Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Miseducation of Joe Scarborough, and Other #RapAlbumsThatCausedSlavery

Well, who didn’t see THIS coming? In the aftermath of the Oklahoma University Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter’s worst bus singalong and its consequences, the good people of MSNBC’s Morning Joe blamed hip-hop music for their tirade. They posited that because the N-word is so prevalent in rap music, the students were just emulating what they heard so much. Forget the fact that the fraternity was born in a state that had a racist labor policy, that over 90% of them fought on the Confederate side of the Civil War, that nearly every racist-themed party of the last 30 years that has was highlighted in the news was thrown by SAE chapters, and that the song that promised death to African-Americans over induction into their frat was sung to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, a song that predates the birth of hip-hop, this was DEFINITELY hip-hop and black people’s fault for leading these poor innocent white men astray.

We all knew this was coming, though. The “[INSERT CAUSE HERE] cause these poor innocent white men to act so wrong” is a common theme. When it comes to everyone else, be it poor people, women, black people, brown immigrants, etc., it is because they are lazy or dressed scantily or dressed too “thuggish” or didn’t assimilate fast enough that something terrible happened to them. They should have taken responsibility for their actions. When it comes to white men, though, it is always the bad influences of the aforementioned groups that have corrupted their minds. Their own actions are never up for scrutiny. You know, for a demographic that has socially and politically dominated the last few hundred years, they sure are very susceptible to a lot of outside influences. Such fragile constitutions,  they must have!

Well, thanks to the Internet, the best way to take down such a ridiculous argument is with humour, and boy, was it taken down. #RapAlbumsThatCausedSlavery broke Twitter. It was beautiful, and you should see it. Here’s a short list of mine:

  • It Takes a Nation of Millions to Build This Other Nation
  • Yo! Bum Rush the Shore!
  • Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde or the West Indies
  • Baets, Rhymes, & Life of Servitude
  • Run the Blood Diamonds
  • Enter the 13 Colonies
  • Me, Master, & I
  • The Miseducation of Joe Scarborough
  • Arikka’s Most Wanted
  • Like Labor for Chocolate
  • Like Labor BY Chocolate
  • The Chronic…Statte of Dependence on Low- to No-Wage Labor
  • Conquistadors on My Lawn
  • Steady Moppin’
  • 100 Miles and Runnin’…North
  • SouthernPlayalisticCottonPickinMusic
  • Take minks off! Take things off! KEEP CHAINS ON. Take rings off! ANTEBELLUM UP!
  • Moni in the Middle Passage
  • Straight Outta…We Don’t Know Because of Inadequate Record Keeping!
  • 3/5 Mafia
  • Fuck that Po’tuguese
  • Sharecropper’s Delight
  • The Marshall Master LP
  • Run the Humans
  • Nothin’ But a Flee Thang
  • Get Rich or Make ‘Em Die Tryin’
  • Puff Daddy & Ma$on-Dixon Line
  • A Tribe Called Conquest
  • A Tribe Called Igbo, Dahomey, Hausa, Oyo, Kongo, Mali, Ashanti, Ndongo…
  • Eric B. & Rakim’s  MaHottentotany
  • Make ‘Em Say “Toby”, by Master.
  • (Thanks for this, Brian) Fear of a Black Plantation

There are so many better ones or there. It is hard to tell if Scarborough, Bill Kristol, and most of Fox News are deliberately making false allegations in order to drive ratings or if they are truly that ignorant about history and reality, but sometimes the best way to battle a barrage of arrogant stupidity is not with rage. Sometimes humor is the best medicine... though it seems lately we've needed to use that medicine more and more.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Oklahoma Is Not OK

Well, that escalated quickly: Oklahoma University has banned the chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon from its campus, giving them until Wednesday noon to vacate the campus dorm in which they reside. SAE National headquarters has killed the OU chapter indefinitely. Furthermore, two students have been expelled. This is all due to a video that surfaced in which members of the frat were singing a lovely song about how no African-Americans would ever be allowed in their frat, and they would rather see them hanging from trees dead than to allow them in. There were copious amounts of the N-word being used, and I’m not talking about “Nubian demigod”. I applaud the president of Oklahoma University and the president of the national chapter of SAE for their quick action in this disturbing display of flagrant racism. Thanks to them, there is no more racism in Oklahoma…If this were a vidcast, you would see me rolling my eyes to the point of inducing a coma.

SAE has a long history of racist shenanigans, so we should not be surprised at this discovery. Yes, there are now black members of the fraternity. Just look at their splash page, which now has three real live brown people on it! It is just a Cockerham that they all look like extras from Getty Images. However, SAE was born in 1856 in Antebellum University of Alabama. Of the roughly 400 members at the time, 369 of them joined the Confederate Army, and only 7 joined the Union. In 1982, the chapter at University of Cincinnati suspended members for throwing somewhat of an "anti-MLK" themed party. Throughout the nation over the past two decades, chapters have been suspended or kicked off campuses for hosting blackface/"hood" themed parties. They harassed one of their members at University of Memphis for dating a black woman in 2006, to the point that he quit the frat. Harassment is sort of their thing. They even spread their lack of love to Jewish Students at University of Arizona. Let's also not forget that this chapter in Univeristy of Oklahoma proudly flew the Confederate Flag, in tradition with many of their chapters. If they are going to fly the American Swastika on their lawns, what should one expect from its members?

Oklahoma has a long, rich, violent, shameful history of racism. Do not be fooled by the Indigenous-based name. Before it was a state, Oklahoma was a final destination for the Trail of Tears. Also before it was a state, it was the site of a few battles of the Civil War. Even after the end of the Civil War, slavery was not abolished in so-called “Indian Territory” until 1866, because Oklahoma…Perhaps I’m being too harsh on the state, since they were not actually a state when those things happened. Let’s look at their record for racial harmony AFTER 1907, when they became a state.

Oklahoma was a Jim Crow state, meaning there was established racial segregation. Despite this, a black community in Tulsa thrived on its own, so much so that it was nicknamed “Black Wall Street” due to its economic success and independence. In 1921, whites celebrated Black Wall Street’s prosperity by BURNING IT TO THE GROUND. 35 blocks were destroyed, and over 300 people were killed. They were staunchly Democrat back when the Democrats were the racists, and now they’re the special form of Republican that turns into a werebigot in the light of a full 2-term black president.

In 1995, the Oklahoma City Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was destroyed by a fertilizer bomb hidden in a truck. 168 people died, including 19 children. We all know that Timothy McVeigh was the major culprit in this crime, but we seem to forget that in the initial aftermath, images of Arab residents were flashed on the screen as persons of interest.

On the 2010 November ballot, Question 755 was put to voters for a new amendment to their constitution. It was called the Oklahoma State International and Sharia Law Amendment, and it was a measure to ban Sharia or “international law” from being used when administering court rulings. It was approved by voters. Even though our US Constitution explicitly prohibits ANY religion be considered when administering law, the question was approved with 70% of the vote. With the wording as it was, this meant NO “international” religion could not be considered, including Christianity, which is what the lawmakers claimed to be. This amendment was so racist that the racists who crafted the bill didn’t realize that they were undermining themselves, which is usually what happens with racism. The only religions that are native-born could be considered, so that leaves the beliefs of the indigenous people who were forced to walk to Oklahoma back in the day, The Church of Latter Day Saints, and…Scientology? Xenu would have been proud. Fortunately in 2012, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the amendment due to its egregious unconstitutionality.

Just this year, Oklahoma’s state representative Dan Fisher introduced a bill that would defund the AP US History program, because it did not focus enough on essential documents and figures of US history, and it had too much history on the “bad parts” of our history, like the burning of Black Wall Street, slavery, the Trail of Tears, WWII Japanese internment, etc. Though not explicitly racist, the attempt to gloss over parts of our history usually means glossing over the parts of our history that involved us doing terrible things to brown people. These are facts: a lot of our Founding Fathers, including our first and third Presidents, owned slaves. We fought an enemy that puts some of its citizens in concentration camps, all while we put some of our own citizens in concentration camps. We forced a LOT of people off of their ancestral homelands to make way for our new government, and we broke our promises to them many times. AP History explores that and gives a student a better view of our country. Denying them that opportunity because you don’t like what is said is reprehensible.

And now, over the weekend, on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, this video of OU SAE members popped up. The quick action against the perps was welcome, but let us not act like Oklahoma is now free of bigotry. It wasn’t just those 20 or so bro-dudes singing about hanging “niggers” in lieu of allowing them to join their broternity that was the problem. Oklahoma is Texas’s racist hat…which is saying something. We should not be surprised that this incident happened; we should be surprised that it wasn't documented sooner. I will grant that progress has been made. Their Question 711, which banned same-sex marriage, was struck down in 2014, paving the way for legally recognized marriage for all. Segregation is no longer the law. It is starting to become a tech hub. But like the rest of the country, it has a long way to go. Just as voting in a black president twice does not mark the end of racism, neither does expelling a fraternity of racist drunk idiots. We’ve a long way to go.

...of course, how much can we expect from a state whose license plate proudly pronounces that it’s just “OK”?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Kindergarten Kops

On 4th March, the US Department of Justice released a scathing report on the practices of the Ferguson, Missouri PD, citing multiple examples of incidents that add up to a rampant and regular pattern of racial discrimination and abuse against people of color. This is a situation that much of the white public call a shocking epiphany, and most of the black and brown public call “Wednesday”.

The nationwide statistics point to exactly this. There aren’t more black people in prison because black people are more prone to crime. There are more black people in prison because black people are assumed suspect first. This has been the case for years. Even the birth of our narcotics laws was cocooned in racism. If you were to believe what is depicted in public, you would think that the 12% of the population has a bind of terror over the entire nation. A small percent of the population DOES control the nation, but their weapon of choice isn’t melanin; it’s money.

This is what all the protests 2014 were about. Though some like to depict them as people hating the police, it was all about wanting to be treated fairly and (clutch your pearls!) like people. The problem is that even in a country that values and encourages “free speech and expression”, that speech and expression is encouraged until you criticize something about the reigning authority. Then that speech is depicted as an attack. No one likes to hear that there is something wrong with themselves. The problem is that when speaking truth to power, and that power has a gun, it gets dangerous.

When Bill de Blasio said that he had to have “the talk” with him about how to handle police stops, he said nothing wrong, but some in the police union took it as him attacking police, so much so that they blamed him and protesters for the murder of two patrolmen by a deranged lunatic who co-opted the #BlackLivesMatter protests, and they literally turned their back on him at those patrolmen’s funerals. First, the man who killed Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu was no more part of the police brutality protests than 50 Shades of Grey is part of a lexicon of quality fetish literature. Just because someone co-opts the thin surface of a movement does not mean he is part of it. Secondly, since de Blasio is mayor of New York City, that means the police are under his employ. Can you imagine disrespecting your boss, talking trash about him and turning your back on him during a board meeting, just because he said that you used too many commas in your white paper? You would be fired.

This report regarding Ferguson is just a sampling of the greater United States, and it is not a matter of rogue police. It is a matter of an entire penal system that is geared toward generating revenue, and phenotype is an easy target. We can look at any area in the country and see similar statistics, except for the few places where police commissioners recognized the problem and tried to fix it. Black people have been targeted for demonization and revenue since they were shipped here hundreds of years ago. Back then, it was overt and totally legal. Nowadays, we claim it isn’t but it happens all the time. Irish, Italian, Chinese, Mexican, and many others have had their time in the “ostracize and monetize” spotlight in this country, but it seems that people of African descent are a mainstay target that will endure the test of time, though brown people from Central & South America and Southwest Asia will likely be a close second.

The problems is that we WANT to trust the police forces in this country. We all know good cops who we trust. We know that there are a large number of very good police men and women who are good at their jobs who care about the community that they are committed to protect. We hope that they are calling out their less reputable colleagues when they are doing something that would tarnish their departments’ reputations. We should not worry that we may be arrested. or if we’re lucky, just roughed up a little bit, when we are encountered while driving or walking or sitting in our houses. Thinking that this one report about one area resolves the issue is as wrong-headed as thinking that racism was over when Barack Obama was elected...twice. This report is showing to the landlord that there is a crack in the ceiling that has been leaking since we signed the lease. Whether the landlord actually does something about it is a whole other issue. Let’s hope something happens.

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