Women at Work: Amy (Nonprofits/LGBTQ Task Force)

Editor’s Note: Today we continue with the second interview in our Women At Work series, which is focused on a diverse range of working women and their experiences. Amy’s interview provides a companion piece to our first interview, with her mother Eileen. If you haven’t read that piece, I highly recommend it!

Women at Work logo.jpg Continue reading “Women at Work: Amy (Nonprofits/LGBTQ Task Force)”

Listening to “White Privilege II” (Macklemore)

By now, you’ve probably heard the controversial track that Macklemore dropped a day or so ago: “White Privilege II.” The meandering 9-minute song addresses (among other things) white appropriation of black culture, his own burgeoning involvement with Black Lives Matter, his feelings about his role in culture, and what awareness looks like. Is it an earth-shattering piece of artwork that will change the shape and trajectory of hip-hop? Surely not. But that’s never been Macklemore’s schtick—he’s the posterboy of palatable rap, toe-ing the line of wholesome while borrowing the voice, the look, and the affect of blackness. And he knows this.

But the one thing the American dream fails to mention
Is I was many steps ahead to begin with
My skin matches the hero, likeness, the image
America feels safe with my music in their systems
And it’s suited me perfect, the role, I’ve fulfilled it
And if I’m the hero, you know who gets cast as the villain
White supremacy isn’t just a white dude in Idaho
White supremacy protects the privilege I hold
White supremacy is the soil, the foundation, the cement and the flag that flies outside of my home
White supremacy is our country’s lineage, designed for us to be indifferent
My success is the product of the same system that let off Darren Wilson – guilty
We want to dress like, walk like, talk like, dance like, yet we just stand by
We take all we want from black culture, but will we show up for black lives?

By now, you’ve probably heard the controversial track that Macklemore dropped a day or so ago: “White Privilege II.” The meandering 9-minute song addresses (among other things) white appropriation of black culture, his own burgeoning involvement with Black Lives Matter, his feelings about his role in culture, and what awareness looks like.

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Image from flickr

Is it an earth-shattering piece of artwork that will change the shape and trajectory of hip-hop? Surely not. But that’s never been Macklemore’s schtick—he’s the posterboy of palatable rap, toe-ing the line of wholesome while borrowing the voice, the look, and the affect of blackness. And he knows this.

The response to this song has been…varied, to say the least. Some commentators argued that Macklemore was “exploiting social issues for relevance,” while others pointed out that no matter what, he continues to benefit (and benefit greatly) from the very white privilege he begins to indict in the track. (Buzzfeed has collected some of the responses on Twitter if you’re interested in more specific examples.) Others called him the human embodiment of a liberal arts college, which I take to mean: self-satisfied in his own “woke-ness” but ultimately out of touch?

The thing to understand about this song, though, is that it was created for a very specific audience, and as such, can serve a useful and similarly specific purpose. This song is not for people of color who are aware of the massive amounts of work to be done in order to move toward racial justice and systemic change in this country. They don’t need to listen to this song in order to know. It is not for those whose activism places them at the center of this fight. As Macklemore’s collaborators Hollis Wong-Wear and Jamila Woods note, this song was written for the white audience that has lifted Macklemore to acclaim and success (whether you think he deserves it or not), and if this song has the power to change even one opinion or begin a single process of introspection in that white audience, then it has done its job.

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Macklemore, The Heist Tour | Image via wikimedia commons

In fact, the white privilege Macklemore is rightly criticized for benefiting from makes him the perfect voice to amplify this issue, because his white privilege broadens the reach of his message. The same white privilege that made “Thrift Shop” so “safe” for a white audience can carry these thoughts about power and privilege to new ears. To paraphrase Audre Lorde: the burden of educating the privileged too often falls upon the oppressed, draining their energy away from more productive avenues. Why heap scorn on Macklemore’s head for attempting to do what activist people of color have been asking white people to do for so long? Of course, his song is a drop in the bucket. Of course, his lyrics are not perfect in their self-awareness. But to fault him for even trying is surely counterproductive.

Yes, Macklemore continues to benefit from a system in which white artists have been accustomed to taking as they please from black culture, and reaping the benefits. He names this in his song’s brief lineage of exploitative white artists: Miley Cyrus, Elvis, Iggy Azalea. There is no way for him to exist without reaping the benefits of his white privilege. As we know, white privilege is all-encompassing, and white supremacy is embedded in every facet of our society. The song’s inherent flaws come from its place atop this system, but that also gives it the potential for opening dialogue.

What is the alternative that critics of this song ask for? That the beginning steps toward activism and awareness belong exclusively to people of color or white allies who have somehow never benefited from white privilege? That is an impossible thing to ask, since such allies doesn’t exist. Instead, we should take this song for what it is: an attempt to bring even a small ray of awareness to Macklemore’s core audience. We should all remember that activism and the fight for racial justice is an ongoing process of education for everyone. This song can spur dialogue, which in itself will never be enough. But it is something.


 

Lyrics of “White Privilege II” from genius.com

[Verse 1]
Pulled into the parking lot, parked it
Zipped up my parka, joined the procession of marchers
In my head like, “Is this awkward?
Should I even be here marching?”
Thinking if they can’t, how can I breathe?
Thinking that they chant, what do I sing?
I want to take a stance cause we are not free
And then I thought about it, we are not “we”
Am I in the outside looking in, or am I in the inside looking out?
Is it my place to give my two cents?
Or should I stand on the side and shut my mouth
“No justice, no peace,” okay, I’m saying that
They’re chanting out, “Black Lives Matter,” but I don’t say it back
Is it okay for me to say? I don’t know, so I watch and stand
In front of a line of police that look the same as me
Only separated by a badge, a baton, a can of Mace, a mask
A shield, a gun with gloves and hands that gives an alibi
In case somebody dies behind a bullet that flies out of the 9
Takes another child’s life on sight

[Hook (x3)]
Blood in the streets, no justice, no peace
No racist beliefs, no rest ’til we’re free
There’s blood in the streets, no justice, no peace
No racist beliefs, no rest ’til we’re free

[Interlude 1]

[Macklemore, speaking over voices]
Oh, what are you doing Ben? What are you doing here? Ben, think about it

[Various indistinct male voices]
Probably shouldn’t be here, you have white supremacy, don’t fuckin’ come here. You don’t give a shit about us. “Black Lives Matter”, say it. Wow, Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter. You should not have done that. Why the fuck would you do that? You always react.Just let it go, man. White racist. It’s the Grammys

[Verse 2]
You’ve exploited and stolen the music, the moment
The magic, the passion, the fashion, you toy with
The culture was never yours to make better
You’re Miley, you’re Elvis, you’re Iggy Azalea
Fake and so plastic, you’ve heisted the magic
You’ve taken the drums and the accent you rapped in
You’re branded hip-hop, it’s so fascist and backwards
That Grandmaster Flash’d go slap it, you bastard
All the money that you made
All the watered down pop-bullshit version of the culture, pal
Go buy a big-ass lawn, go with your big-ass house
Get a big-ass fence, keep people out
It’s all stubborn, anyway, can’t you see that now?
There’s no way for you to even that out
You can join the march, protest, scream and shout
Get on Twitter, hashtag and seem like you’re down
But they see through it all, people believe you now?
You said publicly, “Rest in peace, Mike Brown”
You speak about equality, but do you really mean it?
Are you marching for freedom, or when it’s convenient?
Want people to like you, want to be accepted
That’s probably why you are out here protesting
Don’t think for a second you don’t have incentive
Is this about you, well, then what’s your intention?
What’s the intention? What’s the intention?

[Interlude 2: Protesters (x13)]
Hands up? Don’t shoot

[Verse 3]
Pssst, I totally get it, you’re by yourself
And the last thing you want to do is take a picture
But seriously, my little girl loves you
She’s always singing, “I’m gonna pop some tags”
I’m not kidding, my oldest, you even got him to go thrifting
And “One Love,” oh my God, that song, brilliant
Their aunt is gay, when that song came out
My son told his whole class he was actually proud
That’s so cool, look what you’re accomplishing
Even the old mom like me likes it, cause it’s positive
You’re the only hip-hop that I let my kids listen to
Cause you get it, all that negative stuff it isn’t cool
Yeah?
Yeah, like, all the guns and the drugs
The bitches and the hoes and the gangs and the thugs
Even the protest outside, so sad, and so dumb
If a cop pulls you over, it’s your fault if you run
Huh?

[Interlude 3: Various male and female voices]
So, they feel that the police are discriminating against the – the black people? I have an advantage? Why? Cause I’m white? [Laughs]. What? [Laughs]. No. See, more people nowadays are just pussies. Like, this is the generation to be offended by everything. Black Lives Matter thing is a reason to take arms up over perceived slights. I’m not prejudiced, I just–.99% of the time, across this country, the police are doing their job properly

[Verse 4]
Damn, a lot of opinions, a lot of confusion, a lot of resentment
Some of us scared, some of us defensive
And most of us aren’t even paying attention
It seems like we’re more concerned with being called racist
Than we actually are with racism
I’ve heard that silences are action and God knows that I’ve been passive
What if I actually read a article, actually had a dialogue
Actually looked at myself, actually got involved?
If I’m aware of my privilege and do nothing at all, I don’t know
Hip-hop has always been political, yes
It’s the reason why this music connects
So what the fuck has happened to my voice if I stay silent when black people are dying
Then I’m trying to be politically correct?
I can book a whole tour, sell out the tickets
Rap entrepreneur, built his own business
If I’m only in this for my own self-interest, not the culture that gave me a voice to begin with
Then this isn’t authentic, it is just a gimmick
The DIY underdog, so independent
But the one thing the American dream fails to mention
Is I was many steps ahead to begin with
My skin matches the hero, likeness, the image
America feels safe with my music in their systems
And it’s suited me perfect, the role, I’ve fulfilled it
And if I’m the hero, you know who gets cast as the villain
White supremacy isn’t just a white dude in Idaho
White supremacy protects the privilege I hold
White supremacy is the soil, the foundation, the cement and the flag that flies outside of my home
White supremacy is our country’s lineage, designed for us to be indifferent
My success is the product of the same system that let off Darren Wilson – guilty
We want to dress like, walk like, talk like, dance like, yet we just stand by
We take all we want from black culture, but will we show up for black lives?
We want to dress like, walk like, talk like, dance like, yet we just stand by
We take all we want from black culture, but will we show up for black lives?

[Interlude 4: Various male and female voices]
Black Lives Matter, to use an analogy, is like if, if there was a subdivision and a house was on fire. The fire department wouldn’t show up and start putting water on all the houses because all houses matter. They would show up and they would turn their water on the house that was burning because that’s the house that needs the help the most. My generation’s taken on the torch of a very age-old fight for black liberation,but also liberation for everyone. Injustice anywhere is still injustice everywhere. The best thing white people can do is talk to each other, having those very difficult, very painful conversations with your parents, with your family members. I think one of the critical questions for white people in this society is, “What are you willing to risk? What are you willing to sacrifice to create a more just society?”

[Outro: Jamila Woods]
Your silence is a luxury, hip-hop is not a luxury
Your silence is a luxury, hip-hop is not a luxury
Your silence is a luxury, hip-hop is not a luxury
Your silence is a luxury, hip-hop is not a luxury
What I got for me, it is for me
What we made, we made to set us free
What I got for me, it is for me
What we made, we made to set us free
What I got for me, it is for me
What we made, we made to set us free

Feminists Watch: Documentaries (Great Ones from 2015)

By I.C.

January is always a time for looking backward as well as forward, and as 2016 gets underway I’ve been reflecting back on the cultural events that defined 2015 for me.  One of the things that strikes me is what a great year it was for documentaries.  I am an avid fan of documentaries, and, as 2016 opened with Netflix’s documentary miniseries Making a Murderer as the year’s first pop cultural obsession, I’m clearly not alone. In recent years the genre has become particularly effective at combining entertainment with vital insights and even the capacity for inspiring activism and real social change. (See: The Paradise Lost films about the West Memphis Three, spanning 1996 to 2011, or 2013’s Blackfish.)  Following this trend, some of 2015’s most acclaimed and compelling filmmaking came from this genre.  So here are four of the best from 2015, in case you missed them, with a synopsis and also a suggestion of what these documentaries offer particularly to a feminist viewer. Whether you’re looking for eye-opening insight or a chance to funnel righteous indignation into action for a cause, these films have something for you. Continue reading “Feminists Watch: Documentaries (Great Ones from 2015)”

What We Mean When We Talk About Choice

…my point is that there is no easy choice between choice and social determination — that choice itself is not the solution to the oppressive pressures of racism and patriarchy because the choices we have (and the fact of choice at all) are constructed by the very systems we wish to use them to undermine.

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Let me tell you something. My feminism doesn’t much care about Beyoncé. My heart may beat to the beat of “Partition,” but debates about the potential feminism of Yoncé’s lyrics, ass, or marriage leave me cold. Bey’s choice to make her body and sexuality central to her persona is held up against the fact that such displays are always filtered through white supremacist patriarchy. We can only ever think of her as fully in control of her performance, image and body, or totally and abjectly victim of a system that uses women’s bodies against each other. Her self-determination is always besieged by the fear that she might have been working for the male gaze all along. But no, we shudder, the male gaze is foiled and frustrated just so long as we can convince ourselves that this was Bey’s choice.

 

Choice, we pant fiercely. Choice will keep Beyoncé safe — choice will save us all.

Continue reading “What We Mean When We Talk About Choice”

Weekly Link Roundup: 11/13/2015

Let’s just dive right in.

  • By now, you should know about the incendiary and distressing events at Yale and Mizzou. Regarding Yale: understand that this is about more than an email or even offensive Halloween costumes. This is about the daily struggle of minority students and students of color for dignity, a sense of belonging, and a respectful environment free of psychic traumas. Viet N. Trinh, a doctoral student at Yale, answers Erika Christakis’ perhaps well-intentioned but ultimately thoughtless and insensitive letter about racism and “free speech” in a more nuanced way than we, as outsiders to this struggle, perhaps could.
  • To that point, this New Yorker article by Jelani Cobb is a thoughtful response to the Atlantic’s finger-wagging piece about student activist ‘intolerance,’ (as if students with material privilege cannot experience racism), centered on the protests and debates at Yale.
  • Cosmopolitan, of all places, has a urgent and important take on the case of Daniel Holtzclaw, a former police officer accused of trading on his power as a law enforcement official in order to sexually assault black women. Why isn’t this getting the attention it deserves?
  • The Nation has an important take on the resignation of Tim Wolfe, and the ways in which exploited student athletes can fight back against administrations. In the article’s words: “The administrators created a world in which universities revolve socially, politically, and economically around the exploited labor of football. Now let them reap what they sow.”
  • On decolonizing the kind of yoga that exploits the exotic for profit: “As an Indian woman living in the U.S. I’ve often felt uncomfortable in many yoga spaces. At times, such as when I take a $25.00 yoga class by a well-known teacher who wants to “expose us to the culture by chanting Om to start class“ and her studio hangs the Om symbol in the wrong direction, my culture is being stripped of its meaning and sold back to me in forms that feel humiliating at best and dehumanizing at worst.”
  • And finally, news that’s a little more lighthearted: I love advice columns, and I love Mallory Ortberg. Two great things collide!

Artist Spotlight: Vyvian Looper / Luuli

This article may contain content troubling to readers, including discussions of sexual assault and self-harm.

When I saw Vyvian Looper at The Comet, a bar in Cincinnati, I asked her if she was back. Where was she living nowadays? In her car, she responded, with a small laugh. That’s her home. But she was back for a few days to perform in Cincinnati’s inaugural Ladyfest from October 15-17. She bounces around.

The soft-spoken Looper, or Luuli — her stage name — plays music and does art, but isn’t your typical performance artist. She’s more on par with unconventional performers such as Serbian Marina Abramović, known for brutally testing the limits of her body and mind. Like Abramović, there is sometimes blood involved in Luuli’s works. Continue reading “Artist Spotlight: Vyvian Looper / Luuli”

Organization Spotlight: Unconscious Bias Project

S.T. interviews the Unconcious Bias Project’s Cat Adams on bias in STEM fields and how we can bring about a new, more effective form of “diversity training.”

We all know STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields are rife with sexism. It seems like every week, there’s a new story about sexual harassment, or absurdly sexist statements about how women can’t science. And, of course, the many other forms of bias that plague us – racism, homophobia, transphobia – are prevalent in STEM fields too. (And, you know, everywhere.) Sometimes it just feels like everything is terrible and everyone is terrible to each other. But, there are also a lot of awesome people working hard to change things, in STEM and elsewhere. This week, I talked to Cat Adams, a PhD student a UC Berkeley who is fighting biases in STEM fields through The Unconscious Bias Project, which, in her words, is designed to “help people be more awesome to each other.”  You can follow her and her project on facebook and twitter. Our interview is below.

unconscious bias project logo

Continue reading “Organization Spotlight: Unconscious Bias Project”

The Good, The Bad, And the Absolutely Terrifying (in Abortion Legislation) Part II: Everything’s a Giant Shitshow

The Good:

Right now, the “good” is less about “awesome things happening” and more about “some of the terrible things that could have happened didn’t happen!”

The Senate did not pass the House’s bill to defund Planned Parenthood. So, that’s good, considering one in five women have used Planned Parenthood’s services, and 2.7 million women and men visit Planned Parenthood centers annually.

The Government has not shut down. That’s good. Two years ago, the Republicans successfully threw a massive temper tantrum, and effectively screwed over roughly 2 million people for two weeks; 800,000 did not work at all, and another 1.3 million were required to go to work without knowing when – or if – they would be paid.

Planned Parenthood has also raised a fair amount of money amidst all the crazy; donations have spiked recently, and my favorite trend is donating to PP in the name of virulently pro-life politicians.

The Bad:

Speaking of donations, however, despite reports to the contrary Mark Zuckerberg did NOT donate just shy of one million dollars to Planned Parenthood. Several years ago, he donated 18 million Facebook shares to a charitable umbrella organization; Planned Parenthood is one of the many organizations it supports. This is hardly catastrophic news, but since most of the “good” news I have to report is about bad things that didn’t happen, here’s a piece of “bad” news about a good thing that didn’t actually happen.

While Planned Parenthood has not been defunded at the national level (yet), there are people out there doing everything they can to make sure individual clinics can’t run. Recently, a Planned Parenthood clinic outside LA was a victim of arson.

The Absolutely Terrifying:

While it’s good the government is still up and running at the moment, that could very well end soon. I’m not sure which is scarier: what would happen with a government shutdown, what would happen if Planned Parenthood does get defunded, or the fact that the Republican Party (who could hold the Presidency in just over a year) is willing to hold the country hostage to its demands (not to mention the fact that my two-year-old niece’s temper tantrums don’t come close to rivaling those of the GOP).

Even if the GOP doesn’t manage to shut down the government, they still might have other ways of defunding Planned Parenthood. Representative Reid Ribble, of the somewhat ironically-named “House Freedom Council” (‘freedom’ is just a thing for straight white men, right?) is determined to strike a bargain with the democrats over Planned Parenthood funding. While this seems somewhat unlikely, in 2011, President Obama did capitulate to GOP demands re: abortion restrictions in our nation’s capital (they can’t vote, so who cares?) in order to avoid…you guessed it…a government shutdown.[*]

[*] Note: The author is from DC, and has very strong feelings about DC’s congressional impotence. She is aware, however, that the rest of the nation does not feel as strongly.

Big Sound Saturdays: Working For the Man

It’s apt that Working for the Man is out today, a Saturday, because it was on a Saturday that Labor Day was originally celebrated. Actually, Labor Day started on Saturday, May 1st, 1886—“May Day,” “International Worker’s Day”—as a strike, in demand of an 8-hour work day. Continue reading “Big Sound Saturdays: Working For the Man”

RAD AMERICAN WOMEN GIVEAWAY!!

Announcing Acro Collective’s first-ever giveaway, in celebration of our first major follower milestone. Thanks so much to everyone who has read and supported the blog so far! New readers, welcome!

Announcing Acro Collective’s first-ever giveaway, in celebration of our first major follower milestone. Thanks so much to everyone who has read and supported the blog so far! New readers, welcome!
Continue reading “RAD AMERICAN WOMEN GIVEAWAY!!”