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The paper reviews recent attempts by the supporters of racial equality to eliminate the discrimination against African-Americans in the 21st century. However, it seems that in some parts of America, the equality has already been applied, and in other parts, not at all. In the first section of the text, the author describes the history of the African-Americans throughout the United States as a whole. The Voting Rights Act and The Civil Rights Act were proposed to end segregations based on gender, race, and ethnicity. Despite of the written law, the people are not easy to immediately change, as a result of social construction. In time, African-Americans have more influence in the overall of American society, especially through music. The African-Americans are known for the genre of music, and lately, fashion. This text briefly reviews the history of the African-American music—hip-hop/rap in particular. Additionally, the text explores the effect of affirmative action and colorblindness. The text focuses on the example of the events in both entertainment and news, and its possible effects in employments within careers and education, as well as relations between African-American themselves. In depth, the text examines various celebrities for their influence in today’s generation and on how their success has changed people’s outlook on the African-Americans on the media and how this differs to the representation in reality. Finally, the final section describes how people react to the entirety of racial equality and the meaning of discrimination for other ethnicities.
The African-Americans were brought to the land of America at the beginning of the 17th century as slaves. In time, some people realized how inhumane slavery is and fought for the rights of the voiceless group, bringing the U.S. Constitution to enforce the 13th Amendment. Even though slavery was abolished, the mindset of some men was not open to the acceptance of the African-Americans and started racism—the belief that distinguishes the characteristics/abilities in which a race inquires as inferior or superior to other races. One of the main issues of racism is how individual races are misrepresented in public society, especially media. While there has been progressing in racism throughout the United States, many efforts are hindered by conservative thinking. The discrimination in media is still present, yet, ironically, the problem lies in the fact that it is not evident, which explains the power of colorblindness and the possible existence of affirmative action to some extent.
The role of African-Americans can be seen all throughout the United States, starting as athletes, citizens, labors, then in businesses, government, politics, and one of the most prevalent, entertainers—artists, actors and actresses, comedians, dancers, models, musicians, designers, and writers. The music media has been dominated by Black culture in various genres, including jazz, gospel, and hip-hop/rap. Today, hip-hop influences the music charts more than ever before. Billboard’s Top 100 is filled with musicians of color, such as Rae Sremmurd, Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, Bruno Mars, Drake, Rihanna, Beyoncè, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and the endless list continues. A lot of the celebrities are respected and looked upon by a lot of people, even as inspirations for the next generation to come. Regarding the history of how African-Americans were oppressed in the past, to the naked eye, the problem of racism seems to have ended. However, the media hardly ever portrays the true reality of things.
1973 was the year hip-hop was founded in New York’s South Bronx (Davey D). Herc created a new technique of stretching “a song’s drum-break by playing the break portion of two identical records consecutively.” The growth of the improvised break method extended into a series of other art forms such as breakdancing and rap. Rap itself is rhymed proses spoken over the beat of hip-hop music. The content was merely commentaries on the ability of the DJ playing the hip-hop records but developed into rapping about the DJ’s personal experiences and stories. Then, rap turned into the voice of poor, urban African-American youth to outcry the injustice their lives were faced against in the mainstream media. Political advocacy through rap dawned its potential from the function of the previous rappers as a form to rebel to counter subjugation and slavery.
The tables seem to have turned for White people. Because hip-hop originally stemmed from the African-Americans, Black people holds the genre with a sense of exclusivity. Racism is hard to quantify, and even though the issue has faded, the traces of its consequences are very much present. A gray area exists in discrimination, mainly because the United States is divided into different areas—West Coast, East Coast, The South, and The North. Throughout history, The South had consecutively been the region where the African-Americans are the most isolated, with the evidence starting from the existence of Jim Crow laws to the dog-whistle politics of the Southern Strategy. While the oppressors may find it rather easy to decide to apologize and forget the act of discrimination, the oppressed would disagree, especially with its effects tailing behind the identities of the ones hurt by the actions. As a consequence, “because of what White people did to Blacks in the past, there is a major resentment towards White people” (Preezy). As music, rap is inclusive of diversity, and the beat of hip-hop has spread around the globe in a lot of cultures. However, White artists have claimed to be undermined, when it comes to rapping (Preezy). Few factors causing discrimination against White people within the hip-hop nation are “from perceived lack of authenticity or suspected voyeuristic motives” (Hahn). Thus, the perception of White people as a member of hip-hop in the United States is distorted differently between two poles.
Being White in hip-hop may trail with additional pressure of justification for being worthy. The hip-hop industry has deviated from its original function as a political/social commentary into a form of adaption to the tastes of wealthy, white fans (Hahn). Due to the acknowledgment of the 80% White, suburban teenagers of hip-hop, the industry wants to please the consumers even more, who happen to appeal to an emphasis of “sexuality and violence” (Hahn). The fact of hip-hop being originated from a Black culture of the “urban and poor,” the violence, crime, or social issues as the main contents in hip-hop put White rappers in a place of disadvantage to not be witnesses. As hip-hop functionality was to express genuine dissatisfaction, White rappers are rapping about tales they have never witnessed, let alone experienced, defeats the purpose of honesty. Additionally, to voice a journey starting from the bottom— “socioeconomic burdens or objectifying women”—and entering a state of progress seems more acceptable in society, as opposed to scripted lyrics of superficial understanding. A successful White rapper with the stage name “Lil Dicky” climbed the ladder of fame by frankly speaking about his “vulnerabilities, fears, and flaws” in the position of a White middle-class male, and “successfully justified his position within the genre by claiming a niche” (Hahn). Lil Dicky earned his place in in the hip-hop nation by keeping it real— “a term which reminds that inside hip-hop to be true to their roots” (Blanchard).
One of among many reasons for the skepticism towards White rappers is the problem of cultural appropriation. According to James O. Young, cultural appropriation is defined as “the adoption or use of the element of one culture by members of another culture” (Young). There is no harm in putting the effort to understand the struggles portrayed in rap music, yet it does become problematic when the message is entirely missed for the sake of fame. The issue continues as a cultural appropriation in hip-hop is perceived as a form of an extension of colorblindness. By colorblindness, the dominant culture appropriates, or rather dismisses, the minority culture the behavior was originated from. One example of cultural appropriation in the media of hip-hop is Macklemore’s victory in the Grammy Awards of 2013 against Kendrick Lamar (Bobb). The success of Macklemore, who is a White rapper, drowns the voice of Kendrick Lamar’s album of the original culture. Even Macklemore himself acknowledges the issue by publicizing his conversation with Kendrick Lamar via text message saying, “You got robbed. I wanted you to win. It’s weird and sucks that I robbed you. … Anyway, you know what it is” (Bobb). Another example is Iggy Azalea’s lyrical issue. In one of her songs, “D.R.U.G.S.,” she refers herself as “the runaway slave-master.” Before anyone else, Azealia Banks took the matters to hand by directly tweeting, “How can you endorse a white woman who called herself a “runaway slave master” ?” and “I’m not anti-white girl, but I’m also not here for anyone outside of my culture trying to trivialize severe aspects of it. In any capacity.” Banks’ frustration can be easily understood, as Iggy’s lyrics directly appropriates the usage of the history of African-Americans as a joke, if not an insult.
Due to hip-hop’s big influence on other aspects of the culture, such as fashion, language, and behaviors, the cultural appropriation remains. White, influential businessmen use the face of celebrities as puppets to maintain White supremacy by rigging the votes on awards, as with the case of Macklemore and Kendrick Lamar (Bobb). Other producers who noticed a different demand from consumers took the opportunity to exploit the Black rappers, as of today. With the new era, the media covers more of other races. As social media results to an easier way to express opinions, “prejudiced people perceive more community support for their views.” The entertainment media projects as if racism within the American society no longer exists. Television shows, for example, America’s Next Top Model and American Idol, and Hollywood movies, are inclusive of people of color. Fashion brands use Black hip-hop/rap artists to endorse their products, such as Rihanna for Puma, Kanye West for Adidas, and Chancellor “Chance The Rapper” Bennett for Nike. As entertainment media travels globally faster and grasps more audience of the mainstream society, the world might come to think of the end of the racism era. Although it is evident that there has been a lot of progress in racism in the United States, a lot of people fail to recognize its presence, because of the colorblindness created by the media, intentionally or unintentionally. The glamorization of Black individuals in the entertainment world distorts people’s perception. The media catches what sells, and most times hiding the truth behind all the scripted interviews and luxurious cars and houses.
However, the opposite happens in the news, and unfortunately, the consumption of television and newspaper has gradually declined over the years (Barthel, Luckerson). This is caused by the growth of online videos and websites. In the news, even though as biased, actually shows the issues of racism in society. Although it is true the news controls the percentage of a particular coverage in which might be altered in some ways, the news project racism more than infotainment does. For example, the number of shootings by white cops towards black men (Kindy), triggering the voice of a 9-year-old child to speak up to Charlotte’s City Council, “We are black people, and we shouldn’t have to feel like this. We shouldn’t have to protest because y’all are treating us wrong. We do this because we need to and have rights. I’ve been born and raised in Charlotte. And I never felt this way until now. And I can’t stand how we’re treated. It’s a shame that our fathers and mothers are killed, and we can’t even see them anymore. It’s a shame that we have to go the graveyard and bury them. And we have tears, and we shouldn’t have tears. We need our fathers and mothers to be by our side,”—both events covered by the news (Lopez). Despite the fact of the United States’ president being an African-American, the representation in government is disproportional. According to The Atlantic, “a federal policy with no white support has only a 10 percent chance of being enacted, while one with universal white support has a 60 percent shot of adoption. But while a proposal with no black support has a 40 percent chance of becoming law, one enjoying unanimous approval has only a 30 percent probability of enactment. In other words, as support for a policy rises within the black community, the odds of it being achieved actually decline.” Although there may be other reasons for the situation, this does not change the reality that racism is in fact misrepresented between differing medias.
Despite the negativity of racism, diversity is an entirely different issue. The world needs diversity in races, as it what makes each individual unique. Still, the problem arrives when the dominant culture undermines the minority culture due to self-claimed superiority. An essential issue within racism is the stereotypes of races. The history of the United States with the African-Americans has passed down negative mindsets about both races from both perspectives, creating an endless cycle of prejudice, and thus inequality. The effort of being inclusive towards people of color in the entertainment media is admirable, but the glamorization creates an unrealistic perception of the African-American culture. Being an inspiration to others as a successful person is one thing, but judging an entire race based on what the media projects are a different thing. The characteristics of African-Americans in hip-hop is rich in culture and creative, but people should come to realize that not all African-Americans can be limited into one bubble of stereotype, nor are other races, including the Whites. It is important to perceive people as individuals, rather than as ethnicities, or colors. By seeing people through a different lens, judgments change and standards come from reality and what meets the eye, instead of preconceived prejudices. White rappers need to be considered through talent, as opposed to background, and the same attitude should fall on other races, including African-Americans, in all situations. Equality is about being able to possess the same opportunities in the pursuit of all things, instead of being forced to or restricted to. With the entertainment encouraging the nation to embrace the diversity, instead of turning the good motive into colorblindness. Even though hatred remains, and probably will be for a long time, slow progress is progress, and the movement takes one individual at a time.
All in all, the issue of racism is more depth than simply hip-hop/rap, but music has a significant influence nonetheless. On the one hand, racism may easily be blamed on one aspect, such as slavery, but on the other hand, the media and the Black culture itself have important roles in shaping certain stereotypes. The psychology of stereotypes and prejudice is a whole different case, and no one has yet to pinpoint a specific cause or thought-process into the discrimination of races. Along the racism in hip-hop, classism and sexism also exist. Aforementioned, racism has very much progressed ever since of how it began, but people might still have to keep an eye on the different forms of racism in the modern era. Differences in opportunities between races are unjust, but hope lies in music to bring people together.
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