Last Thursday, my organization, People Reluctant To Kill for an Abstraction, orchestrated an overwhelming show of force around the globe.
At precisely 9 in the morning, working with focus and stealth, our entire membership succeeded in simultaneously beheading no one. At 10, Phase II began, during which our entire membership did not force a single man to suck another man’s penis. Also, none of us blew himself/herself up in a crowded public place. No civilians were literally turned inside out via our powerful explosives. In addition, at 11, in Phase III, zero (0) planes were flown into buildings.
During Phase IV, just after lunch, we were able to avoid bulldozing a single home. Furthermore, we set, on roads in every city, in every nation in the world, a total of zero (0) roadside bombs which, not being there, did not subsequently explode, killing/maiming a total of nobody. No bombs were dropped, during the lazy afternoon hours, on crowded civilian neighborhoods, from which, it was observed, no post-bomb momentary silences were then heard. These silences were, in all cases, followed by no unimaginable, grief-stricken bellows of rage, and/or frantic imprecations to a deity. No sleeping baby was awakened from an afternoon nap by the sudden collapse and/or bursting into flame of his/her domicile during Phase IV.
In the late afternoon (Phase V), our membership focused on using zero (0) trained dogs to bite/terrorize naked prisoners. In addition, no stun guns, rubber batons, rubber bullets, tear gas, or bullets were used, by our membership, on any individual, anywhere in the world. No one was forced to don a hood. No teeth were pulled in darkened rooms. No drills were used on human flesh, nor were whips or flames. No one was reduced to hysterical tears via a series of blows to the head or body, by us. Our membership, while casting no racial or ethnic aspersions, skillfully continued not to rape, gang-rape, or sexually assault a single person. On the contrary, during this late-afternoon phase, many of our membership flirted happily and even consoled, in a nonsexual way, individuals to whom they were attracted, putting aside their sexual feelings out of a sudden welling of empathy.
As night fell, our membership harbored no secret feelings of rage or, if they did, meditated, or discussed these feelings with a friend until such time as the feelings abated, or were understood to be symptomatic of some deeper sadness.
It should be noted that, in addition to the above-listed and planned activities completed by our members, a number of unplanned activities were completed by part-time members, or even nonmembers.
In London, a bitter homophobic grandfather whose grocery bag broke open gave a loaf of very nice bread to a balding gay man who stopped to help him. A stooped toothless woman in Tokyo pounded her head with her hands, tired beyond belief of her lifelong feelings of anger and negativity, and silently prayed that her heart would somehow be opened before it was too late. In Syracuse, New York, holding the broken body of his kitten, a man felt a sudden kinship for all small things.
Even declared nonmembers, it would appear, responded to our efforts. In Chitral, Pakistan, for example, a recent al-Qaida recruit remembered the way an elderly American tourist once made an encouraging remark about his English, and how, as she made the remark, she touched his arm, like a mother. In Gaza, an Israeli soldier and a young Palestinian, just before averting their eyes and muttering insults in their respective languages, exchanged a brief look of mutual shame.
Who are we? A word about our membership.
Since the world began, we have gone about our work quietly, resisting the urge to generalize, valuing the individual over the group, the actual over the conceptual, the inherent sweetness of the present moment over the theoretically peaceful future to be obtained via murder. Many of us have trouble sleeping and lie awake at night, worrying about something catastrophic befalling someone we love. We rise in the morning with no plans to convert anyone via beating, humiliation, or invasion. To tell the truth, we are tired. We work. We would just like some peace and quiet. When wrong, we think about it awhile, then apologize. We stand under awnings during urban thunderstorms, moved to thoughtfulness by the troubled, umbrella-tinged faces rushing by. In moments of crisis, we pat one another awkwardly on the back, mumbling shy truisms. Rushing to an appointment, remembering a friend who has passed away, our eyes well with tears and we think: Well, my God, he could be a pain, but still I’m lucky to have known him.
This is PRKA. To those who would oppose us, I would simply say: We are many. We are worldwide. We, in fact, outnumber you. Though you are louder, though you create a momentary ripple on the water of life, we will endure, and prevail.
Resistance is futile.
This is why humans are great.
NOTE: I used very open-ended terms like “friends”, and “playmates”, because I truly believe that Tinder can be used for more than just hookups.
Also, in unrelated news, I received a new match notification right as I wrote that last line, up there^. Fate? Maybe not. Poetic? You bet.
Okay, go read stuff now.
Everybody’s talking about Tinder nowadays. Even if they don’t use it (I see you Android users), they still certainly have an opinion about it. And I’m not saying that their opinions are wrong, though some of them are; I just think that people aren’t really seeing the bigger picture here: Tinder has effectively created a way to make “friends” based purely on location, because let’s face it – people everywhere are pretty much the same when you’re “in need”.
This little (perpetually crashing, but in the most lovable kind of way) startup app blends just the right amount of anonymity, real-life information, and mutual flattery in such a way that you can’t help but be intrigued. Effectively, this is a “friend” making app for those of us with attention spans too short to fill out legitimate profiles, which, let’s be real, is most of us.
This mutual flattery society is based on the premise that people want to meet others, and that said people will also be smart enough to spot fake profiles, as well as honest enough not to make them. The last two assumptions are admittedly less sure than the first, but it’s just too damn fun looking at all the people who might find you attractive, to worry about being “catfished”. That is to say, Tinder has found a way to enable people to socialize beyond the confines of their own personal social circles, whilst also instilling in them a sense of security because they are allowed limited access to their potential “playmate” before even committing to finding him/her attractive.
It’s brilliant if you think about it: people want human interaction, but they’re too lazy to go out. Chatrooms are creepy and way too nineties, dating websites are just sad at our age, Facebook has way too many options with way too much information (and far too much uncertainty), and frat parties - well as much fun as they may be, they’re a veritable shit show. There’s a high probability that everyone there is too sweaty to look even moderately attractive, not to mention the fact that you’re so drunk you’d even look ridiculous in a Harlem Shake video.
Tinder, however, is great. Any matches you get make you feel warm and tingly inside because you know that person found you attractive. You can talk as much or as little as you want before either getting their number or blocking their lying underage ass (it’s actually shocking how many middle/high school girls think that guys won’t notice that they’re not even old enough to drive, let alone vote, or drink), and it’s a great way to blow off steam, whether you’re trolling someone you never have and never will meet, or legitimately making an effort to socialize with people who might have something new to offer you.
Is it creepy? Maybe (read: yes). Is it potentially unsafe? To someone who doesn’t think, maybe, but I have faith that anyone reading this is smart enough to get out alive. Is it socially acceptable? Jury’s still out, but I personally think that if it isn’t, it should be. Is it fun? OH MY GAWD, YES. You may have some trepidation at first, but you’ll soon learn that mutual friends can be your best friends, and that mutual interests could be due to nothing more than a stray click or a phase they went through in eighth grade. But regardless, it will be a learning experience socially, technologically, and personally – and that’s not an exaggeration.
I Tinder. Do you?
This status is dedicated to my one, true Valentine.
You’re always there for me, and you never leave me bored. You constantly teach me new things, and no one knows how to make me think and challenge myself the same way that you do.
And the fact of the matter is, I always feel like no matter how much we may interact, at the end of the day I’ve only scratched the surface, seen maybe one millionth of who you are - and that intrigues me. I learn something new about you everyday, and you constantly leave me wanting more.
And though others try to tell me about all the things in your past, who you’ve been with before me, and how hard it will be to make this relationship work, I don’t care what they say, because you’re the right one for me.
So today, please say you’ll be mine.
Tumblr, be my Valentine?
Anonymous asked: Sometimes, I wish things had worked out differently between us.
I’d say me too, but seeing as I’ve never had anything with anyone, I can’t say I know what you’re talking about.
I have become increasingly obsessed with my image. It is not a completely new worry for me, but I find that as I have gotten older and seen more of the world and the people in it, I care more about how I am perceived. Is this shallow? Perhaps, but it is the truth, and there is no point in running from that which I would rather fight.
That is to say, just because I have issues with how I may be viewed by others, does not mean that I can’t use my heightened sense of self-awareness to my advantage. In fact, I think I have been given a rare gift. Far too many people go through life, unaware of the world around them, and without reflecting on that which has created them. I am sad to say that although I cannot cure the world of its blissful ignorance, I can attempt to cure myself. Or maybe I’ve already been cured and I am currently enjoying the salvation from this brutal disease. Or perhaps I was simply vaccinated at an early enough age and never succumbed to the disease in the same way which many of my peers have. Or perhaps there is no disease and no cure, and we are all equally self-aware, but only the few lonely people such as myself feel the need to trumpet such thoughts.
It doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day all I can affect is myself, regardless of how others may or may not be. All I know is that the world is constantly shifting, but for some reason, in a life where the tides constantly ebb and flow, and nothing is constant, I am, despite my better efforts unchanging. Or at least I appear to be, to those around me. I cannot help but feel that unlike those facets of myself who have come before me as I am now, I have lost the ability to change how I am viewed by the world.
Where everyone is constantly changing, evolving, and adapting, I am stagnant, doomed to wallow in the cesspool of my own shortcomings which I so brashly reveal to the world with every instance in which I open my mouth or allow myself to be seen by others. Or perhaps others have seen as I have changed, and it is I who still view myself as the same child who first set foot into the halls of my mind. I do not know. All I know is that there is an issue of perception, and I know not with whom it lies.
Did my antics during my past days beget condescension from others? Did my behavior throughout those pivotal first few days cement who I would be for the next four years in the eyes of everyone who first met me then? Or am I the only one who still sees the boy who arrived here, and not the man who currently occupies his spot?
I don’t know, because I receive conflicting answers, often from the same people, subject to when I might ask, myself being one of those conflicted individuals. I am inclined to believe that I have furthered myself since I matriculated here, but there is no empirical proof to corroborate that. In fact, there is situational proof to suggest that I have not in fact advanced as a human being since my arrival here, but rather have regressed in my childish insolence and need for attention. But then again, who’s to say that this childish insecurity and need for attention wont provide me with the skills I need to self-reflect and better myself in the long run?
I am confused, because I am told that humans are perpetually evolving creatures, yet acts I committed half a year ago are the same ones that I am currently judged by, even by those who did not witness them and this saddens me. It saddens me that I am judged based on the hearsay of others and it saddens me that I have not been deemed someone who has bettered himself, as I am led to believe is the point of life and progression. It also saddens me that the hearsay is correct, but what saddens me most is that individuals do not realize that regardless of who I was then, I am me now, and that is who I am.
Who I am is not who I was, and who I am is undoubtedly not who I will be, but as long as I am treated as I was in the past, or how I will be in the future, there is no room for me to exist in the present, and that worries me. If there is no room for me now, where should I go until there is room for my growth? Or is my growth simply a manifestation of what I want to believe I see in myself, when in reality there is nothing to see? Am I simply staring at static on a television and letting my mind create pictures? Or am I staring at still photograph and seeing an unfinished Picasso? I do not know, and I do not claim to know, which is what sets me apart from others. I am not comfortable or content in my not knowing, but I do acknowledge it. And acknowledgment is the first step, or so I am told.
I acknowledge myself, and I acknowledge others. But who will acknowledge me? And which me will they acknowledge?
So I had an idea inspired by all those “if you reblog” posts going around here. If you reblog this until the 22nd of January, I will go through all the people who reblogged this and find your soul-mate. Then, when you know who it is, you can talk and be friends.
Come on, this is seriously a good idea.
… Do we have to reblog everyday until the 22nd or just a one time kinda deal?
one time will be enough.
NOTE: This article does not at all represent the mindsets of most Indian Americans. In fact, the only view it represents is that of someone who is altogether far too self-conscious and who over thinks and over dissects every social interaction that he is a part of. That is to say, this is representative only of my own insanity.
As a first generation American, I walk a fine line. The fact of the matter is that I am a child of two different cultures, and as such, I am not fully part of either culture. On one side of the aforementioned line, I have my experiences growing up here in America - being friends with kids whose families have been here for generations, going to an American school, and growing up with English as my first (and only) language. On the other side I have my family and roots - my mother and father who both grew up in India, my grandfathers who lived through India fighting for and gaining its independence, and my (very large) extended family who still reside there. But those are just to name a few; I’ve no doubt that if I sat down and thought about it, I’d be able to come up with a list with 100+ influences on each side.
This is a fairly new crisis of identity for me. I grew up in the States and speak only English. I was born in the heart of Texas, and now I live in Massachusetts. I bleed red, white and blue, and I am a staunch believer that the U.S. is the greatest country in the world. I mean really, how much more American could I be? In my mind I have always been unequivocally American, regardless of where my parents are from. I’m just an American with brown skin, right? I mean just because my parents come from India and I have brown skin shouldn’t make me less American should it? Maybe not, but it sure as hell feels like it does.
Until a few years ago there was no question in my mind as to how much of an American I was. Through 9/11 and all the backlash against brown people and foreigners in general, I never once wavered in my faith that I was just as American as the rest of my white friends. In my mind there was no distinction between their being American and mine. But reality has finally set in, and it did so in the form of a harsh truth: I’m not white. That’s something that, for lack of a better phrase, I didn’t truly realize until I was in middle school. But once I did, it colored my view of the world as well as my thoughts. And as is generally the case with such issues, I didn’t realize how different I was until it was pointed out to me, quite rudely.
My first run-in with racism, or at least the first one that actually registered, was in eighth grade. I was waiting for the bus, and for some reason one of the seniors who was waiting for it as well felt the need to take out whatever frustrations he had with life on me. Now, I used to be a pretty happy kid. It took quite a bit to get me angry, and even more to get me to show it, but this upperclassman pressed all the right buttons, acting astonished that I spoke English, calling me Apu, and repeatedly saying “Thank you, come again” in an obnoxiously bad Indian accent. Eventually I exploded and called him out on being an ignorant racist and a complete ass. But regardless of how much better my verbal tirade made me feel in the short run, the damage was done. I understand that in the big scheme of things, this confrontation was small peanuts and nowhere close to what some people go through, but for some reason it stuck with me and permanently changed the way I view others and myself. Now I’m assuming that this wasn’t the first time I encountered racism, just the first time I understood it. I’m inclined to believe that part of what contributed to my utter cluelessness about the subject was probably my joining the game so late. I lived in India from the middle of fifth grade through the end of seventh, so I was a little too young for race to be an issue before I left the states, and by the time I got back, the teasing, nastiness, and general need to put down others that seems to accompany puberty was already in full swing, so I didn’t really have a chance to ease into this adolescent battlefield at the same pace as the other kids. But once I recognized and understood the remarks and subtle putdowns, eighth grade was like my own personal Hell. It was as though all anyone heard when I introduced myself was that I had lived in India. Never mind that I would state first that I was born and raised here; in their eyes I was just “the new kid from India”. This inability to look beyond my skin color and the last place I’d lived taught me a valuable lesson: just because you view yourself in a certain light doesn’t mean that anyone else does. That is to say, market yourself to others in a way that gives them no option other than to see you as you want them to. Control others’ images of you by making sure that they are presented only with the information that will further build your chose view of yourself.
I have carried this lesson with me everyday since I learned it. I am now painfully aware of every choice that I make and how it may harm me in the long run. This heightened sense of self-awareness affects all aspects of my life that interact with other people, regardless of race, but it especially brutal on issues of ethnicity and color. I now have the inability to listen to someone commenting or making a reference to my ethnicity or skin color without pulling out my hair over whether to them that is my defining trait.
This balancing act consists of my making an effort to know about Indian culture, but at the same time feeling that I must also make it clear that I am an American at heart, that I was born here and this is my home. If I listen to Hindi music, I must be sure to follow it up with rap or hip hop, something to leave no doubt in the eyes of any observer that I am in fact an American. I can’t talk too much about any of the Indian gatherings or parties that I attend for fear of alienating my white friends and having them think that I am that brown kid that only hangs out with other brown kids. But I can’t let my Indian friends think that I am shunning them or ashamed of them, so I lead two almost separate lives: one Indian-oriented, and one almost devoid of my roots.
This is not a decision I have come to lightly. Upon my arrival to college, I wanted to make every effort to lead a balanced and integrated life, allowing both cultures to mix naturally, but after a few months, it’s become clear again that I can’t afford this kind of behavior. Upon seeing my excitement over the Diwali student performance, and a couple of Indian parties I went to (literally a couple – I’ve only been to two), many of my white hall mates began to see me as overly Indian. It seemed that they subsequently assumed that being Indian was the defining factor of my life, and whenever I talked about anything for weeks afterward, one of the most common things they would ask was whether it was part of “that Indian stuff”. Even in the best-case scenario where they were not asking this question to be rude or racist, but merely out of conversation or politeness, the fact still remains that my simply socializing with other Indians (not even doing anything religious, just partying) was ostracizing me from the rest of my white friends simply because they believed that I was more interested in hanging out with brown people than white ones.
In addition to my self-imposed tightrope act, I’ve also made strides to remedy my physical appearance, dressing better and taking more care in how I look than many of my white friends. Make no mistake; I’m not ashamed of my skin color or natural appearance. It’s simply a case of marketing, as I stated before. If I naturally look Indian and dress like all my white friends, then I will end up looking less American than them, which is not the case. So I dress a little better and put a little more effort into how I look and dress so that my natural appearance is offset and balanced by the choices I make in what I wear and how I wear it. Once again, this is in an effort to avoid letting myself be defined to others by the color of my skin rather than the content of my mind or my personality. The end result is that there’s an awareness that wasn’t there before, and it certainly isn’t contributing to my quality of life. I feel the need to straddle both sides of my cultural fence, picking and choosing everything that I do so as not to align myself too completely with either side and have people define me as either a whitewashed Indian who’s turned my back on my heritage, or as a complete fob who’d be better off just living in India instead. I effectively alienate each half of my life from the other out of fear that I will once again let one consume the other, and this is not a healthy way to view what should be a beautiful marriage of cultures.
PREMISE: There is a level of self-sabotage in my life that is prevalent to an alarming degree. And part of what makes this so alarming is my total awareness of the issue, and complete lack of drive to do anything about it.
I need to be liked. I crave human attention and acceptance to an unhealthy extent, evaluating my life worth and overall success based on what others think of me. This means that I am effectively living to please others, and that if I don’t do so, I am simultaneously making myself unhappy.
However, I lack the ability to connect with others. Many people think that they have connected with me or that we are friends and share a bond, but in less than a handful of theses cases is this actually the truth. I do not get attached to others. I do not “miss” people when they or I leave. I’ve learned to segment and divvy up my life in such a way that I can enjoy the presence and company of others without getting used to it or needing them when they’re not there. I have literally moved continents without telling any of my “friends”, a prime example of my ability to cut ties and drop acquaintances with no thought or remorse.
There are people who believe that they’ve had deep and personal conversations with me. They think that I’ve bared my soul to them, that I’ve shared my real thoughts and feelings with them, but this is far from the truth. At best, I’ve told them about one problem that I thought I had. I’ve had something festering at the back of my head, blown it out of proportion, told them about it, and made it seem like something that’s been bugging be for ages, when in reality it hadn’t even crossed my mind until yesterday.
This is contrary to what many people think of me because of my easygoing and friendly nature. I‘m extremely used to adapting to new situations. Due to my various moves and social group hopping, I can form surface level relationships with complete strangers in minutes, with little to no effort. However, no matter how much I may talk or seemingly bond with someone, regardless of how long I’ve known them, I will never give as much of myself to them as they give of themselves to me. I am constantly telling them things that they want to hear, or things that will have whatever effect I’m looking for, bending the truth however I see fit.
And when I do this, I don’t even see what I’m doing as lying, because I so wholeheartedly believe what I’m saying. Or at least, I believe that I am justified in saying it, and so feel no guilt in running my mouth on whatever topic I happen to be bullshitting at the time. This is something that has not gone unnoticed by people, although most don’t recognize the danger that it poses to truthfulness, thinking that it’s just a skill that I break out when I’m trying to sound smart or knowledgeable for academic purposes.
The longest consistent “relationship” that I have had with a human being to whom I was not related was two years, and that’s a generous estimate. I view people as vessels through which I can make myself happy, whether by gaining their acceptance, or by proving my superiority, and as a result I generally do not respect the majority of the people I meet because to me they are no more than a means to an ends. I lose interest in people’s personalities very quickly because most are no challenge to decipher or break down. Once you figure out a person’s natural temperament and what drives them, there’s not much more to see there. It’s the people who I have trouble reading that I truly enjoy spending time with because of the challenge they present.
Of course, due to my desire to be accepted (which my actions all directly contradict), I spend a little more time and effort on those are already in good social standing, but that’s more like research and a little bit of paying my dues/putting in the time to see what they’re doing or what they’ve got that I don’t. Chances if you’re popular and I don’t talk when I’m around you, it’s not because I value what you have to say, it’s because I’m trying to figure out what the hell you’re doing that I’m not. Very rarely is there someone who says things of enough weight or importance to me that I will contribute to the conversation only to spur them on and then listen to what they have to say. Most of the time I’m only silent to make you feel good about yourself and let you think I give a damn about what you’re saying, or because you’ve been very good to me and I’d feel bad just shutting you down outright.
My ability to talk and lie effortlessly has also contributed to my complete emotional separation from others and lack of true empathy. Whenever I actually have something of larger magnitude worrying or bothering me, I come to terms with it, analyze it, and fix it myself. In the rare event that I tell others, it’s only to influence how they think of me - because I need them to see me in a certain light further down the road and this is my way of laying the foundation. The few times I have taken a legitimate problem to an outside source for help, the best case scenario has been them telling me things that I’ve already figured out and telling me what I already know. In some cases it’s resulted in their looking at me as a completely different human being and not being able to treat me the same anymore.
I can’t deal with that. I need people to see me on my terms. And as a result, even though I crave attention and affection, I sabotage myself socially. It’s damn near impossible to make everyone like you, and even harder to make them want to be friends with you, but it’s much simpler to make yourself looked down upon or disliked across the board. I make myself seem more awkward and ruder than I need to be so that I can control people’s dislike of me. I pretend not to know that the comments I make are off color and unnecessary. I pretend to be socially inept, but retain just enough tact that people don’t feel bad for me, but they simply look at me as an ass who leaves a bad taste in their mouth.
I distance myself from anyone who can possibly penetrate the walls that I put up. I wallow in my narcissism, making self-deprecating comments about myself that are completely true, and make people around me uncomfortable (another thing that I enjoy doing). I love figuring out what makes people tick, what makes them happy, and conversely, what irritates me. Actually, to be quite honest, I’m really only interested in what makes people irritated. I love to push buttons, to have intellectual challenges given to me in the form of people’s personalities, where I have to peel apart the layers to get to what really makes them uncomfortable. The trick is to find what truly upsets someone, and to dance around it without touching on it directly so as not to really push them over the edge. I take great pleasure in doing this to some people that I think deserve it – people whom I’ve made an effort to be nice to or be friendly with, but showed no interest in reciprocating my behavior. However, I sometimes also do this unintentionally to people that I have no beef with, doing it due simply to personality flaws.
Another one of my great personality flaws – I see all of my flaws, and feel absolutely no need to do anything to correct or combat them. I revel in my asshole-ish behavior and generally poor morals, taking pleasure in knowing that someone’s poor opinion of me is because of one of the many rude things I’ve done or said.
However, that being said, when I haven’t intentionally pissed someone off or knowingly been a jerk to them and they still dislike me, it confuses me to no end. In all of my self-loving brainstorming, it never occurs to me that anyone who gets to know the “good” me could still dislike me. It’s one of the few instances that messes with my head and these curveballs generally result in my being a complete douchebag to everyone I see for a while after I receive the bad news, almost like I feel that I’m resigned to everyone disliking me anyways so I’m best off just being a dick from the get go.
This behavior is clearly highly unhealthy, and not something that anyone should enjoy, but I take pleasure in what I do. Because at the end of the day, (for the most part) I’ve been captain of my own fate and crafted my image on my terms. It doesn’t matter that it’s not my ideal social situation – I control it, and that’s what’s most important to me. I’ve been the new kid enough times and had to deal with attempting to integrate into already existing social hierarchies, but I’ve learned that if I arrive with my own structure and force people to attempt to adapt to how I do things, even though it doesn’t always end with my being loved or even liked by many people, it does allow me to do whatever I want without having to worry about what’s going to come of my actions.
So yes, I am an asshole, and proud. I know what I am, I choose what I am, and I will defy anyone who thinks they can take this from me. I’ve been subject to others’ approval, and in a twisted way, I still am, but with how I work now, I set the terms for my failure.
In Malcolm X’s account of his first conk, he details how the entire drive behind Black men straightening their hair stemmed from their desire to be more like whites. He expresses his great disgust and abhorrence at their behavior and admits that although he too was once one of them, he now has nothing but the utmost distaste for the African-American men and women who strive to recreate the physical appearance of their White counterparts. But lately there seems to be a reversal of roles in pop culture, especially in rap and hip-hop. More and more we see white celebrities attempting to emulate black culture to seem cooler or more relevant. More specifically, this turnaround is prominent in hip-hop and rap, with any non-colored rapper being called out, or at least pointed out due to their lack of pigmentation. Playing off X’s indictment of the Black community’s emulation of the whites, let us consider how African-American and hip-hop culture have influenced pop culture. More specifically, let us look at how as these art forms have become more mainstream, and what this means for the politics of race in rap.
Rap and hip-hop are often used synonymously, but the truth is that while the former is a genre of music, the latter is closer to a lifestyle or culture. However, rap and hip-hop music are very close to one another, and for the purpose of this paper will be dealt with together due to their close proximity (though it should be remembered that at the end of the day, they are still separate entities). A large part of the hip-hop culture is MCing, which is also known as “rapping”.
“Rap” is defined as “a type of popular music with a strong rhythm in which the words are spoken, not sung” (Cambridge) and hip-hop music is defined as “a type of popular music in which the subject of the songs is often politics or society and the words are spoken rather than sung” (Cambridge). Both definitions are quite similar, with the distinguishing difference between the two being hip-hop’s political content. However, these definitions are clinical, cut and dry outlines of an art form that is difficult to sum up so succinctly. Rap Genius, a website dedicated to “[critiquing] rap as poetry”, categorizes both rap and hip-hop as “rhythmically assisted poetry”, and in the interest of simplicity, we will proceed to treat both as such.
It is often said that to understand where we are going, we must understand where we have been, and this certainly applies to hip-hop. Piero Scaruffi, a cultural historian, has written a novel on the various music genres prevalent in the U.S.; through a quick summary, let us consider rap’s origins, which lie in Africa. There, stories were spoken to a beat accompanied by drums and other instruments. From there, once it was brought to the U.S., it developed into spoke-word jazz poetry in the south of the U.S., where beat poets then took it up. Rap took its next step with the invention of funk music in the 1960s, which is widely regarded as the last big change to rap before it reached the more modern form that many people are familiar with now. It is also important to note that through this period, the majority, if not all, of musicians who were playing this music were Black.
Scaruffi goes on to put it in perspective, explaining how hip-hop started being seriously focused on as a genre in 1970, and that Sugarhill Gang released “Rapper’s Delight”, the first hip hop song to make it onto the charts, in 1979. However the first white group didn’t appear for another seven years after that, when the Beastie Boys released “Licensed to Ill” in 1986. And even then, the all-white group stayed close to their punk roots, which contrasted a little bit with the majority of their Black hip-hop-making counterparts. This was a turning point in the industry, and to this day the Beastie Boys are still widely acclaimed as a classic rap group (Scaruffi).
However, despite the Beastie Boys’ great success and the fact that all three of the members were white, white MCs as a whole were not overly successful with their endeavors in hip hop. Even after the group broke onto the scene, any newcomers who happened to be white were not looked upon kindly for it. In “Without Me”, Eminem, one of the biggest selling artists ever, let alone white MCs, rapped
Though I’m not the first king of controversy,
I am the worst thing since Elvis Presley,
To do black Music so selfishly
And use it to get myself wealthy,
There’s a concept that works,
Twenty million other white rappers emerge
– a glimpse into perhaps why white MCs were not welcome in rap and hip hop: the idea that by successfully rapping, White people are taking from the Black community. The lines speak to the idea that the only reason he has been so highly debated is due to the fact that he is a white man doing something that, for the most part, was usually a black man’s profession or art form. However, regardless of how much his being white has affected his publicity, positively or negatively, Eminem has always been a strong proponent of the idea that although it currently does, race should not play a role in rap.
In an interview, speaking on the subject of his race, Eminem acknowledged the kind of logic behind disliking him for being a white rapper, but also pointing out that he couldn’t help that he happened to be white. When interviewed by Spin, he said “Yeah, I did see where the people dissing me were coming from. But, it`s like, anything that happened in the past between black and white, I can`t really speak on it, because I wasn`t there. I don`t feel like me being born the color I am makes me any less of a person” (Mathers). His comment speaks to the mindset that he addresses in his lyrics that White rappers are detracting from Black rappers. He makes the fair statement that whatever injustices occurred in the past, he was not there. He takes a fairly non-racial stance on the entire issue, and has gone on in other interviews to state that he doesn’t care about what color his listeners or label mates are.
Eminem’s lyrics also bring to light the way that only successful white rappers are picked apart. He cites his success and then goes on to state that there are numerous other white rappers in the business, but that he’s been the only white individual to capitalize so greatly off the originally predominantly Black music form. The line also speaks to the fact that although there were a plethora of other white rappers, very few of them were blowing up as large as Eminem, and even then, he was the most focused on.
However, in a certain way, it could be argued there is some justification in the attacks against Eminem. Though he has not done anything, there is still a general fear within the industry of Whites taking over, and it is based in a certain amount of fact. M. K. Asante, a tenured professor at Morgan State University in Baltimore, explores and comments on the progression of hip-hop and how it has led to the “post hip hop generation” (Asante 7). His analysis of the art form today centers in its representation of the young African-American community and how it is failing to accurately depict the real Black community as it becomes more mainstream.
Asante’s breakdown of the industry and its social effect and roots is highly personal and it makes no effort to hide this. However, certain facts that he presents are fairly convincing in terms of showing that there are misconceptions about the structure of the hip hop industry. He attacks the gentrification of the industry, pointing out that although people like P. Diddy, Jay-Z, Russell Simmons, etc. are considered “moguls” (111), they are not truly in charge of their music because at the end of the day it is up to “parent companies”, which are run by exec boards, which are predominantly white.
To put it in context, fans are dependent on the rappers, who are dependent labels, who are dependent on parent companies, which are run by white males. In a way, the uproar every time a white rapper succeeds in the industry is too little too late, because this part of black culture was already being overseen by whites from the start, lending a certain credibility to Eminem’s stance that race does not, or at least should not matter in rap. However, on the flip side, Whites already have a strong hold in the hip hop industry through their corporate positions, and for a large number of them to rise to the top rappers’ spots as well would mean that Blacks were effectively crowded out of their own cultural invention, providing insight as to why their might be so much malevolence towards white rappers.
Regardless of how some members of the rap community may feel towards him, Eminem’s success should come as no surprise. In today’s culture, there are just as many white kids listening to rap as there are black kids, not to mention that there is much more mixing of races and cultures than when hip-hop first started. It logically follows that, as a result there will be some merging and integrating of cultural trends, such as White youth also listening to rap. Then, if White kids are listening to rap, wouldn’t it follow that they would want to listen to some White rappers as well?
In contrast to Eminem, who does not see his race as an issue in his vocation, Macklemore, another white rapper, has written entire songs on the issue – sometimes even going so far as to almost apologize for being white. His evident guilt, or at least internal conflict, is apparent in the lines of “White Privilege”, a song all about being white and a part of hip hop culture. He says he “claimed a culture that wasn’t mine, the way of the American” referring to that even though he is white, he is living the hip hop lifestyle, which is predominantly Black – much like the Europeans came to the New World and claimed land that already belonged to someone else.
And in “A Wake”, another song that deals with his being a white rapper in a mostly black profession, Macklemore raps,
Fighting for our freedom that my people stole
Don’t wanna make all my white fans uncomfortable
But you don’t even have a fuckin’ song for radio
Why you out here talkin race, tryin’ to save the fuckin’ globe
Don’t get involved with the causes in mind
White privilege, white guilt, at the same damn time
As stated before, the concept of “white privilege” is a large issue to Macklemore, and he is fully aware of his racial disparity from his contemporaries. The verse in question is the MC’s way of acknowledging the fact that he is aware that he is white and although he wants to not care, he has to factor it into his actions and lyrics. He refers to the “freedom that [his] people stole”, referencing slavery, and how it has negatively impacted the black community through the history of America, even now that slavery and segregation are no longer a part of society. He is speaking to the fact that it’s very difficult for him as a white rapper to comment on racial issues, but that he still wants to do what he can without alienating his white fans and seeming like he’s over-reaching his bounds as a rapper. Considering both sides of the issue, it’s hard to definitively say whether or not race should play a part in hip hop, but there is one aspect of the discussion that we have not yet touched upon: collaboration.
Music has long been a collaborative art form. Rap and hip-hop grew from other musical genres, and they will continue to change and morph over the course of the years, no doubt spawning new styles as they go. And even within music, in relation to other genres, hip-hop is a highly cooperative sector. It’s not uncommon to see a single song with five or six different artists rapping on it, with each of the musicians taking a single verse. It’s also become an acceptable practice to sample another artist’s work in your own. Sampling is when an artist takes something that is already out there, whether it is another artist’s song, or just a sound, and uses it as a part of their own recording, almost like an instrument. There’s a general understanding in rap that sampling is perfectly fine, so long as one artist doesn’t profit off the work of another. Due to this unspoken rule, sampling generally takes place most often on mixtapes, because in these, you can sample other artists’ music as much as you like, so long as you’re not just blatantly putting their full songs on your work, due to the fact that you’re not selling the final product, rather distributing it for free.
Considering all of this collaboration, it seems odd that an industry that thrives off teamwork would want to cut out anyone that has something new to bring to the table. However, at the same time it makes sense that a community comprise mostly of African Americans might be skittish when it comes to including the descendants of the same people whose actions resulted in the blacks’ lowered status, not to mention that the threat of being edged out of their own craft is a very real one. However, at the end of the day, regardless of skin color, there is a parallel to be drawn between hip-hop and society: as an upset Malcolm X pointed out, the conk originated from the Blacks emulating the Whites. But then hip hop stemmed from African-American culture, and any and all White success based in this art form is therefore rooted in their emulation, or at least adaption of African-American culture. That is to say, similarly to how rappers’ advances and new ideas all stem from each other’s, so too do black and white culture. It is all connected, regardless of whether we want it to be or not.
A few months ago, I turned eighteen, making me a full-fledged adult and functioning member of society. At least, that’s what I’m led to believe. From what I’ve gathered, I gained the right to vote, buy tobacco products, gamble, and legally view porn (as if that’s stopped me till now). I can also now be charged as an adult if I commit any sort of crime. Additionally, I can no longer have sex with anyone who is younger than eighteen, even if I did before I reached “adulthood”. Pretty much, the minute the clock struck midnight and I turned eighteen, I became a whole new person in the eyes of the government. And that pisses me off.
Why does turning eighteen make me so much more mature? I’m expected to believe that just because I’ve made my eighteenth trip around the sun, all of a sudden I magically became worthy of being an adult? I fail to see the difference between my qualifications for adulthood between the day I turned eighteen and any other day in my life. In fact, truth be told, I think I’ve regressed since I hit legal adulthood.
Seriously, what’s with the insane premise that all human beings mature at exactly the same rate? As children we are all constantly told that everyone’s different, that we all grow at different rates and that it’s completely natural. I know this, you know this, but apparently no one told the government this, seeing as they find it completely logical that we all become fully functioning adults right when we turn eighteen, regardless of the actual development of each individual.
I mean, isn’t age really nothing more than a measure of how long you’ve been around, a way of establishing seniority? It doesn’t necessarily translate into maturity or knowledge - being older certainly doesn’t make you wiser or smarter. I’ve met plenty of so-called adults with the awareness and thought processes of a child, and conversely, I’ve met teenagers with more self-awareness, poise, and general intelligence than some of our nation’s adults. I’m sure that you can think of plenty of celebrities you would prefer not to vote. Hell, I’m sure you can think of several politicians who shouldn’t be allowed to vote. And on the flip-side, I’m sure you can think of a few minors who’re more than ready to vote.
But let’s ignore the ludicrous idea that we all grow at the same rate. Let’s forget for a minute that to the government, being eighteen is all it takes to be an adult. All that aside, the other thing that really bugs me about hitting this randomly set legal milestone, is that it’s not all-inclusive. Amongst the many rights that I gain, the right to drink is not one of them. Yes, that makes total sense: I can die for my country, vote on who’s going to run it, and be charged as an adult for any illegal act that I commit, but I sure as hell can’t enjoy a drink. Where is the logic here?
People talk about crazy laws like how in one city it’s illegal to buy, sell, or possess a squirt gun, and they laugh at the ludicrousness of these rules. But take a minute to sit down and think about our national laws, the rules that govern the entire country, and how crazy some of them are.
There’s always a bigger fish
A creature looming over you
Something to drag everything
Into the deep and gloom
The animals and monsters
Our fears have become
Pursue us and elude us
From when we are first young
They chase me till I pant
And run after my dreams
They’ve eaten up my normalcy
Torn my life at seams
Eat or be eaten
Is the mantra we repeat
Neither sounds appealing
So where’s the in-between
Am I running from life
Or am I dodging myself
Are the questions I ask
Worth declining health
My life is party
But it’s blackout time
I can’t remember
How happy was I
Demons and myths
Still haunt my old thoughts
They rise and they dip
The truth still gets lost
Where should I search
For an answering key
Where have I left
The answer to me
There’s a part of me that knew right then
when, the first instant
You would leave, but you never could
You weren’t there from the start
I knew I never should
Have let hopes fly
Only to fall
Have let them sail
Just to die