my little tourist head as I strolled down Chartres Street on my way from viewing the grounds of the Saint Louis Cathedral. I was feeling better than I had in weeks, maybe even months. So I was most unprepared to meet one resident of New Orleans who I would not soon forget.
I was going to open this piece with an analogy about the tea party groups and why they’re treated seriously by the press and the Republicans. The analogy would go something like: “Imagine [insert left-wing activist group here] getting a serious profile in a mainstream newspaper, and imagine serious Democratic politicians appearing at their convention.”
The problem is, when I really evaluated what the various far-left activist groups are all about and compared them with the tea party movement, there really wasn’t any equivalency. At all.
Because when you strip away all of the rage, all of the nonsensical loud noises and all of the contradictions, all that’s left is race. The tea party is almost entirely about race, and there’s no comparative group on the left that’s similarly motivated by bigotry, ignorance and racial hatred.
I hasten to note that I’m talking about real racism, insofar as it’s impossible for the majority race — the 70 percent white majority — to be on the receiving end of racism. That is unless white males, for example, are suddenly an oppressed racial demographic. But judging by the racial composition of, say, the Senate or AM talk radio or the cast members playing the Obamas on SNL, I don’t think white people have anything to worry about.
From the outset, the tea party was based on a contradictory premise (the original tea party was a protest against a corporate tax cut). And when you throw out all of the nonsense and contradictions, there’s nothing left except race. There’s no other way to explain why these people were silent and compliant for so long, and only decided to collectively freak out when this “foreign” and “exotic” president came along and, right out of the chute, passed the largest middle class tax cut in American history — something they would otherwise support, for goodness sake, it was $288 billion in tax cuts! — we’re left to deduce no other motive but the ugly one that lurks just beneath the pale flesh, the tri-corner hats and the dangly tea bag ornamentation.
So we’ve been getting lots of emails about this, both from readers and friends – in late February Zeta Tau Alpha , a predominantly white sorority, beat out three black sororities at the Sprite Step-Off, nabbing the $100,000 prize and honours as the best step team in the country.
This caused an immediate backlash. In the video below, as soon as the second place winner is revealed you can hear the crowd booing while other audience members begin walking out:
For readers who don’t know about stepping and black sororities and fraternities, Lawrence Ross explains on CNN what it means to have a white sorority beat black greek associations at a massive, televised step comp:
To understand why this is a big deal, you have to understand that African-American fraternities and sororities are as close to the Animal House stereotype attached to white fraternities as Pat Boone is to hip-hop. Black fraternities and sororities, known as the Divine Nine, form the fiber of African-American leadership in this country and continue to produce the leaders of tomorrow.
…The roster of Divine Nine members is a Who’s Who in African America: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, Michael Jordan, Maya Angelou, Dorothy Height and over a million others count themselves as members. The civil rights movement is populated with Divine Nine members who developed leadership skills on college campuses… Pride in one’s organization is paramount to Divine Nine members, and one way to express that is through stepping.
Divine Nine fraternities and sororities take great pride in being original and innovative in their dances: highly coordinated, with elaborate costumes, and sometimes performed before thousands. It’s a point of pride to perform, but to win for the glory of your fraternity or sorority is the ultimate.
So when Zeta Tau Alpha members won the Sprite Step Off, it was not just that they’d beaten African-American sororities, it was seen as the first assault on yet another African-American cultural tradition that, if not guarded, would be appropriated from blacks like jazz and hip-hop.
For Sprite, Zeta Tau Alpha was enough of a racial minefield to justify spending an extra $100,000 to quiet folks down. Ok, so that’s just speculation.
But there’s been a backlash to the backlash. Several prominent black journalists (including Lawrence Ross) have chastised the black greek community for complaining about the white win. Jason Whitlock writes that the case of Zeta Tau Alpha shows that “the moral of the story will be that black people have no issue with being just as discriminatory as the white power structure they rail against.” This thread on Bossip is full of commenters saying that it is racist for Bossip to have a problem with Zeta Tau Alpha’s win.
Do I think Zeta Tau Alpha deserved to win? I don’t know a lot about stepping, but I’m going to trust the judges and I assume they were amazing. But do I think they should have won?
I guess there are days when I’m thankful for having been an ice-skating fan in my younger days, though I was absorbing some floaty, dreamy, and cornball heteronormative crap against the white-ice backdrop. So, as much as I did enjoy figure skaters Oksana Domnina’s and Maxim Shabalin’s technical excellence, I can honestly say they should have applied all that technique—and subsequent press–to another routine that didn’t involve offending people of color.
From an Aboriginal perspective, this performance is offensive. It was clearly not meant to mock Aboriginal culture, but that does not make it acceptable to Aboriginal people. There are a number of problems with the performance, not least of all the fact both skaters are wearing brown body suits to make their skin appear darker. That alone puts them on a very slippery slope.
Australians know only too well the offence that can be caused by white people trying to depict themselves as black people during performance pieces. Last year’s domestic and international furore over the blackface skit on Hey, Hey it’s Saturday’s Red Faces is a recent case in point.
That said, I don’t think it’s the most offensive part of the performance. That honour belongs to some of the claims by Domnina and Shabalin that have accompanied it.
They are not, as they state, wearing “authentic Aboriginal paint markings”. They are wearing white body paint in designs they dreamed up after reading about Aboriginal Australians on the internet. The designs are no more “authentic” or “Aboriginal” than the shiploads of cheap, “Aboriginal” tourist trinkets that pour into our country from overseas.
This is not a particularly difficult concept. For art to be Australian, it must be painted by an Australian, and for art to be Australian Aboriginal, it must be painted by an Australian Aboriginal. Russian art is not painted by Italians, and I doubt Russians would be impressed if someone tried to pass it off otherwise.
And just as the designs are not Aboriginal, nor is the music to which the dance is being performed.
I acknowledge that Aboriginal people do not own the sound of the didgeridoo. That is one of our gifts to the rest of the world. Everyone is free to use it. But that does not mean it should be sampled and then presented as something it is not — traditional Aboriginal music.
Step One: Don’t talk about race. Don’t point out skin color. Be “color blind.”
Step Two: Actually, that’s it. There is no Step Two.
Congratulations! Your children are well on their way to believing that <insert your ethnicity here> is better than everybody else.
Surprised? So were authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman when they started researching the issue of kids and race for their book NurtureShock. It turns out that a lot of our assumptions about raising our kids to appreciate diversity are entirely wrong:
It is tempting to believe that because their generation is so diverse, today’s children grow up knowing how to get along with people of every race. But numerous studies suggest that this is more of a fantasy than a fact.
Since it’s Black History Month, I thought it would be a good time to talk about race, particularly some of the startling things I found in this particular chapter of NurtureShock. What Bronson and Merryman discovered, through various studies, was that most white parents don’t ever talk to their kids about race. The attitude (at least of those who think racism is wrong) is generally that because we want our kids to be color-blind, we don’t point out skin color. We’ll say things like “everybody’s equal” but find it hard to be more specific than that. If our kids point out somebody who looks different, we shush them and tell them it’s rude to talk about it. We think that simply putting our kids in a diverse environment will teach them that diversity is natural and good.
And what are they learning? Here are a few depressing facts:
Only 8% of white American high-schoolers have a best friend of another race. (For blacks, it’s about 15%.)
The more diverse a school is, the less likely it is that kids will form cross-race friendships.
75% of white parents never or almost never talk about race with their kids.
A child’s attitudes toward race are much harder to alter after third grade, but a lot of parents wait until then (or later) before they feel it’s “safe” to talk frankly about race.
I was fascinated by this research, considering that this is the very strategy my parents employed (mixed race family notwithstanding), and I have quite a few friends who reported the same dynamic in their families. Read the full article here.
By Guest Contributor Andrew Grant-Thomas, originally published at RaceTalk.org
What a long, strange year it’s been.
A year that began with the loud insistence by some that Barack Obama’s election confirmed the United States as an essentially colorblind, post-racial nation went on to present a series of spectacular counterpoints to that claim – flaps over Attorney General Eric Holder’s “nation of cowards” race speech, Joe Wilson’s shouted “you lie!” during the president’s health care address, Professor Henry Louis Gates’ encounter with a white police officer at his home, the Senate inquiry into Sonia Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” comment, and more.
And yet, while President Obama’s State of the Union address sprinkled references to several categories of people and communities about whom he expressed concern, race was altogether absent from his remarks. “Small towns and rural communities” received early mention. So, too, did “those who had already known poverty,” “working families,” “small business owners,” “first-time homebuyers,” gays in the military, women (with respect to equal pay laws), and, of course, “middle-class Americans,” among others. Race? Ethnicity? Nothing.
As a matter of political calculus, the silence was unremarkable and unsurprising, coming as it did from a president reluctant to publicly tread the ground of race except, at times, in the context of his personal biography. However, with respect to on-the-ground realities and the opportunity presented for social transformation, a continued failure to engage race would be devastating.