How Beyoncé Slayed Black History Month: A Visual Analysis

If being that bitch is defined by “causing all this conversation”, Beyoncé is most definitely that bitch. Conversations on SNL, in comment sections, from Rolling Stones to Wendy Williams, Bey is a hot topic since the eve of the Super Bowl when she released her new hit single “Formation”.

At this point, unless you have been living under a rock- or are a grad student who never sees the light of day- you must have heard all kinds of conversation around Beyoncé’s “Formation”. “It’s racist”, “It’s the second wave of Black Panthers” “it’s uncomfortable to listen to it” “it’s feeding into black stereotypes” (re: “I like corn bread and collard greens bitch oh yes! You best a believe it!”).

I must confess, I have never been much of a Beyoncé fan at all. I have always argued that she was simply a business woman and entertainer who stood for nothing. She sang about feminism, or any other political issue only if it brought in the dollars, but never really believed for anything outside the studio. While this song still remains in the confinement of the studio and the stage, let’s assume that Bey chooses to stay in her lane and stick to what she is good at, i.e music, to take a stance. So here is how in 4min 53 seconds, Beyoncé wove messages into her music, making a statement of over 50 years of black history. OK ladies (and gentlemen), now let’s get in formation.

All black

Black Panthers 50th Anniversary: In October of 1966, in Oakland California, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Beyoncé replicating their all black attire in addition to berets and the Black Power fist at the Super Bowl performance and simultaneously mirroring the gold embellishment across the front in tribute to Michael Jackson was a tribute to black excellence over the last five decades – and overtone overload.

Panthers on parade at Free Huey rally in Defermery Park (named by the Panthers Bobby Hutton Park) in West Oakland.beyonce

Black Culture

The beat drops to begin the song at a quick glance of a man with lit grillz, shortly followed by another twerking in front of a mirror. Throughout the video, we see. Bey is reclaiming black culture and owning it. As Hunger Game’s Amandla Stenberg put it, “What if we [Americans] loved black people as much as black culture?” After the fury over Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift using black women as twerking props in their music videos, and other non-black artists and celebrities such as Iggy Azalea and the Kardashians robbing black culture at their convenience, Beyoncé reclaims the braids, the afros and even the wigs at the hair shop.

music video beyonce formation

Black Stereotypes

So now that Bey has claimed them, there is no using stereotypes of black culture to offend black culture. Get it? If someone says “you have a large nose, “and you already know and accept the size of your nose, the intended offense is lost. Bey showed the ratchet, the classy, the classic, the modern. She discussed the hot sauce, the nostrils, the baby hair, Red Lobster, Jordan’s while showing Mardi Gras festivities, black churches and basketball players. While I’m sure you can think of a lot more stereotypes.

Black Lives Matter

Mic beyonce identities poc black lives matter

This is the part that had me choked up. Overall the video theme is questioning what the American government did for the people of New Orleans in response to Hurricane Katrina. Furthermore, the little black boy dancing innocently in front of a row of police officers, and the officers raising their hands along with the boy suggests peace – not violence – between black civilians and police officers. The camera then glances over graffiti Stop Shooting Us. Is that too “outrageous” to ask?

Perhaps the sinking police car isn’t an insult to the police departments, but instead a demonstration of us all going down together if the violence persists. Note Beyoncé herself subsides with the vehicle at the sound of gun shots at the end of the video.

Black Empowerment

The video takes everything “negative” about blackness in mainstream media and affirms it with a black voice, asserting black identity in America. With this video, Bey conveys that this is how some black people may look and dress and talk and act, but we are here to get what is ours. African Americans have the right to pursue the American dream, and they too work hard (“grind”) until its theirs. What’s so uncomfortable with having the next Bill Gates be black?

The TimingFormation_BlackPanthers-DailyMailUK

Why the Super Bowl? You ask. No better time, I say, for her to perform her politically-entrenched hit when the world is watching. This left the message with the black and non-black alike, enclosed in the gift of half-time entertainment. Another great thing about the timing? It’s black history month, so hey!

The Conclusion

Beyoncé wins black history month, addressing the political, cultural, historical and contemporary state of blackness in America in less than 5 minutes. Bow down bitches.

And if you haven’t seen it, watch the music video below and then go back and reread this article.

 

 

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Justin Bieber and James Cordon get Jiggy to “Uptown Funk” on Way to Grammys

You gotta love when celebrities act like human beings. Whether it’s applying our last minute beautification lotion, getting mad at your friends for matching with you, or singing and dancing in traffic, we’re all the same, except Kanye West, that guy is an alien.

Cruising to the 2016 Grammy’s, James Cordon scoops up Justin Bieber for some more carpool karaoke, singing “Uptown Funk” as they get ready to roam the red carpet. Or could this have been taped before the Biebs won a Grammy for his collaboration with Skrillex and Diplo, “Where Are Ü Now”? Either way, this video is like super pop culture, being pop culture.

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Post-Obama America: Does Drug Legalization Look Possible?

“We have to make a choice in this country,” said a prominent cable news personality in 2009. “We have to either put people who are smoking marijuana behind bars, or we legalize it. But this little game we’re playing in the middle is not helping us, is not helping Mexico and is causing massive violence on our southern border… I think it’s about time we legalize marijuana.”

People might expect this sentiment from an MSNBC host, but this pro-legalization rant came from former FOX News host Glenn Beck. That’s right, it appears Glenn Beck and Kanye West finally agree on something, and if these opposing personalities can find common ground on cannabis, maybe America’s two political parties can as well. Legalization could become the first major bipartisan issue in a post-Obama America.

“The idea of marijuana as a gateway drug I don’t think is borne out by statistics. That’s like saying that everybody who is guilty of rape once masturbated” – William F. Buckley

Consider several of the key issues found in the official party platforms. The Republicans espouse state’s rights, spending cuts, civil liberties and limitations on government oversight. Prohibition, however, effectively promotes the following:

  • A denial of state sovereignty on cannabis issues in favor of federal regulation
  • Federal interference on medical decisions made between a doctor and patient
  • Excessive government spending on incarceration, law enforcement and the drug war
  • Restrictions on civil liberties involving personal use in the privacy of one’s home

The Democrats, meanwhile, prioritize social justice, racial equality, health care and employment issues. Prohibition also counters these priorities in several ways, including the following:

  • Prevents the natural production of new jobs in the cannabis industry
  • Creates employment hurdles via criminal records related to cannabis
  • Fosters social and racial injustice with discriminatory drug law enforcement
  • Limits legitimate health care options for serious and terminal conditions

In this age of hyper-partisanship, few issues exist in which aging hippies and left-leaning millennials can unite with rural conservatives and family-values suburbanites. On the issue of cannabis, however, the tide is turning. In ever-increasing numbers, individuals in both parties recognize the benefits of reform, the damage from prohibition and the dishonest propaganda in anti-cannabis campaigns.

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank co-founded by Charles Koch, looked into the issue with the 2010 study The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition. The 54-page findings argued that ending cannabis prohibition would cut spending by $8.7 billion and increase tax revenue by the same amount. In other words, ending prohibition would cut spending, increase tax revenues and produce more jobs. If that is not an equitable balance for each party’s priorities, what is?

Stereotypes suggest that ending prohibition is a liberal cause, and polls do show that Democrats are twice as likely to support legalization than Republicans, but several conservatives are taking public stands. Former judge Andrew Napolitano said, “These are times that call for more freedom, rather than less” in offering his support for legalization, while right-wing power broker Grover Norquist (Americans for Tax Reform) aligned with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) on a bill to allow legitimate dispensaries to deduct business expenses on their federal tax returns. Mama Grizzly herself, Sarah Palin, even told National Review in 2009 that “I’m not going to get in the way of a doctor prescribing something that he or she believes will help a cancer patient.”

In other words, ending prohibition would cut spending, increase tax revenues and produce more jobs. If that is not an equitable balance for each party’s priorities, what is?

Speaking of National Review, William F. Buckley founded the seminal conservative magazine 60 years ago. During an interview with the Yale Free Press in 2001, Buckley said, “The idea of marijuana as a gateway drug I don’t think is borne out by statistics. That’s like saying that everybody who is guilty of rape once masturbated.”

Anti-prohibition conservatives like Buckley were more common in the 1970s, and in 1972, National Review ran the headline “The Time Has Come: Abolish the Pot Laws.” The War on Drugs propaganda machine helped shift the needle in prohibition’s favor, but the political pendulum appears to be swinging back. A Pew Research survey last year found that 63% of Republican millennials support cannabis legalization.

The religious right might still need more convincing, and some conservatives believe the cultural associations with cannabis justify its prohibition even if science and sociology do not. At the same time, yellow-bellied Democrats who privately support legalization often avoid public support because focus-group data suggests they shouldn’t. Libertarians, economic conservatives and conscience-driven liberals currently lead the political charge, and with the change in tides becoming ever-more clear, the number of legalization supporters should continue to swell.

Last March, bipartisanship took a major step forward when Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and presidential candidate Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act. The proposed bill would end federal prohibition, expand medical research, change the controlled substance schedule and reclassify certain CBD strains for expanded use. A few weeks later, Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Don Young (R-AK) led a bipartisan effort in the House introducing a similar bill to restrict prohibition and increase access.

Similarly, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) helped make history last month with their Veterans Equal Access Amendment. The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted (18 to 12) in favor of the bipartisan bill, which allows Veterans Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana (MMJ) for patients in states that legalized MMJ use. The historic vote marked the first time any Senate body approved legislation that increased access to cannabis.

How far will these legislative bills go? Time will tell, but unlike the hyper-partisan battles under Obama, pro-cannabis legislation will likely pass by bringing the political parties together rather than pushing them further apart.

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Will MMA Ever Eclipse Boxing?

Over seven years ago, as mixed martial arts promotion Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was inching its way towards mainstream acceptability, commentator Joe Rogan and boxing promoter Lou DiBella were part of a recurring debate on ESPN concerning mixed martial arts and boxing. The question: is MMA better than and/or superseded the sport of boxing?

Of course, Rogan passionately defended his sport against DiBella, who dismissively characterized MMA as “human cockfighting.” Rogan also warned that boxing was a being “swallowed up,” whose potential was limited to only a few superstars at the time with no development of any future talent.

Lou DiBella was only one of dozens voices to denounce the UFC as being a “brutal” and “savage” sport with a limited shelf-life. In fact, ESPN commentators Mike Wilbon, Tony Kornheiser, and Skip Bayless were some of UFC’s loudest critics. Only a decade earlier, Arizona Senator John McCain led a successful campaign to take professional mixed martial arts off of pay-per-view, until it could be regulated by the states. The numerous voices of discontent, in both political arenas and media coverage, set the prevailing narrative that cast mixed-martial arts and boxing into opposition with one another.

Years later, as 2016 gets underway, fans and commentators still believe that both combat sports are in conflict, vying for dominance over America’s top pugilist entertainment. The year 2015 saw both sports change for better and worse.

Boxing had its most lucrative prizefighter, Floyd Mayweather, retire undefeated at 49-0 (matching famed heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano’s record) in a rather uneventful match against Andre Berto. At the same time, his much-hyped “Better Late than Never” fight against Manny Pacquiao brought in over $410 million in revenue while also being the most purchased pay-per-view event of all time.

At the same time, many commentators still decry the institutional corruption in boxing (particularly in figures such as Bob Arum and Al Haymon) as well as weak undercards in main event fights. While 2015 did invite some promise in the return of Premier Boxing Champions on NBC, thus an opportunity to expose the public to budding potential superstars, the lawsuits by Top Rank promoter Bob Arum Golden Boy’s CEO Oscar De La Hoya set back the events. As such, the continual lack of network television exposure and ongoing allegations of corruption are definitely factors in America’s growing disinterest in the sport.

On the other hand, mixed martial arts has risen in popularity on network television and saw its PPV buys soar after dismal rates in 2014. Fox broadcasted numerous events that drew in respectable ratings (though still below primetime ratings of over sports) and last season of The Ultimate Fighter drew some of the biggest ratings in its 22-season history. Ronda Rousey solidified her stature within popular culture by savagely knocking out her opponents in record time, before her upset knockout by the hands of Holly Holm. Current Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor ascended on his own with his trash-talking WWE-like persona all while destroying fighters such as Chad Mendes in 2 rounds and then-Featherweight champion Jose Aldo in 13 seconds time. All the while, the nearly unstoppable Jon Jones, who started the year by defeating the current light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, was suspended for most of 2015 after being charged with a hit-and-run accident. While this undoubtedly hurt the PPV buy-ins for UFC 197 (in which he was supposed to fight Anthony Johnson), the UFC still managed to do well last year in both PPV’s and primetime.

Now, the oft-asked question remains: has mixed martial arts surpassed boxing as America’s favorite combat sport?

TORONTO, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 21: (R-L) Alexander 'The Mauler' Gustafsson punches Jon 'Bones' Jones in their UFC light heavyweight championship bout at the Air Canada Center on September 21, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jon Jones; Alexander Gustafsson HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 19: (R-L) Daniel Cormier punches Roy 'Big Country' Nelson in their UFC heavyweight bout at the Toyota Center on October 19, 2013 in Houston, Texas. Daniel Cormier won by split decision. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Figure 2: Jon Jones vs Daniel Cormier for UFC Lightweight Title. Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The first answer to the question of pugilistic superiority is no;

MMA has not surpassed boxing in terms of popularity and PPV buys yet. With 1.6 million PPV buys, UFC 100 is the most purchased event in mixed martial arts history. That was almost 7 years ago and no event since has come close. On the other hand, boxing has had several matches with PPV buys far above 1.6 million. Even with all the charges of corruption and growing concerns with concussions, boxing has not lost a sizable chunk of subscribers. While it is important to note that UFC has more profitable PPV matches above 500,000 buys than boxing did in 2015, they also had plenty of busts within that same year that failed to reach 200,000 buys. So far, UFC’s biggest box office attractions are limited to three superstars: Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, and Jon Jones. On the other hand, boxing reestablish itself in primetime television on NBC for 2016, and market more American superstars in the heavyweight division, they would ensure a more profitable future than UFC.

For UFC and mixed martial arts to make its ascent to boxing during its heyday, it has to gain more talented and marketable superstars. Ronda Rousey became a social media legend with her ferocious knockouts, trash-talking, and beauty. She also had a role in Furious 7, which grossed over $1.5 billion. However, since mixed martial arts is still in its relative infancy, it does not possess the cache of history that boxing enjoys. Boxing still lives off the legacy of past greats such as Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and Mike Tyson. These larger than life superstars were focal points of American popular culture much like athletes such as Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth were in their sports. In addition, the box office and critical acclaim of fictional boxing movies such as Rocky, Million Dollar Baby, and Creed only add to the sport’s elevation in American consciousness as these films grant the public even more icons. As great as MMA legends such as Chuck “the Iceman” Lidell and Anderson Silva were, they did not enjoy the same near-apotheosis that most athletes in other sports enjoy even during their heyday. Simply put, MMA has to get older.

060215-ufc-Rousey-Entourage-gal-4-mp.vadapt.955.high.33

Figure 3: Ronda Rousey at Entourage Premiere. Cred Fox Sports. 

The second answer to the question of pugilist dominance is one that dismisses the question: it should not matter what sport is better.

One can enjoy boxing and mixed martial arts at the same time. While they do not need to be in eternal opposition, the way corporate America is set up is that they are competing for audiences. So far, boxing still has the edge, although millennials will determine the future of both sports probably sooner than later.

Any boxing fan across all ages should be worried about the seeming void of superstar talent that threatens the quality and marketability of the sport within 2016. The same can be said about mixed martial arts fans, despite some stellar performances last year. However, MMA is a growing sport still trying to establish its platform in pop culture whereas boxing is fighting the unknown.

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To Watch the Watchmen: An Understanding of Police Brutality

Quis custodiet ispos custodes?

“Who watches the watchmen?”1

Only a few weeks ago in the city of Chicago Officer Jason Van Dyke was formally charged with the murder of 17 year old Laquan McDonald. Like Walter Scott’s murder by a cop earlier this year, Laquan’s murder was captured on camera, but sealed away from the public for a year. However, as a result of a lawsuit by independent journalist Brandon Smith against the city of Chicago, the public can witness Van Dyke firing sixteen bullets towards a fleeing teenager. As a result of the video’s release and public backlash against its year-long withholding, Chicago Police Department (CPD) superintendent Garry McCarthy resigned and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel issued an apology. Attorney General Loretta Lynch only recently announced an investigation into the CPD’s practices and procedures.

The national attention and scrutiny over police-involved killings have brought extra attention to Laquan McDonald’s murder. Only recently, officers “accidentally” killed 55 year old Bettie Jones and 19 year old Quitonio LeGrier during a domestic disturbance call. However, if any of these reports and commentary (academic research and personal anecdotes alike) reveal anything to the general audience, it is that police-killings and brutality against Black people is not a recent phenomena. As Atlantic journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates stated, “It’s the cameras that are new. It’s not the violence that’s new.”

Chicago-Black-Friday-Protest-feature

Figure 1: Protestors demonstrating against McDonald’s murder. Cred Jet Magazine

The same can be said about the Chicago PD and many of its officers, whose brutal practices against Black citizens extend back decades. Whether it was Jon Burge’s torture of over 200 black men into false confessions, the other non-Burge torture of suspects at various “black-sites”, 2 or the allegations by black officers of police misconduct aided by a “code of silence”3  within the department, Loretta Lynch’s investigation will more than likely be a damning indictment against the CPD that will only spark more subsequent commentary and scrutiny. Some will probably be surprised by the extent (or even the existence) of racism and misconduct in the CPD. Others, particularly Black Americans, will not be shocked by the outcome.

Yet, in light of all the attention towards law enforcement’s violations, we must recognize this stark reality: police officers and their departments are not intrinsically benevolent.

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014 file photo, Daniel Holtzclaw, front, an Oklahoma City police officer accused of sexually assaulting women he encountered while on patrol in neighborhoods near the state Capitol, is led into a courtroom for a hearing in Oklahoma City. Holtzclaw is one of number of law officers in the state that were accused of sexually assaulting women while on the job, one of the top stories in the state during 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Figure 2: Former OKC officer Daniel Holtzclaw found guilty of rape. Cred Huffpost

I find no use in overgeneralizations such as “police are racist pigs” or “jack-booted thugs,” although I certainly understand where these characterizations come from. I am also not questioning how many “good cops” there are to “bad cops” nor am I calling for a society without police. Instead, I am simply challenging the prevailing narrative that automatically associates the occupation of “cop” with “good.”

Despite all the television police procedurals Americans consume such as Law and Order: SVU, Quantico, and (ironically) Chicago PD, the cultural view of cops as fundamentally being vanguards of a decaying society against a rising criminal horde is a myopic one. Michelle Alexander writes of this hagiographic 4 viewpoint in her book The New Jim Crow:

These fictional dramas, like the evening news, tend to focus on individual stories of crime, victimization, and punishment, and the stories are typically told from the point of view of law enforcement. A charismatic police officer, investigator, or prosecutor struggles with his own demons while heroically trying to solve a horrible crime. He ultimately achieves a personal and moral victory by finding the bad guy and throwing him in jail. That is the made-for-TV version of the criminal justice system. It perpetuates the myth that the primary function of the system is to keep our streets safe and our homes secure by rooting out dangerous criminals and punishing them. These television shows, especially those that romanticize drug-law enforcement, are the modern-day equivalent of the old movies portraying happy slaves, the fictional gloss placed on a brutal system of racialized oppression and control. The New Jim Crow p. 59.

The fact is that police in real-life are not the noble (or even comic book level anti-heroic) servants of justice we see in fiction. Being a cop does not automatically entitle the label good anymore than being a soldier means one is a “hero” or a being a parishioner means being inherently “pious.” No one is good via their profession alone. Rather, what an individual does during their line of work and how institutions respond to injustice ultimately determines their moral standing; which is why Michelle Alexander, myself, and countless others detest such hagiographic portrayals of police, only because this viewpoint engages in a certain ahistoricism that ignores the centuries long police brutality against the Black community.

ct-rahm-emanuel-ethics-event-met-1219-20141218Figure 3: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel

Black Americans (as well as other people of color) have always felt the boot and baton of law enforcement going all the way back to slavery.5 While slavery and Jim Crow no longer exists and overt racist hostility is condemned, the attitudes that demonize black people (and a plethora of other) still exists. In addition to the Chicago PD’s violations I listed earlier, we can also look to how drug laws and mass incarceration disproportionately targets the black community, why police stop black civilians more so than white citizens, and the hundreds of millions of dollars of lawsuit money shelled out to black victims of police brutality. The reality is that the consistent over-policing of black communities, the stop and frisk laws that criminalize black and brown men, and the department’s seeming hostility towards change (supported by the blue wall of silence”6), have only aided in Black people’s current levels of distrust against law enforcement.

WARNING: Graphic Footage

4 LAPD officers beat Rodney King. 1991.

Because of the presence of racism in these institutions, citizens must face the stark reality that officers, like anyone else, are human and thus privy to the same biases and prejudices. Anyone can be a monster as easily as they can be an angel. It is why we see Daniel Holtzclaw, who was supposed to “protect and serve” use his badge to raped 13 black women on the job. It is why we see a few Kern County police officers sexually assaulting women while bribing and/or blackmailing them into staying silent. Their humanity and presence in society is also why they score similarly to civilians on Implicit Association Test, where subjects are more likely to shoot unarmed black men than armed white men. The only difference is, unlike the average racist civilian, racist police officers are empowered by the government, armed with unions, and protected by prosecution.

Because of their power, many civilians hesitate charging individual cops with brutality in fear of a legal backlash by their peers and department. For this same reason, even the so-called “good cops” rarely take sides or whistle-blow against their bad brethren because it violates the “the blue wall of silence.”

Which brings me back to my original question: “Who watches the watchmen?”

Plenty have argued for body cameras, although there have been plenty of instances where cops have been caught on film without any consequence.7 Others propose civilian oversight committees or special outside prosecutors to deal with violators. Plenty have also proposed ending the militarization of the police, which Amnesty International has charged as violating international norms.

Yet, police reform, given the power of its unions and the critical mass blindly supports law enforcement, does not seem to be likelihood in the near-future.

The answer to that question, no matter how it’s asked, is not readily available. But at the very least, particularly in the advent of the internet and social media, let us neither dismiss violations and shortcomings of police departments and their employees nor should we automatically assign a hagiography for every person with a badge. Otherwise, the Chicago PD as well as other departments wouldn’t be in the predicament of having to explain its history of violent behavior towards Black people over and over again.

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  1. I usually ask this question in its original Latin language every time the government or any authority commits some flagrant violation that goes unpunished. I’ve uttered this question over and over starting with the 2010 death of Oscar Grant at the hands of Johannes Mehserle to Laquan McDonald’s murder by the gun of Jason Van Dyke in 2014.

  2. As reported by the Guardian, Homan Square is one of the major locations where cops have allegedly tortured black men into false confessions.

  3. a condition in effect when a person opts to withhold what is believed to be vital or important information voluntarily or involuntarily.

  4. Hagiographic: adj. from noun “hagiography.” A biography of a saint or ecclesiastical leader. In a pejorative sense, a biography or viewpoint that is uncritical and over-embellishes its subject.

  5. Race, Racism and American Law by Derrick Bell.

  6. an unwritten ethic that exists among officers to not report any of their colleague’s violations. also known as “blue code” or blue shield.”

  7.  Eric Garner was choked to death on camera by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in August 2014. Despite the illegality of the chokehold in NYPD procedure, the Grand Jury refused to indict Pantaleo.

Your Guide to a Politically Correct Holiday Season

For many, the holiday season is a time of festivity and cheer. A time for family gatherings and gift-giving. Well enough is enough. It’s time for those people to check their fucking privilege. “But how??” You are probably asking. “How can I ruin this for others while still feeling like I have the moral high ground?” It’s quite simple, really. Just follow this guide and you too can learn how to bully people in the name of justice this holiday season.

Most people already know that Christmas was established to exclude and alienate others. This is why obviously it’s so important to make sure people call Christmas trees “holiday trees”. But there is more work to be done. Christmas is filled with problematic words and images, and I’m here to make sure you know how to correct the insensitive people who use them.

family-enjoying-a-Smoky-Mountain-Christmas-vacation

Like these assholes

The key to being PC is to try really hard to find problems whether or not they even exist.

The other key is outrage. It doesn’t matter what you’re outraged about, but for the sake of this guide I’ll help you focus that outrage somewhere concrete.

Those privileged dicks who put up decorations often include images of Santa’s elves. Well did they teach their kids to stop and question what elf wages were? Did they ever even wonder, “I hope those elves are unionized so they can use collective bargaining to improve their occupational conditions”? It is our duty to inform them that they were too wrapped up in their capitalist consumer mindset to think about the elven plight. It doesn’t end there, though. These same people tell their children to put out cookies for Santa, but don’t even modify their homes to be Santa-accessible. How is a full figured/curvy Santa supposed to fit down their regulation chimneys? These thin-privileged scumbags probably haven’t even installed widened chimney openings or reinforced roofing.

chimney_capsWhat the fuck is this, Gary?

After educating the ignorant about their hurtful holiday beliefs, it is necessary to present them with a list of approved holiday terms that don’t exclude others. Please cut out the following list (with safety scissors) and pass out copies at your nearest college campus.

Christmas presents shall be called “privilege items”

Mistletoe shall be called “sexual assault plants”

Menorahs shall be called “holiday candles”

Dreidels shall be called “winter spin toys”

Traditional Kwanzaa attire shall be called “holiday uniforms”

Rudolph shall no longer be shamed for his affliction. His new name shall be “Rudolph the Nasally Challenged Winter Creature”.

Thank you for your interest in participating in a PC holiday season and making everyone EQUALLY as miserable as you are. If something isn’t covered here, have no fear! Just remember the key tenants of being PC in 2015:

1) If you don’t like something, then no one deserves to like it. Get it banned!

2) Discussion and compromise is the enemy of PC warriors. Plus, if you just scream louder than everyone else, people will have to obey your demands!

3) Are folks having fun somewhere? That’s a red flag and you need to fix their bullshit.

4) You are perfect and special, so why would you ever consider someone else’s differing opinion? Try screaming at them instead.

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A Million Straws: Activism on College Campuses

Why did the one straw break the camel’s back / here’s the secret / there’s a million underneath it.”– Yasiin Bey (Mos Def); “Mathematics.”

I remember during my first year at Occidental College when a professor and mentor of mine, Kenjus Watson, lead a weekend workshop on racism. One of the students, an older white male, acknowledged his unwillingness in not wanting to talk about racism in fear of “creating tension” between him and peers of color (Black, Brown, Asian, Indigenous, etc.,). Then, one of my good friends (and a current organizer) Ben responded, “The tension was already there, whether you want to say something or not.”

That statement has stuck with me since that year because of its profound truth. Racism is neither a ghost of another time nor a demon that causes chaos at the mere utterance of its name. Instead, White supremacy is a man-made machine whose political manifestation leeches from the life force of all communities, especially those of color. Ignoring the dangers of race-based oppression does a disservice to everyone, as it allows for real-life structural and interpersonal violence to continue against communities of color.

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Figure 1: CODE activists demonstrating November 2013 outside Lower Herrick. Source: Oxy.edu

A lot has been said and written about the recent wave of activism on the campuses of the University of Missouri (Mizzou), Yale, Berkeley, and a plethora of others the past week. The topics of these conversations range from structural racism at Predominantly White Institutions to first amendment rights and “political correctness.” These conversations reminded me of the time I spent as a student activist at Occidental College, simply because our stories are eerily (and not coincidently) similar.

Just as it is the duties of intellectuals to understand the realities of racism, it is equally the obligation of activists to combat its pernicious effects. As an activist, and one of several student co-founders of the Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equity (C.O.D.E), I understood that we needed to challenge the administration into investing in a multicultural campus. Despite what some critics suggest, we also understood that there wasn’t any “safe space” on campus, which is precisely why we organized in the first place.

At the time, there were very little parameters that would ensure a safe and equitable space for all students on Oxy’s campus. There are fewer undergrads of color than in the years past. These same students (particularly Black and Brown undergrads) reported harassment and profiling by some Campus Safety officers. The multicultural hall slowly eroded into one that cared almost nothing about diversity as the semesters passed. Cultural clubs such as the Black Student Alliance (BSA), La Raza, and Asian Pacific Americans for Liberation (APAL) were not getting the institutional support that other non-cultural clubs seemed to enjoy financially. Many faculty of color, who were already severely underrepresented on campus, were stuck in adjunct positions and let go if they challenged administration. Finally, there was no office of diversity (which is common at many liberal arts colleges) to ensure that there were adequate structures to address all the ills listed above.

As my friend said all those years ago, the tension had been brewing. The straws and their immense weight were crushing the camel’s back.

12238171_526608534162829_4919814473629485335_oFigure 2: Students demonstrating on Yale’s campus. Philipp Arndt Photography

CODE challenged administration for much of my senior year into making sure our demands were met. We received a lot of backlash from both administration and the student body who decried us as “oversensitive,” “PC,” and “agitators.” Occidental was already dealing with the protests and national media coverage of on-campus sexual assault. As such, a great deal of administrators and the students already had assumptions about us and were unwilling to listen to what we had to say, which in turn created more frustration that lead to more dramatic action. Sometimes, it is not enough to be “polite” to those who are unwilling to listen and lie to you about the struggles you endure. At times, one has to speak truths to power and implement “impolite” action strategies at the expense of other’s comfort.

I learned the hard way just how mind numbingly slow and torturous the process of positive change often is. There were times that I would sit across from people (students, faculty, and administration alike) who actively denied the existence of my experiences, labeled me as “oversensitive,” and slurred me as an “affirmative action student” or a “reverse racist.” I witnessed my institution let professors of color go (like Xuan Santos [whom I mention in my speech]) who criticized the college for its failure to properly address racism; this only infuriated me further, as I felt my right to speak out was less protected than I previously imagined. The last thing I ever felt was “coddled.”

At many points, I felt like screaming towards and physically shaking my opponents until they could fully understand the magnitude of my frustrations. However, it felt as if I was talking to an empty void. My patience waned with administration’s unwillingness to truly listen to our concerns. All the while, my fury grew as I heard younger students of color feel neglected by their professors, invalidated with racial slurs, and feel lonelier at Oxy. At various moments, I felt as if the very struggle for a multicultural campus was utterly meaningless as nothing would change no matter what I said or did.

Judging by what we are seeing with Black student activist groups such as Concerned Student 1950 on Mizzou as well as a plethora of other students (including my alma mater just recently) protesting their administration, their struggles are not that different from our own.

j6v2M1_oMJ9PmCKPS2t7Y-fAK4HD10sJEm2GZKTbbSYty6v10WlLJzXArX6QIrbg08HppQ=w1235-h489Figure 3: Student protestors w/ President Veitch at Occidental College November 12th. Cred: César Martínez

Like groups that exist outside the academy such Black Lives Matter, the Dream Defenders, and the Fight For 15 laborers, student activists across the country are channeling their frustration with their school’s administration by utilizing their 1st Amendment rights of free speech and assembly. These students are tired of hate speech on campus, having their culture and skin color mocked in the form of costume, and monuments that honor Confederates and their ideological godfathers. Moreover, Black students are tired of receiving death threats for expressing their viewpoints.

Contrary to what many pundits are saying, the activists are neither irrational angry anarchists nor are they being manipulated by “white liberal hipsters.” To propagate either is to continue the ugly traditions of making fallacious claims that Martin Luther King Jr. as an outside agitator who hates white people, that Black Lives Matter is a racist terrorist group, and that anyone who fights against white supremacy are somehow “reverse-racist.” Moreover, these tensions did not emerge from some abyss of “coddled millennial oversensitivity.” Rather, the conflicts over racism have been brewing since the integration of these institutions, finally bubbling to the surface as a result of social media and renewed mainstream media interest.

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Insignia for Oxy United for Black Liberation

Activism, regardless when and where it’s situated, is necessary to keep people in positions of power accountable to all citizens within a democracy. The process is often messy and mistakes will be made on the activists’ part, thus inviting both fair and unfair criticism. There will be conflict regarding strategy and ideology that might estrange others from participating. Hell, there might even be groupthink and contradictions within logic that will have to be addressed within these same groups. They will stumble at times and outright fail in certain aspects of organizing.

Yet, I will recall what Professor Watson, my old mentor, always told me whenever I was unsure of how to challenge an injustice: “when in doubt, do.” This quote reminds me that missteps are okay because activism is never perfect. Like any other activity or profession, it requires tremendous evolution and growth on the part of the organizers if they are to achieve their goals.

While the process of achieving social justice in our precious academic institutions is often unpleasant, the benefits of attaining it are invaluable to all students. Campus police should not harass black and brown students, Jewish students should not be subjected to swastikas, and faculty should be more diverse to include a greater range of perspectives in scholarship. I would have enjoyed my own collegiate experience if I did not have to endure racial hostility and the campus’s seeming unwillingness to engage in action around racism. Although I doubt that spaces will be 100% “safe” from bigotry and intolerance, the idea of a campus where people of color can thrive or fail just as easily as their white counterparts is worth the struggle.12239695_1063780706989157_859325562666252010_n

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Interview with a Catcaller: America’s Most Misunderstood Man

As The Daily Twenties’ fourth most trusted investigative journalist, it is my job to occasionally infiltrate some of America’s seediest undergrounds. I was intrigued by the viral video “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” in which a woman endured countless disrespectful catcalls while walking on the sidewalk, and I was determined to get to the bottom of this phenomenon. It was time to go undercover. “It’s a risky operation,” I informed the editor of The Daily Twenties, “if my cover is blown, I could face a barrage of insults.”

“Uh, yeah man. Go for it I guess,” he said, clearly concerned for my wellbeing.

“Please don’t beg for me to stay. It’s just something I have to do.” I hung up before he could try to convince me to abandon my plans.

I traveled to New York City, the hotbed of catcalling as depicted in the video, uncertain of what I would find. I was on the corner of Madison Avenue and E 106th Street for three minutes before I heard what I had come for: “DAMN GIRL, YOU SHIT WITH THAT ASS?!” I couldn’t be sure, but I had a feeling I had just witnessed a catcalling. I approached the gentleman to inquire what he hoped to accomplish with his yelling.

“You really want to know?” His voice became hushed and he leaned in with an air of secrecy. “I don’t do this for my benefit. My actions are purely for their wellbeing.”

“Wait. What?”

The man, Marcus Johnson, continued. “Today’s society is complex. It has changed in the last few decades. Magazines and reality shows bombard women with unreachable physical beauty standards that most cannot hope to attain.”

He must have sensed my incredulity when I asked what the fuck he was talking about.

“It is our duty–the catcallers of the nation–to inform women that despite what Cosmopolitan tells them, we do, in fact, appreciate that ass” he said while biting his bottom lip and staring at a passing woman.

“Well why don’t you just initiate a polite conversation with a woman you’re interested in? Why the inappropriate yelling instead of just walking up and talking with her?”

“It’s not the 50’s any more. Today’s woman has places to be. Jobs to go to, meetings to attend, Tinder dates to be disappointed by. They simply don’t have the time to be stopped on the street and–sorry, pardon me for a second,” he said, gazing past me to an attractive young woman walking by in business attire, “EY GIRL NICE HIPS WANNA SIT ON THIS DICK?!” She shot him a disgusted look and quickened her pace. Marcus sighed. “If she wasn’t in such a hurry I could’ve complimented her enchanting eyes.”

“So you’re saying that every man who catcalls is in on this?” I asked, dumbfounded.

“Yes. Our society goes deeper than you can imagine. Why else do you think we would do this? Do you really think we expect a woman to approach us simply because we shouted innuendos at them?”

“I… I don’t know. I guess I just assumed you were all being dumb assholes.”

“Oh, my sweet naive child,” he smiled warmly. “We are persecuted but will continue fighting the good fight. Because we are the heroes America deserves, but not the ones it needs right now. So they’ll hunt us, because we can take it.”

“…did you just quote the Dark Knight?”

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He hesitated before running off and disappearing into the crowd. In the distance a faint “LET ME GET THEM DIGITS GIIIIIRL” could be heard before being swallowed by the noise of passing cars and honked horns.

God speed, Marcus. A silent guardian. A watchful protector. Still kind of a dick.

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10 Amazing Documentaries You Need To Watch Right Now

Did you know that the son of a top Hamas leader was working as a spy for the Israeli government? Or that the Church of Scientology broke up the marriage of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman? Or that Snoop Dogg was the USC Football team’s hype man?

I didn’t either, until I decided to ditch the Parks and Rec reruns and flip on a documentary (people, you should watch more of these, it makes learning fun). The world is happening around us; from pop culture and politics to sports and technology, there’s so much fodder for filmmakers to tell stories. So much so that Vice decided to create its own 24 hour cable television station to show documentary content from all over the world (trailer below)

But while you’re waiting for that deluge of knowledge, you have to check these documentaries out. They’re not only entertaining, but they’re topical as hell; information that tunes you into the broader issues going on in the world.

 

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Disbelief

The only things I knew about Scientology are that Tom Cruise and John Travolta were members, and it was a weird cult. And wow was I right. But there’s so much more to it. The film presents a condensed history of Scientology, it’s founder L. Ron Hubbard and the crazy stories of abuse and exploitation of women, children, celebrities, and the freakin’ IRS. See it on HBO.

 

1. Green Prince

Get ready for this sh*t. What happens when the son of a founding leader in the Palestinian organization, Hamas, becomes a spy for the Israelis? They make a documentary about it, and it’s incredible. See it on Netflix.

 

2. The Diplomat

You know who deals with crazy foreign political leaders hell-bent on ethnic cleansing? Diplomats and ambassadors. These are a different breed of people. This documentary tells the remarkable story of the life and legacy of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, whose career spans fifty years of American foreign policy from Vietnam to Afghanistan. Told through the perspective of his eldest son David, the documentary takes you behind the scenes of high stakes diplomacy where peace is waged and wars are ended. See it on HBO.

 

3. Winter on Fire

This documentary is about the Ukranian’s brave social and political revolution protesting their leader’s abuse and misuse of power. See it on Netflix.

 

4. World War 2 from Space

World War II was fought across the world…obviously. But it’s hard to comprehend the war as linear when militaries are occupying different spaces at different moments within the same war. This documentary provides an extremely easy narrative to understand the complexities of the conflict. See it on Netflix

 

5. Getting Schooled

It’s no secret that NCAA players are exploited by the system. But to what extent? This documentary lays out the history and the abuse of that system. See it on Netflix

 

6. Beasts of No Nation

Alright, this isn’t a documentary, but it reads like one and might as well be. See it on Netflix

 

7. ESPN 30-For-30: Trojan War

ESPN’s 30 for 30 series takes a look at the rise and fall of the unstoppable dynasty led by Pete Carroll, Reggie Bush, and Matt Leinart. It was a scene; you just couldn’t escape the hype and celebrity of USC football in the mid 2000’s, especially when Snoop Dogg was their hype-man. See it on Netflix

 

8. Hot Girls Wanted

The porn industry is vast and exploitative, and it could ruin your life. This documentary takes a look into the online amateur porn industry and the shelf life of a porn actress. See it on Netflix

 

9. The Perverts Guide to Ideology

Cultural critic and philosopher Slavoj Zizek examines the hidden themes and existential questions underlying some of Hollywood’s most renowned movies like Jaws, Taxi Driver, Full Metal Jacket and A Clockwork Orange. If you went to a liberal arts school and loved your theory classes, you’ll love this movie. See it on Netflix

 

10. What Our Fathers Did: A Nazis Legacy

When you’re the son of a Senior Nazi Official, that’s a history no one will let you forget. Coming soon!

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