Rebel Music: The Birth of a Revolution

Frank WalnIt has been proven time and time again that music has the power to transcend the bounds of society. Always on the side of the oppressed, it lives within the souls of those that cling to it like a heartbeat. It has transformed countries, sparked movements and inspired those who are open to its message.

MTV’s show “Rebel Music” showcases youth around the world who fight against oppression through music. The most recent episode highlighted Frank Waln, Inez Jasper and a handful of other Native American singers/rappers from various tribes across the US and Canada. I’d definitely be lying if I said that I expected a show like this to come from MTV. Regardless, it’s something that needs to be talked about widespread. Too many times the voices of the oppressed are stifled by those unwilling to hear the cries. The only thing that loves company more than misery is ignorance. The episode brought up so many important issues, particularly the negative effects the Keystone Pipeline would have on Native American lands, extremely high suicide rates among Native American youth and the disproportionately high number of indigenous women in Canada being murdered.

Watching this episode, it was sad but not surprising to hear that so many issues that Native Americans are facing are some of the very same issues are currently being protested across the country by the black community – police brutality, cultural appropriation, longstanding stereotypes that further perpetuate and sustain our oppressions. In likeness of Black Lives Matter, Native Americans are also seeking a voice in the conversation with #NativeLivesMatter.

I want to make it clear to anyone who feels as though focusing on both of these movements will diminish the other that that is not the case. I stand behind both movements because, while our cultures are different, our goals are the same.  Our oppression binds us together, but it is only our solidarity with each other that can (and will) break the chains that colonialism has tried so hard to keep us in.

For those of you interested in the episode, here it is:

Media Diversified: An Appreciation Post

So I think it’s time for a little shoutout. I started this blog a few months now, but, during that time, I’ve come across a handful of blogs that prove to be precious little gems in a sea of thoughts.

One of these gems is Media Diversified. It’s a blog dedicated to diversifying the media landscape. The non-profit organization blog features dozens of writers and academics from all walks of life, from all parts of the world. It’s refreshing that they don’t shy away from any and all topics that interest them – from oppressions of people of color in films to the exploration of Afrofuturism.

I will say that I’m slightly disappointed that they are based in the UK. A blog like this would NO DOUBT have such a positive reception among the ranks of activists and feminists across the US, especially in light of the numerous police brutality videos that have been flooding social media with the help of the American people. With a blog similar to this, the US could definitely see more organized protests and leaders emerge from the depths.

Once you browse through their blog, you’ll definitely want to reblog and share A LOT of the articles you come across. However, they do have reposting guidelines that you’ll want to look over before reposting any of their work.

Mike Pence & the Dangers of Rhetoric

AP Photo on Politico.com

AP Photo on Politico.com

Last Thursday, Republican Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law in Indiana. The law potentially allows for-profit businesses to refuse service to certain groups based on any religious grievances these businesses might encounter. To understand why this law is seeded in so much controversy, let’s look at its origins.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was first signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993. While the bill applies to all religions, its original creation was to protect both the sacred lands of Native Americans from being destroyed by US expansion projects and the use of peyote for Native American religious ceremonies. Since then, numerous states have enacted laws that mirror their federal predecessor.

Being a bisexual woman who also identifies as Christian, the passing of this law makes me more than uneasy for several (obvious) reasons:

The RFRA opens the door to discrimination

The main reason this law is so dangerous is the potential increase of discrimination that could arise from its enactment. Though there are cities that have nondiscrimination laws, statewide Indiana does not have laws that protect those who identify as LGBTQ. Ultimately, this simply means that the RFRA leaves the door wide open for prejudice and bigotry against a group of people who are already unprotected against discrimination.

Inherently protecting the rights of Christians

As I previously stated, the original purpose of this act was to safeguard against discrimination of Native American tribes and their religious practices. Despite this, I highly doubt that this is the case at hand. Yes, I do understand that religion is deeply engrained in the lives of many Americans. I also understand why people want to protect these religious views. What I am not grasping, however, is why Mike Pence and other supporters of this law feel that their religious rights are being infringed upon by having to provide service to certain groups of people. Mike Pence and other proponents of the RFRA in Indiana most likely prescribe to Christian values. Because of this, they automatically belong to the religious majority, which, in essence, allows them religious privilege. Christians do not have to fight for our religious rights like Muslims, Buddhists, Native Americans or other religious minorities might. Would this law be so accommodating as to protect a Muslim’s right to refuse Christian customers on the basis of “substantial burden?”…I highly doubt it. And what about individuals who identify as BOTH Christian AND LGBTQ? Will this law still allow for-profit businesses to refuse services to them as well?

Intent is everything

So, what has people so up in arms about the implications of this law? To anyone who has been keeping up with the Indiana RFRA law, the answer is simple. Honestly, I would have no problem if this specific bill was created to protect the rights of religious minorities. But when Mike Pence dodges George Stephanopoulos’ repeatedly asked question, the intent of this law could not be clearer. For someone wanting to clarify the “misunderstanding” of this law, Pence did an amazing job at doing the complete opposite. While Pence voiced that the law would not target LGBTQ, anti-gay activists were present at the signing last Thursday.

Thousands of Americans have responded to the law, some of which believe boycotting Indiana would be the wisest choice. While boycotting Indiana certainly brings attention of the RFRA law to the forefront of conversation regarding LGBTQ discrimination, I believe it will hurt hundreds of Indiana businesses that don’t agree with the bill. For those Indiana businesses whose views don’t align with the recent law, the campaign Open For Service provides participating business with a sticker to illustrate their solidarity and commitment to opposing discrimination of any kind. Though a fairly new grassroots campaign, it’s a step in the right direction. Others have taken to social media to voice their opposition to the new law, particularly with the hashtag #DearMikePence.

More respect could – and would- be given to Pence if he stood firm in his beliefs. But to shamelessly masquerade them under the guise of religious protection is insulting to all parties involved.

Regardless of how people are choosing to act out against Indiana’s RFRA, one thing is still clear: this law is a dangerous obstacle in the fight for equality.

Whitewashing in the American Education System: Why Shakespeare Isn’t Enough

It is no secret that I grew up having more books than friends. I’d spend hours losing myself in the fictional narrative, devouring page upon page of mythical story lines. I fell in love with these alternative universes that seemed so much more magical than my own. But it wasn’t until years later that I realized how problematic my perceptions of these characters really were. I never questioned why all of the characters I’d created in my mind fell neatly within the frames of Eurocentrism. The only times that didn’t happen were when book covers or descriptions of the characters’ physical features were included.

thingsfallapart

The first time I explicitly remember reading a novel from someone who wasn’t white and cisgender was in my 11th grade AP English class. My teacher, Mrs. Seward, had us read Things Fall Apart written by African novelist Chinua Achebe. It told the African narrative that was so clearly missing in required reading. What made this book even more valuable was the reason it was written: as a response to The Heart of Darkness, the problematic, racist sentiments from the viewpoint of European colonialists.   If I hadn’t read this novel, I would NOT have seen the genuinely beautiful side of Africa that is rarely, if ever, portrayed by visitors from the outside.

Throughout my educational career, I’ve been subjected (yes, subjected) to reading novels written by white men from centuries ago. While some of the novels were worth a read, I could never get rid of the feeling that something was missing from the experience.

It’s no secret that novels written in the 18th century were riddled with Middle English that today’s modern English speakers find difficult to comprehend. And yet we still read them, encouraged by teachers, professors, the elite to “try and understand…really dig down deep.” Yet classmates would comment on not wanting to read a certain book because phrases or sections were written in a language other than English.

Fast forward to my senior year of college. Last semester, I decided to take an honors Intro to Humanities class. Throughout the semester, I started feeling increasingly more upset and couldn’t figure out why, until it hit me: here I am, in college, experiencing the same lack of diversity in required reading that I did in high school.

The lack of diversity in the humanities is not an issue that needs to be looked over. The humanities are the core of society, the study of human culture. By limiting required college curriculum to novels and plays written by people of European descent, educational institutions are explicitly saying that no other voices, cultures and traditions matter. With the overabundance of required literature centered solely on the European POV, the invisibility of other narratives prevails, a reoccurring wound caused by ignorant neglect.

More so than not, many students don’t read books unless required to do so by the public education system. So when they don’t see themselves or their experiences represented, what does that leave them with? I should not have to minor in African American studies in order to learn more about my people’s history. Nor should any other group of color, especially those whose influences have heavily affected European culture and have gone uncredited throughout history.

Why It’s Not Really About Superheroes

images

After being asked by TMZ whether or not she’d be playing the part of Green Lantern, Michelle Rodriguez thought that was “the dumbest thing [she’d] ever heard. Because of this whole ‘minorities in Hollywood’ thing. It’s so stupid….stop stealing all the white people’s superheroes. Make up your own.

Fans took to social media in response to Rodriquez’s comments. Of course, she posted a video on Facebook clarifying her statement she made Friday night.

Here is a quote from her video:

What I really meant was, ultimately, at the end of the day, there’s a language. And the language that you speak in Hollywood is successful franchise. And I think that there are many cultures in Hollywood that are not white that can come up with their own mythology…instead of trying to turn a girl character into a guy or instead of trying to turn a white character into a black character or Latin character, I think that people should stop being lazy, and that people should actually make an effort in Hollywood to develop their own mythology.

Let me be the first to say that I admire Rodriguez for taking roles that many women probably either wouldn’t take or wouldn’t be cast in. But what Rodriquez fails to realize is that there really aren’t “many cultures in Hollywood that are not white.” I have yet to see accurate depictions of Asians, Middle Easterners, Africans, Hawaiians, Native Americans, Aboriginals and other POC in major, big-budget films. The sad fact is that we don’t see many people of color being cast as major characters. In a Time Magazine interview, Fresh Off The Boat star Constance Wu talks about how important it is “to see Asians in those leading roles because it changes…the anglo-heteronormative status of TV.” Having a few people of color in a movie is not diversity, it’s tokenism.

tumblr_mxrfy879BF1t4j2vfo1_1280

ZAHARA in Spider Stories

Throughout the centuries, people of color have created long and rich histories of storytelling. However, these story lines have not been adequately embraced by Hollywood. The underrepresentation of people of color in comics doesn’t stem from “laziness” on the artists’ part. There are plenty of comics that do an awesome job at illustrating diversity, including the
cartoon Spider Stories by Nigerian-American brothers John and Charles Agbaje.

In regards to comic-based films, recreating traditional superheroes into figures that people of color can relate to is not “stealing,” it’s a cultural cohesion vital to sustaining diversity. While superheroes are fictitious, thriving in a world of crime and chaos, they often create racial discourse in pop culture. So until the billion-dollar movie franchises in Hollywood can get it together, America can’t claim to be a melting pot.

Hold the Applause for Patricia Arquette’s Oscars Speech

rs_634x1024-150222210103-634-patricia-arquette-oscar-winnerLast night, the Oscars took a turn into the political realm. From Neil Patrick Harris’ jab at the lack of diversity to John Legend & Common’s acceptance speech, celebs were making bold statements. However, there was one actor whose speech stood out among the rest.

When Patricia Arquette highlighted the unequal pay and rights among women, supporters such as Meryl Streep & Jennifer Lopez visibly showed their solidarity. Women nationwide could have applauded her efforts of bringing income inequality to the forefront of public conversation. The only problem?

Arquette marginalized gay, trans and women of color. 

During a press room interview, she made it clear that “it’s time for… all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”

Whether she intended to or not, her thoughts opened up a can of worms that depicts two larger issues within mainstream feminist theory: the notion that all women share the same experiences AND the undertones of “I Am Savior.” Not only are these lines of thought dangerous to the validity of feminism, but they invalidate the varying experiences of women who are not  white, middle-class women.

Gay, trans and women of color earn far less than their white counterparts. For every dollar that a white man makes, white women make 78 cents to the dollar,  followed by black women with 64 cents, Native American women with 59 cents and Latinx women at 54 cents. While income equality is a very real problem in the US, Arquette’s net worth sits somewhere between 24 and 25 million dollars, far more than $49,398, the average yearly earnings of American women. Mentioning the need for a living wage would also been a step in the right direction.

As well-intended as Arquette’s answers aimed to be, the “I Am Savior” sentiment reared its ugly head. Throughout history, women of color, gay and trans women didn’t have the luxury of focusing strictly on women’s issues. To say that mainstream feminists have fought for the rights of marginalized women is woefully inaccurate. If that were the case, there would only be ONE feminist theory, not multiple highlighting the need for inclusivity. The “we helped you through your issues, so you should return the favor” undertone only serves to pin marginalized groups against mainstream feminism. Nothing about the way Arquette worded that line shows solidarity within the community of women.

Until we can include the voices of all women, I will respectfully hold my applause.