Listen to Tupac. Really listen to Tupac.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016 marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Tupac Shakur. Tupac was a prominent hip-hop artist in the early 1990s well known for his deep, progressive lyrics in popular songs such as “Changes” and “Keep Ya Head Up.” However, he was more than just a rapper – he was a poet, a philosopher, and an activist. From a young age, he expressed incredible insight on contentious topics such as education, poverty, feminism, and police brutality. Recently, there has been a clear rise in national awareness and conversation about the roles of race and racism in modern … Read more

But Cleopatra was Beautiful!

I had a professor once who asked the class to close their eyes and envision the “perfect mate”. He then went around the room asking each student to describe their “dream” mate and marked it on the board. After every one was finished describing their vision he proceeded to explain to the class that every time he does this exercise, the “ideal” ends up being Caucasian, taller, blue eyes and light hair. While there were some votes for dark hair and eyes, his statement held true and the Caucasian, taller, blue eyes and light hair ideal won out; even with the black students. The professor then went about explaining American WASP culture and how deep its roots really delve. Tatum, 2007/1997, hit on this when on page 124, a student, once discovering that Cleopatra was black, exclaimed; “But Cleopatra was beautiful!”. Why is it that within our society we have been programmed to believe that being black, or “of color” (“of color” always makes me laugh; are all white people really “white” and void of color somehow pristine and pure?), is so unworthy of the word beauty?

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Breaking the Silence is Not Easy

This week’s reading, Breaking the Silence (Tatum, 2008), describes the reasoning behind the silence of discussing racism and other issues of discrimination. Whether it is a fear of being isolated from one’s friends and family, or a fear of sounding ignorant and unaware, fear is the root of those unsure, half-smiles when your boss says something racist and expects you to agree. Understandably, people don’t like to create an uncomfortable environment, worrying that they would be ostracized by their co-workers, peers, friends, or family. However it’s difficult for me to believe that expressing your truths and concerns about society can make those who care about you turn their backs on you. I would want my friends and family to discuss these things with me, and I would listen with an open mind and would be confident that they would do the same.

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Becoming a Hero by Breaking the Silence

There is a four letter word that is as distasteful as its other four letter counter parts and it distorts realities, paralyzes its victims and creates doubt; FEAR. Tatum, addresses the various degrees of fear in the article “Whiteness: the Power of Resistance” (2008) and I beleive the article hits the proverbial nail squarely on the head. Somehow in some way we were taught that different is “bad” and not “normal” and typically, we fear that which we do not know. We claim to “celebrate” our differences in this country but only if those differences don’t permeate the society that we have established. America, it appears, does not respond well to change an irony that confounds me. That being said, it does not mean that we should give up and stop trying to improve. I am sure you are familiar with the old saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” as often times it’s the small squeaky rumblings of society that capture the attention of society; Occupy Wall Street anyone? For me, this means that the “trickle down” theory may not work when dealing with racism but the trickle UP theory may; meaning, change starts with the individual who carries it forward.

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King’s call to action

Martin Luther King’s 1967 address to the American Psychological Association called for action not only an academic level from the APA. He called for action. This stood out to me because we, of course, were discussing this speech in an academic setting: the classroom. King advises: “social science should be able to suggest mechanisms to create a wholesome black unity and a sense of peoplehood while the process of integration proceeds.” He calls on the social sciences to find a way to unify and strengthen the African American community whilst empowering to move upward in mainstream American society.

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The Importance of Talking About Racism

After reading Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech and discussing it in class, there are two ideas presented in this speech that have been on my mind. First, Dr. King expressed that it is the social scientist’s responsibility to spread information to the misinformed whites of America. The second idea was a particular quote that Dr. King recited in his speech that really stood out to me. He quoted Victor Hugo saying, “If a soul is left in the darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.” Martin Luther King used this quote symbolizing whites in society as the cause of the “darkness” (prejudice attitudes/ behaviors and discrimination-both on a personal and institutional level).

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