At this rate, niggas gon lose. Can’t search for water, or grow your own food/Tell me what’s gon’ happen, when them stores close and they ain’t gon open, no more. Yeah, thats the realest shit you feel that, hunger’s your enemy, but you can’t kill that. Nigga wake up, don’t join the army. Kill your own peoples, but fear Illuminatis and they aint even real or are they. But you ain’t even know because partay too fucking much, if you start to doubt. They already in yo mind and comin’ out yo mouth (Jaco, 2011)
What started off as a rebellious and aggressive form of musical expression has turned into a $10 billion dollar per year industry. What began with a piece of cardboard for the “B-boys” and a boombox for the DJ has transformed into a way of life. People around the world have adopted the Hip-Hop culture and Hip-Hop lyrics are recited in countries from Australia to South Africa. Hip-Hop has become a main stay in popular culture; it is found in commercials, clothing, speech, and television.
The Other has been discussed in many conversations amid postmodernist philosophers such as Emmanuel Levinas, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Ludwig Wittengenstein. Other is the antithesis to the same; it is a philosophical concept that represents a distinct difference from what is initially thought of. It is often used as tool to subordinate groups of people. The concept of the Other is essential for understanding one’s place and identity in the midst of other cultures. Levinas speaks of the Other in terms of ethics. Ethically, for Levinas, the “Other” is superior or prior to the self; the mere presence of the Other makes demands before one can respond by helping them or ignoring them (egs.edu, 2012). Derrida says that the other is infinite and pure; that the other is perpetual and impossible to ever fully grasp.
I posit that a sense of the Other is perpetuated in the African American community through Hip-Hop culture and African Americans have subsequently internalized the notion of eternal Otherness. I will operationally define The Other and briefly explain how African Americans came to be the Other in the United States. I will demonstrate that Hip-Hop music can be detrimental to the collective identity of African Americans, damaging to creating a sense of humanity across gender and race, and perpetuates a hierarchy of race.
my "why", 2016
Sandra Bland was a 28-year-old college educated Black Woman. She was a member of a Black Greek Lettered Organization, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. She was a higher education professional. On July 10th, 2015, Sandra Bland was leaving a last minute job interview at her alma mater. She had just called a close friend to inform him that, after a string of temporary positions in Community Engagement and Civic Organizing, she had gotten the job. Shortly after that phone call she was pulled over for a minor traffic violation and after following an argument and physical altercation with Officer Brian Encinia, she was arrested. She did not have $500 to post bail and was consequently held in jail. 64 hours after her arrest she was found dead by hanging in her jail cell. (Nathan, 2016) When I learned of what had happened to yet another Black person, this time a Black Woman, I was heartbroken. I was working in a job that I hated and no one in my office, though members of the African Diaspora, appeared to care. They were silent. I went into my private bathroom and collapsed on the floor is deep hurt, anger, and despair. I wept. I am a Black Woman. I am college educated. I was 29. I am a member of a Black Greek Lettered Organization. I am a higher education professional. The realization that it could have been me was petrifying. Her death resonated because she was me; she was not a teenage boy walking home in the middle of the night. She was not a teenage boy accused of stealing a cigarillo from a convenience store. She was not a 12-year-old boy thought to playing with a gun in a neighborhood park. She was a Black Woman who changed lanes without signaling properly. However, thinking critically, I wondered what was the metalanguage and unwritten curriculum that influenced the interactions between Sandra Bland and State Trooper Encinia? I would argue that Sandra was met with aggression because the controlling images of Black Women as attitudinal, sassy, violent, and hostile spoke before her directly to the (un)conscious of Officer Encinia.
The aim of my inquiry, research, and personal pedagogy is to provide a counter narrative about Black Women and subsequently Black people. In an episode of Oprah’s Super Soul TV, Iyanla Vanzant said, “We get our meaning and our mattering from our story and if we tell our story in a way that disempowers us we won’t know that we matter even in the midst of the story” (Vanzant, 2016). This notion is twofold: firstly, as Black Women we are confronted with stories, tropes, stereotypes, and controlling images that tell a story about what we are capable of, how we feel, our purpose, and our place that are oft times untrue but serve the good of patriarchy, racism, and sexism. Secondly, Black Women have to actively engage in reframing and rewriting the story about us, primarily for our well being and survival and secondarily to enact social change that leads to equity for Black Women politically, relationally, and culturally.
With the exception of Melissa Harris Perry and recent lectures by bell hooks many of the works that acted as the catalyst for my interest and exploration of Critical Race Theory and Black Feminist Thought were written years before I was born. These works were authored alongside the emergence of Africana Women’s studies programs in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Many of these scholars were fundamental in the development of this field of study and forged the path for future scholars like myself. Today, they remark in disappointment that more Black Women have not joined them on the jagged shores they bravely explored and claimed. In a culture infatuated with celebrity and infamy where shows like Love and Hip Hop, Real Housewives, Basketball Wives are championed for their representation of Black Women, there exist a need for a more critical discourse. Despite the progressive roles of Black Actresses such as Diane Carroll as Julia, Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, and Viola Davis as Annalise Keating on How to Get Away with Murder, we still see more regressive roles of Black Women as modern day mammies, welfare queens, and sapphire. Children sing along gleefully to songs like “These Hoes Ain’t Loyal” and “It Aint Nothing to Cut that Bitch Off” and most people do not blink an eye. How, in a culture dominated by a bombardment of images, likes, follows, and clicks do we disrupt this antiquated curriculum? Using narrative inquiry, autobiography, to re-enter, and re-member my early curriculum and the curriculum for a select group of Black Women, I will unearth present day truths of learning, unlearning, and liberation. Through my inquiry, I will stand in the gap between then and now. In a paraphrase of an excerpt from Dr. Maya Angelou’s poem “Our Grandmothers”, I will go as one, but I will stand as 10,000 (Angelou, 1990).