Dear Brown People: Stop Saying the n-word, Start Saying Black Lives Matter

It isn’t my place to speak for black people, but I believe it is my responsibility to ensure that I am an ally and confront the wrongs in my own community. This article is for brown [read: South Asian] people who have likely grown up in similar scenarios as those I have faced in my family and community. We profit so much from black culture and black resistance, and never take the time to acknowledge and understand this. It’s our duty to advocate for our brothers and sisters, and correct our actions and the actions of those around us when micro and macro-aggressions occur.

With that said, it’s time to stop saying the n-word, and start saying black lives matter.

Now, I’m not excused from any of this racial fuckery. I used to say the n-word. I rapped it. I sang it. I spoke about how its use by coloured people was okay. I know, I know. I was shit, okay? The key phrase here is “I used to”. The person I was greatly participated in micro and macro-aggressions  in the past, but I’ve been educating myself about my wrongs, and have been working to correct them for a while. The beautiful thing is that we can all learn to be better to one another.

Data from the 2011 NHS survey: 49.1% of Toronto's population is a visible minority, or part of the indigenous population.
Data from the 2011 NHS survey: 49.1% of Toronto’s population is a visible minority, or part of the indigenous population.

Being an ally to all POC is a never-ending process, but the self-reflection, advocacy, listening and learning can help us inspire change at a grassroots level. Be there for blackness like blackness has been for you. Start with the n-word.

I grew up in a diverse area of Toronto. This meant that I was constantly around people who shared my skin colour. Our melanin gave us something in common. It meant we weren’t white, and didn’t experience the same level of privilege.  Now, being brown amidst the whiteness of North America means a number of things:

  1. You will never quite “belong“.
  2. You will “belong” more than other POC.
  3. You fit in with the model minority myth.
  4. Your brownness will be held above blackness.

While each of these points work in tandem to promote white power, I’m mostly concerned with the last one. Many of the South Asians I know succumb to the racism we’ve been taught through whiteness. In an effort to fit in with the model minority myth, we are quick to shit on black people, even while we participate in and consume black culture. Let me give you an example of my own shittiness. (Please bear in mind that God’s been working on me ever since!)

I once created a Facebook event for my friends. I crafted a witty event description with all of the necessary details – but that description came complete with Biggie lyrics that used the n-word. None of my invitees thought it odd, until one of my black girlfriends saw it. She immediately told me not to use it. Here’s where I get shittier.

I said no. I said that I didn’t think it was a problem because:

  • “They were just lyrics!”
  • “I understand your struggle! We’re both discriminated against!”
  • “No one else is offended!”

How messed up was that? How much privilege did I display? How oppressive was I? I didn’t talk to a single black person when trying to understand why my position wasn’t okay. Instead, other people of colour and white people helped convince me that I was never in the wrong. While engaging with black culture (Biggie), I neglected to respect black people. I oppressed my friend further, thus becoming a part of the whiteness that I should have been acting against. Deleting the lyric to make my friend feel more comfortable wouldn’t have been a difficult thing to do at all!

Although I removed the lyric in the end, I did so grudgingly, without understanding the need for real allyship and solidarity. This article is a direct result of my micro-aggression and need to apologize for it. Thank you my friends, for helping me learn to be better, and not letting go of me in the process. I’m sorry for every instance in which I’ve done you wrong,  and hope that I can continue to overcome any and all of my oppressive behaviour.

South Asian Black solidarity.jpg
Alliance of South Asians Taking Action members stand in solidarity with the #blacklivesmatter movement. 

Brown people need to realize that we are guests to black culture, and need to respect it and understand our place within it. Whiteness pits POC against one another; we are entered into a hierarchical system where we all come after the whiteness at the top. When we, brown people, don’t work to stand up for or support black lives, we align with the oppressor, and work against the people who fought for our right to belong here on a “politically equal” playing field. Whiteness doesn’t give a shit about people of colour. Why do we work so hard to gain acceptance from it? We constantly put down other POC and stereotype them to bring our own culture closer to whiteness, but the truth is we don’t need it. Instead, our own means to success should revolve around supporting one another to break free of whiteness and the internalized hatred of self that it brings.

Whether it’s you, your friends, or your family, anti-blackness needs to be spoken against and challenged.

The n-word is not our word. We did not endure the suffering that black bodies have been through to be here. We don’t get to reclaim it. Instead, we can show our support for blackness and black culture by speaking up against inequality, and participating in black healing when we are welcomed. We need to be allies and confront our own racism. Whether it’s you, your friends, or your family, anti-blackness needs to be spoken out against and challenged. When POC work together, we can begin to dismantle the oppressive whiteness around us, and additionally participate in healing and decolonization of self.

We must actively make an effort to confront the racism in our own communities. This is a never-ending process – trust me, I’m still working on it. Start with simple changes and actions, and build up from there.

Stop saying the n-word. Start saying black lives matter.

 

“Y’all Can’t Match my Hustle”: Hip Hop’s 5 Best Business Minds

Much of a hip hop artist’s content comes from their realities: past, present, and future. For many, the past includes becoming the King of the corner, and hustling their way to the top of that hierarchy. The present includes the new luxuries of their lives, an upgrade through their business savvy. As hip hop artists grow in importance, the future horizons present images of business mastery. The hustle that helped to create them back then is now helping them retain relevance. Here are 5 artists who are are navigating the business side to hip hop with ease.

Kanye Omari West
Kanye Omari West

5. Kanye West

Kanye West once rapped “You know white people; get money don’t spend it. Or maybe they, get money buy a business. I’d rather buy 80 gold chains and go ig’nant”. Apart from being some of the worst monetary advice to follow, it seems that Kanye has done just that- and it’s only made him more money. Kanye’s business savvy lies in his eccentricities and his connections. It doesn’t matter if you hate him or love him, because you can’t stop talking about him. This means that he doesn’t have to try as hard to stay relevant, because the people do it for him. And when they don’t, his wife does. West is making waves in both the fashion and music world. His Nike deal produced the stunning “Red Octobers“, and his new deal with Adidas brought us the limited edition “Yeezy Boosts“. His allegiance has certainly changed, and he’ll be the first to tell you about the new Adidas reign:

When Kanye isn’t doing clothes, he’s doing music, and is an extremely decorated artist at that. With his own record label, GOOD Music,  he has signed artists like John Legend and Big Sean. He’s not a stranger to award shows either, and his stunts have left him lauded and criticized. The more somber and happy Ye can be found by Kim Kardashian, his wife and social media queen. This partnership shows Ye in some of his most tender moments: footsies with his daughter, and actually smiling while getting an honorary Doctorate. Do you love or hate the guy?!

Curtis James Jackson
Curtis James Jackson

4. 50 Cent

He got “a mill out the deal, and [he’s] still on the grind”. 50 Cent is a true born hustler, and it has only made him a better business man. He rose to fame during the growth of gangsta rap, and released one of hip hop’s most highly praised albums, Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Taking the former route, his heavy success brought him deals on deals, such as his G-Unit clothing line collaboration with Ecko. Even as gangsta rap dwindled in popularity, 50 retained relevance through his hustle. In 2007, Coca Cola bought VitaminWater parent company Glaceau, which 50 had a 5% stake in. He made a cool 200 million, while the company was bought for 4.1 billion dollars. He now has ventures in SM Audio, and SK Energy, an energy drink company. One of his latest ventures is his promotion of Effen Vodka. The conflict of earlier days hasn’t been bred out of him, as he is constantly hash tagging #nopuffyjuice to take Diddy and Ciroc head on. 50’s only inadequacy lies in his social media use- he hashtags every brand that he promotes on every post. When you’re worth 250 million, however, people seem to look past that.

Shawn Carter
Shawn Carter

3. Jay Z

“He’s not a businessman, he’s a business, man”. Jay Z’s hustle has been long and strong, and boy has it been fruitful. From Roc Nation, to clothing lines, to a stake in the Nets, it seems as if the only place Jay Z hasn’t been is on the bottom. He currently owns Armand de Brignac, known as Ace of Spades, a premium champagne line that he acquired from Sovereign brands. His wife runs the world, making them a power couple beyond reason- Beyonce once sang “Of course sometimes some shit goes down when there’s a billion dollars on the elevator”. Coming up from success as a drug dealer, Jay Z is now dealing things like paintings instead. He makes a smooth transition from crack to carats, and has managed to strike deals with companies like HBO to demonstrate how far his tastes have come.  A deal with Samsung helped him sell 1 million albums (Magna Carta Holy Grail) before it even dropped. Both deals have helped to elevate Jay from rapper to artist to icon. The only questionable decision he’s ever made has been purchasing “Tidal”, a music streaming service, which still receives much criticism from fans of free music.

Sean Combs
Sean Combs

2. P. Diddy

From humble beginnings as Puff Daddy, to mogul status as P. Diddy, Sean Combs seems to have it all- especially the magic touch when it comes to making the right business decisions. With an estimated worth of 735 million dollars, he’s the guy you want on your team when you need to make it in the world. Just ask the creators of Ciroc, a premium vodka brand, who were selling 40,000 cases before the arrival of Diddy. Now, Diddy receives half of the brands profits, and has helped Ciroc sell over 2 million cases a year. Diddy has now taken his talents to De Leon tequila, and is on a mission to put Patron out of business. Diddy seems to have a knack for beverages, as he also markets AquaHydrate water. With the way things are going for Diddy, we may just need to change the way we mark time- BD and AD. Before Diddy, and After Diddy.

Andre Romelle Young
Andre Romelle Young

1. Dr. Dre

The one simple thing we need to consider when talking about the best business minds in hiphop is the money. The best business decisions make you exceedingly rich. That is why the number 1 spot on our list goes to none other than hip hop’s first billionaire, Dr. Dre. Dr. Dre is known for his beats- most notably those on The Chronic, and The Chronic 2001. Nowadays, he’s known for “Beats by Dre”, his line of premium headphones. When Apple purchased Beats by Dre for 3 billion dollars, Dr. Dre became the richest man in hiphop. The most interesting thing about Beats is that music experts don’t actually believe that they are impressive headphones. The sound quality is really only great for catching head shaking bass, which is what the people seem to want. Beats are also a status symbol- they can be found around the necks of youth as if they are outfit accessories rather than music accessories. As one of the greatest beat makers of our generation, Dre’s name behind the product further certifies their status as impressive headphones. Dre is straight out of Compton, and straight to the top.

Propaganda, Pop Culture, and Politics

The_Marvel_Universe

When Marvel hit the big screen in a big way, the comic book universe experienced a resurgence in their fandom. I was one of the consumers who immediately became a fan. I wasn’t a part of the comic book era, but the X-Men and Spiderman animated series were my childhood- Saturday morning was nothing without them. I decided that I had to start way back at the beginning of the superhero universe- comic books became a part of my life. I couldn’t decide on a single favourite hero, and so I purchased the Avengers Omnibus Volume #1 to stay connected to as many of them as possible.

The comic was brilliant. The images were vibrant, the lettering impeccable. Each story contained so much written content, which was my favourite thing about them. My biggest issue with the comics was the blatant propaganda- an issue that we still contend with in the general cinematic sphere.

I wasn’t the only one who noticed the propagandist undertones- many wrote in to Stan Lee and Don Heck to explain their concerns. In The Avengers issue #22, “The Road Back“, Canadian David Mackidd wrote in to say this:

“Dear Stan and Don,

I have written to discuss a recent controversy that has popped up in the Fan Pages- whether or not you should use Communists and other political figures as villains in your stories. I, myself, am strongly against this for this reason: While this practice should not have any serious effect on your more mature readers, you have in your reading audience some children of a juvenile and immature age whose minds and convictions are strongly prejudiced by such stories…Don’t you think that it is right that these children should be allowed to reach a mature age and make up their own minds about such important subjects as political beliefs? After all there are perhaps thousands of individuals in the world who believe in Communism or Socialism whose intentions are every bit as well meaning as most Americans! Is it fair to slander these innocent people with your stories? I fully realize that your stories are aimed at the bad side of Communism, but they still shed a bad light on the well-meaning persons, too. I don’t think that it is the place of comic magazines to spread anti-communist propaganda… I think that you as editors should not take part in this argument, especially when young minds are concerned…What do you say?”

 Stan and Don’s answer followed:

“…As these words are being written, American lives are being lost in Viet Nam, in physical combat with communists. A cold war is in progress, between the free world and the communists. A continual propaganda barrage against the United States is constantly beamed to the rest of the world by communist nations. Now then, if this doesn’t qualify the reds to be used as “bad guys” in an occasional adventure yarn, then we’ll have to take a refresher course in semantics! As for influencing younger minds, we’d rather they read our little fantastic fables than the pages of Pravda! ‘Nuff said!”

Tony's Captors spoke a mix of Middle Eastern and South Asian languages, from Urdu to Pashto. They also randomly speak Hungarian.
Tony’s Captors spoke a mix of Middle Eastern and South Asian languages, from Urdu to Pashto. They also randomly speak Hungarian.

I had the same questions as David before I read his letter to the editors, but mine were targeted at Marvel movies. In our age, the propaganda moved from a literary platform to a cinematic one, and impressionable young minds were sucked into the fray. We can see this in the first Ironman movie as compared to the comic book. Tony Stark is captured by Vietnamese terrorists in the first issue- the introduction of Ironman comics coincided with the Vietnam War. In the movie, his enemies became an amalgamation of Middle Eastern and South Asian men; either all people of my skin colour were enemies, or it just hadn’t been decided which type of “brown” was to be held in American disregard. This is not the only instance of this happening, especially outside of the Marvel cinematic universe. The reasons for the propaganda against specific country can be explained by way of politics and economics.

In his book, “In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India”, Edward Luce has much to say of America’s relationships with India and China, both growing economic super powers. “…India is seen as the only country that could counterbalance China’s rise as a global power. America has watched China’s emergence with growing anxiety… The world appears to be on a trajectory where relations between the three big powers will outweigh all other ties as the twenty first century unfolds. The nodal point in the triangle is, of course, the United States. Short of war, however, the United States cannot prevent China from rising as a global power. So America will continue to assist India’s rise as a counterbalancing force…”

America’s fear of China’s power isn’t only demonstrated in its political plays. It’s also a message that has been distributed to the masses. In 2012, the movie “Red Dawn” was released. As China threatens America’s economic power, the movie was supposed to be about an American struggle against Chinese troops who colonize the country. The film was supposed to be released in 2010, but to maintain access to a Chinese box office, the Chinese enemies were traded in for North Korean enemies. One Asian villain was traded for another. Movie goers tweeted their racist feelings without hesitation, and many grouped all Asians as collective villains:

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 8.22.28 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 8.22.03 PMThe interesting thing about “Red Dawn” was that it was a remake of an older film. In the first “Red Dawn”, the villains were portrayed by Russians, who were the enemies of the States at the time. Propaganda really does seem to work on the immature and the ignorant with ease.

Negative stereotypes and portrayals affect our  ability to consider one another as equals, and it’s especially damaging when these ideals are pushed onto younger, innocent minds. It’s a problematic situation for me, especially because I want to enjoy Marvel movies, and other films. Fortunately, I can see the blatant racism clearly- and understand that it stems from fear of the other. Unfortunately, I’m left with a feeling of helplessness when I cannot change what has already been created. We need to create dialogue, and recognize these prejudiced ideals even while enjoying everything else about the literature and cinema that is created for us. Once we are more aware of the issue, we may be able to overcome the racist tones that keep us distant and indifferent to one another. One can only hope.