Thursday, September 5, 2013

discussion on ???racism???: a serious post

Disclaimer-- I am a Filipino/white girl and I choose solely to speak for myself and no one else.

With that aside, I've been concerned with how much racism and cultural appropriation has been touching the media lately, especially since these topics are obviously very sensitive yet not discussed enough.

Today in my media class, my teacher lectured on oblivion and racism during the 1920's, and how things like blackface were considered to be "mere entertainment" during that time. She then showed us clips from The Jazz Singer, a very popular talkie movie during the 1920's where a Jewish man (Al Jolson) puts on a blackface and sings and dances and yada yada.

Al Jolson
These kinds of racist antics have been rid of for over 80 years now, yet I still felt a wave of discomfort and disgust when watching clips from this film. How could people have been so easily accepting of the mockery of an oppressed race? I'm not trying to sound like some kind of martyr who doesn't see fault in my prejudice slips, but you gotta wonder.

Afterwards, she opened the class up for discussion. "It's good we've progressed and racism isn't so blatantly present today." My classmates quickly began to speak up and object against her statement. One guy brought up Miley Cyrus at the VMAs as an example. Although it's pretty sad, pretty much EVERYONE right now has some background knowledge of this incident-- probably even more so than they do of what's going on in Syria right now (what issss goin on in Syria?!). 

On a totally different subject, I whole-heartedly respect Miley for her performance. She got the exact reaction she wanted and forced everyone to see that she was completely done with her childhood image. 

On this current subject, I cannot whatsoever applaud Miley Cyrus on her sudden interest in black culture and her poor attempts to try and "practice" these "FADS." An ethnic lifestyle is not a fad. 

I mean, she literally used black people as PROPS. I don't think that needs any further explanation...

The saddest part about all of this? The girl can't even twerk.
(Joking, not really the saddest part.)

For the longest time I have chosen to ignore anything related to Lana Del Rey simply for petty reasons that lead to me just not being interested in her work. But I've recently come across an article somewhere discussing the origin of the stage name "Lana Del Rey" and how it romanticizes a latin-sounding name even though, typically, people are profiled immediately for that anywhere else. This issue only bothers me slightly, it's not something to really get boiled over about. So the name sounds pretty, it suits her, alright. So then I finally see this Ride music video everyone seems to be freaking out about because Lana sports a headdress in it, for what I believe, seem to be for aesthetic purposes.

Even if she is trying to symbolize bravery/honor/etc (I admittedly do not know much about what exactly different headdresses symbolize), this whole Native American-turned trend has been being fueled for quite a while now, so to try and distinguish just-a-trend between significant-meaning is kind of a bad excuse.

Nonetheless, as my opinions towards this lingered after class, one of my classmates and I began to talk about the Lana Del Rey situation over girls' room bonding. She too was a bit uncomfortable about the whole use of a headdress as a garment, being part Native American herself. She mentioned that she brought this up to her grandmother, who she views as a pretty traditional Native American. She said that her grandmother reacted kind of nonchalantly, seeming to not be bothered by it at all. So I wonder, and want to hopefully discuss with someone who reflects the same feelings as this grandmother, why or how can these things be ignored? I figured maybe it was because appropriation has sort of morphed into this norm over the past few years so many of us have become numb to it.

Then I thought more about the idea of just accepting these faults. Maybe it's not that people are tolerating the media for what they have been told are "right" portrayals, but more so people ARE being aware and seeing these flaws but are choosing to accept that the media and our stars have their flaws and are hopefully working to recognize and fix them.

It's not about being hateful and closed-off towards all and any misdemeanors that are broadcasted to us daily. Honestly, a lot of shit in this world is offensive no matter what. We just have to be smart about it. I'm starting to learn that it's more about just constantly being CONSCIOUS of what can be offensive and how it can be, doing what I can to keep from further perpetuating that which IS strongly offensive (racist, sexist, whateverist), and to always keep the discussion going. It's easy to forget sometimes that these are pretty sensitive subjects we're talking about here and that every voice on these matters is important.

I have repeatedly found myself so aggressively glued to my opinion and my opinion only that it's just transformed into a hateful mess. That's where progress always seems to stop.

So sure, Lady Gaga's cool. She makes rad music; she is a big inspiration to the LGBT community. But when she does something like this:

Burqa Swag: totally inappropriate on a whole new level; we're using a religious garment now to represent repressed sexuality-- cool. 
It's important to know that this is not okay. It's important to consume wisely and to question the motives behind things like this.

Lady Gaga is well-known for making dramatic fashion statements that have so far been accepted and celebrated as trends over the past few years. But when a burqa is presented and sort of marketed towards us as some kind of sexy, alluring piece of LINGERIE, it's anyone's right to call that shit out.

Calling shit out and talking about it: the stuff America should be made of goddammit.