Sunday, April 08, 2007

culture

let me preface this post by saying that 99 percent of the time when it sounds like I'm dogging on my race, my intent is really to say, come on, black people. get it together. Lets change our image. Lets not be the ones who are supposedly bringing the neighborhood down. let's stop being the men from taking up so much prison space.

just bec i'm black doesn't mean i have to accept, like, agree with and embrace all of the black AMERICAN culture. people call me bougy (more on that later). can't i still be black without loving all of the black pop culture? the hip hop culture, seems to be only the American way to be black. Africans or black people around the world don't necessarily subscribe to the hip-hop culture the way so many black americans do.

i just had a conversation with my oldest of 4 brothers who lives in los angeles. surprisingly (although not terribly surprising), he mentioned some new neighbors who moved in to his apt complex next door. They are black. he couldn't really tell a whole lot except for he saw a few black guys with cornrows, baggy pants and oversized white t-shirts. my brother, sort of jokingly said, "How'd they get into this nice complex??". He wasn't saying that black people should not or could not be there, because obviously my brother lives there. but why do they have to LOOK like that? why do these guys INSIST on causing themselves to not be taken seriously? my brother was honestly concerned about whether they would bring down the complex.

the same thugs you see on the news committing crimes and whatnot are the ones dressed like that. so why do so many young black men (who may be decent guys) choose to look like that? i've seen that style of dress on black guys all over portland. no wonder white people are afraid of them. no wonder they can't get past the negative stereotypes.

i will NEVER allow my boys to dress like that. but, the way that my husband and i raise them, they probably wont even want to dress like that. my brother and i decided on a theory that the generation Xers who were raised in undesirable environment don't know anything different and are now raising their kids the same way. how can those parents do any better, when they're part of the problem. clothes don't make the man BUT clothes do un-make the man.

one day, i made it a point to observe the black men i saw around portland. probably 75 percent of all the black men I saw looked kinda scary. i'm sorry, but it's true. and i should point out that i'm mainly talking about the the generation Xers. Not that I'd be scared (because i know lots of black guys and they're great people). but i can understand why just the appearance of many of them would put someone who's not around black people on edge a little bit. take out the cornrows ( i think it's fine for black women, but black men??? it's just ghetto. what's wrong with a nice cut?). put on some pants that fit. take off the do-rag. stop dressing like the rap stars.

rap. it's negative and needs to be banned. people dress like the music they listen to. have you noticed? is there anything positive about rap? i'd like to know. the lyrics are filthy, the rappers promote the degradation of women, selling drugs, not working, not being family oriented BUT having multiple kids without being married, and the most important--having THINGS like escalades and shoes and watches and chains and gold teeth. what happened to promoting reading? working (honestly), education? marriage?

and this is what so many young black people aspire to be. sad. i dislike being associated with it. i love my heritage and all that, but i don't subscribe to much of the black pop culture.

13 comments:

mellaceus said...

discovered your blog only recently, very interesting perspective, lots of similarity with my life in London, UK.
In response to your various questions above (though seemingly rhetorical) I'd still like to answer some as follows -
Men in braids is ghetto and a rap image but to be fair people of all races have always imitated their favourite figures; rock music hairstyles & clothes predominantly with white fans who show their 'loyalty' in their choice of dress, hair, etc. Here in the UK, I remember that each time David Beckham changed his hair style or colour you bet that the following week a good number of blokes (guys) would habe sporting the same barnet (hair). Oooh, a bit of cockney slang there, dunno why, I'm not even cockney! So those from troubled not necessarily broken homes tend to mirror a celebrity with noone in the home to look up to, and let's be honest the stats are high of such homes in black communities. For various reasons, we could discuss on another page...
War Against Rap. But there's a lot that's positive about Hip Hop of which Rap is a branch as I understand. I was a young teen when Hip Hop arrived. I know that Hip Hop births poetry, wit, emotions plus humour, and of course rhythm. Current versions of rap as some have said is 'poison' I would agree but hopefully this will pass (soon) to a better version or if I can hope, return to Old School. It'd be a disservice to the Old School and 'conscious' rappers to write off rap & hip hop as a whole. The industry is making money off the controversy. Blacks with influence (and there are many) in the music & media industries need to take their eyes of the green so that something can be redeemed of this vibrant art form.
Anyhow back to braids on men, in London where I live, both black and white males do sport braids or cornrows. However funny enough it's not common with men of direct African origin for good reason (WARNING! shocking information follows) In traditional / ancient history, bodyguards for the kings wives were castrated and marked out with braids ie eunuchs. For Africans - who know their history - there's still a stigma to 'girly' hairstyles.
Clothes do unmake a man, well said, and I think a lot of black people think that losing The Attitude would be losing their culture.
So my own rhetorical question is - where's the sense in that?

JD said...

Well, I certainly have felt the way you feel before. The real problem is that the rest of "Us" get lumped in with the bad stereotypes. If non-black people didn't extrapolate their opinion of some black people onto all others, we wouldn't have to feel like this. It's precisely because we're not judged "by the content of our character" that we feel we have to compare ourselves to other people who have nothing in common with us other than phenotypical characteristics.

Anonymous said...

While the 'thug" look does not bother me so much (or perhaps because I am in nyc where it is more commonplace to see) -- but I tend to share your views. I think many young people inadvertently do a disservice to their first impressions when they present themselves as 'street" since the image has such negative connotation.

Natalie said...

I agree with 90% of what was said in this post. It is far too easy to lump "black people" into one group when we are by no means cohesive. The only universal "Black' experience is through the hands of the dominant culture. Banning Rap is the main thing I don't agree with. I don't think banning artistic expression is ever ok. Sure, a lot of mainstream rap has lost its soul and artistry but there are some great artists out there. Lupe Fiasco and Common (ok being from Chiago I may be biased) both speak on more uplifting topics and don't portray the "rap mentality" Plus it has a good beat and you can dance to it.

Anonymous said...

this is an interesting blog. some of this woman's comments seem half-baked though...what kind of statement is, "rap. it's negative and needs to be banned."

Umm, not very thoughtful or insightful a statement, I think. Like other posters have pointed out - banning artisitic expression is not good and obviously stalls thoughtful evolution. Without NWA for example, with the admittedly vulgar "F the police" we wouldn't have had a national discussion about poor treatment by police of blacks in some communities.

With regard to dress, I think prejudices should have to disappear, not people's style of dress. At the ivy league undergraduate school I attended, the really, really wealthy kids had their own dress code--jeans with holes and faded t-shirts. Sometimes it seemed the scruffiest kids were the ones with the biggest family mansions in Nantucket or CEO parents...

there was this one guy -- Brilliant (became a math professor at same ivy league school), parents were big time lawyers. He also happened to be a dark-skinned black man who wore hooded-sweatshirts all the time. I loved it. He was always purposefully making a point - you don't know who a person is so don't go judging people by how they look. It was always fun to go out with him and see people's first impression and then their surprised second impression once he started speaking. Breaking down prejudices everyday...

so hopefully the girl writing this blog doesn't stay in her narrow, bourgeois world and continue to support black stereotypes...

That Black Girl said...

anonymous, you totally missed my point. totally. and i don't believe that people's views ever really change. some, maybe, but not when the media is always there showcasing some of the worst examples of black people. changing the way people see other people (black people) is a whole other post entirely. i'm posting about this assuming people wont change. and, i actually wasn't totally serious about banning rap, i was only using that word to make a point.

Anonymous said...

ok. glad you weren't serious with your banning rap comment :)

I just have a different perspective then you I guess. I am also a 36 year old black women, married to a white man and currently 9 months pregnant with out first child. But I think some of the cities I've lived in are tremendously more open-minded then where you're currently living. I think it's a problem when even black people like yourself "can understand" why white folks would be frightened of a certain style of dress.

In NY for example, I found it to be totally normal to walk past black people dressed all kinds of ways (thuggish, bohemian, etc) who were also pulling in $200k and more at wall street and other firms...

so I disagree with your point that people don't change their opinions of us. They do. The neighbors of my husbands mother removed the black lawn jockey (still cracks me me up--in an irratated way:) when I started showing up. I think they've changed (a little--they're still republicans though...ha). Don Imus has been fired for reinforcing negative stereotypes that would have been accepted before. That's good. anyway, that's my two cents...need to get back to work and stop procrastinating. glad you have the site though - interesting to hear a differing perspective.

Anonymous said...

Ok, this confirms it. You got your black-hating ways from your upbringing and your family.

Judging people on whether they cornrow their hair, or what size their pants happen to be? How ignorant.

I would expect a white person to react the way your brother did, but wow.

There are thousands of middle class black people who don't think the way your family does.

I hope you know that.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you can say that "Rap is negative and it should be banned." WTF? Lots of rap is about loving relationships, respect, changing yourself for the better, and so on! Just rap music may seem vulgar on the outside, if people like you actually took some time to understand it, they would realize that its not as bad as you think. I'm white, I'm not a "thug," but rap inspires me in so many ways...its all i listen to besides R&B and hip hop. And yes there is a difference between rap and hip hop.

Do you really think non-rap artists around the world are always recording songs about reading and education? I DONT THINK SO!

And wearing baggy clothes, doo rags, ect. is a part of many peoples' culture. It's what many grew up with

PLUS i don't see u hatin on Rock music! Have u seen kids at most high schools in portland? Most of them got 20 piercings per ear, ratty jeans, long unkempt hair, and smoke before their next class! Those are what I like to call "punks" or "stoners" or "rockers" or whatever u want to call it... they bug the shit out of me...they're ruining their lives...and i dont see any adults raggin on them! Or rock music for that matter (that IS what they listen to!) Do you really think rock music promotes good doings as you so suggested? Nope!
So stop hatin on a certain lifestyle and look at the whole picture

Anonymous said...

Were do I start...well first off with the banning of “RAP” you said you did not mean it why even bring it up? You are only looking at one portion of RAP music and not as a whole. Yes, I do agree that SOME rap music is vulgar and inappropriate, but not all rap music is. Have you ever heard the song “Keep ya head UP.”
As for the whole baggy pants and big T’s what is so wrong with it? Why aren’t you talking about the kids who were chains all over the pants and black makeup? I would believe that would scare someone just as much walking down the street as a black MAN wearing oversized shirts and pants. I am currently in college and yes almost all the black young men here were baggy jeans and Big T’s. But, in the classroom they are the ones raising their hands and starting intellectual debates. The clothing is not what make the MAN. Every day I see the cleaned cute guy dressed in fitted pants and shirts telling their wild stories about getting drunk and doing drugs. And, then there is the baggy pant black guy who was at home all weekend studying to prove to people like you that he can be a MAN despite his appearance.

Anonymous said...

If you can't judge a person by how they dress, act and present themself- what can you judge them by?

If a person dresses in a cartoonish way and acts in a cartoonish way, then they can't be taken seriously.

People who dress in an intimidating way and emit a "scary" vibe have to bear the consquences of the impression that they convey. This does not just apply to young "thugs" that are black. Do you think that a middle aged white "Hells Angel" could walk into a 7-11 in full regalia and expect not to turn a few heads and quicken a few pulses?

Seriously!!! Dress and act like a dangerous person, talk the talk and you don't even need to walk the walk, but do not be suprised or offended when people pick up what you put down.

As you sow, so shall you reap.

Nicole said...

Being a 16 year old African American girl, I agree with some of the things you have said.


It's true that some rappers glamourize the wrongs things such as drugs, violence, misogyny, etc., but not all rap music is like that. There are still good rappers like Common, The Roots, Asheru, and Lupe Fiasco out there trying to erase the negative stigmas that are all too commonly associated with rap music and black people. Rap music will never be banned because most CEOs of record companies are white people who pay these rappers to continue promoting negative stereotypes.


I can understand you being frustrated with the majority of rap music. I am too. But, it's common sense to realize that even though there are many rappers out there who are hurting the black community more than helping it, there are rappers out there trying to have a positive effect. They don't get the promotion they desreve because many white people (not all) want to continue to fuel racism because racism, believe it or not, is a business. If people can profit off of it, they will.


One question that I have is, "Why do people always come down on the genre of rap music when there are many other things that have a negative effect on society?" Like I said before, I'm aware of how problematic most rap is, but what about violence, misogyny, and foul language in movies and television? Why are people only coming down on rap music? I feel that if people are going to critique things that "bring down the neighborhood," they should talk about everything. Not just rap. People always bitch about rap music because it's easier to go after black people than anyone else. I agree that the black community needs to rearrange their priorities and get themselves together, but come on. You know as well as I do that manufactured rappers aren't the only "problem chidren" in society.


As for the urban male attire, I agree that when taken to an extreme, it makes black men a target for premature judgement, even if they're respectable men. But, I think it would be unfair to make them stop dressing that way just because thugs dress in a similar manner. I think people just need to be more open-minded. Many people like many of the same things. Let's take a quick look at criminals other than black ones. Don't people with criminal records dress in a similar way to people who don't? Sleeveless shirts, buzzcut hair, work boots, jeans, polo shirts, etc. Wouldn't it be illogical to ask respectable people who like those same things to stop wearing it just because people who've been arrested wear the same styles? To most, it would. What about people with a plethora of tattoos? Should every single person with more than 10 tattoos be stereotyped as trobule makers? Individuals, regardless of color, share similar likes and dislikes when it comes to exterior styling. The only difference is the personality. Good and bad people can have the same taste in clothing, hair styles, tattoos, etc. You said "Clothes don't make the man, but clothes can un-make the man." If you're going in for a job interview, dressing in casual or urban attire probably would be inappropriate. But, when you're on your own time, I believe people should be able to dress how they want to dress. The way people choose to dress is a form of expression. If you take that away, you're taking away part of who that person is, and that's not fair.



Like you, I am very proud of my heritage and I'm not ashamed of being an African American. I'm not that big on some of the aspects of prevalent hip hop culture either. However, I do feel it's unfair to propose making the respectable black people stop dressing or liking certain things because people are too narrow-minded to realize not all black people can be put into the same category. There are different groups of people in every race.


I want you to know that I'm not trying to verbally attack you. I'm just putting in my two cents about these topics. One author who may change your point of views on certain issues within the black community is Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. He graduated from Harvard, is a professor, an author, and a radio host. I highly recommend you read "Know What I Mean?: Reflections On Hip Hop," "Open Mike: Reflections On Philosophy, Race, Sex, Culture, & Religion," and "Race Rules: Navigating the Color Line." Very good books.

Maurice J said...

There is a lot wrong with your argument. The first thing that I found erroneous was the idea that people dress like the thugs doing all the crime. Wall street, Washington DC, Urban cities Police department, Punk Rockers, average joes, and all walks of life do crimes and haver certain looks. I have a black friend who walks in suits and ties because he preaches to people in the urban area, who was just accused of being a thug. I wear cornrows (although I do agree about the baggy pants and stuff), but that hairstyle does not define me. What defines me is who I am and to listen to me is to know me. Fashion does not tell you who a criminal is. Watch some of the crime stories. Do not buy the hype that tv teaches. There is no dress code for criminals. None.

My second problems come with your judgment of hip hop favorite art form. Rap music is not negative. Listen to the Common, Old 2Pac, Talib, Lupe, Kanye (a few of his) and you will here some positivity. Do not judge an art form off a few people who got lucky.

The real thing is that we are judge on our color first. As extraordinary as Barack Obama is, I am sure he has had his brush with racism. As long as your child is black, he will experience racism. Whether in jeans, baggy short, waves, or cornrows, he will be judge initially by the color of his skin.