a college-mate posted this yesterday morning, and seeing how i like a good nae nae video i checked it out…….a few things came to mind, but first let me put this out into the world…i don’t have anything against young people expressing themselves through the arts. i mentor urban youth and i know how to do every last one of these dances that are showcased in these viral videos because of them. we have a good time. shoot, ask anyone from my high school days, i used to be the skinny kid going to every teen party in the city just so i could dance lol. luckily there was no youtube then. thing is had there been youtube there would also be a video of my high school graduation speech as class president at one of the top schools in the country. i wonder which one would have more views, me dancing or me speaking? hold that thought. so i see this video and not 30 seconds after the young man raps do the words “Heritage High School” pop up on the screen, only heritage was spelled “Hertiage”. sigh. then in walk the white cops. typical. listen i don’t have an issue with young people being young, and enjoying themselves but when it perpetuates negative stereotypes, particularly of young people of color, i weep. when i see a city full of young people who are growing dreadlocks not as a tribute to their afro-carribean roots but because chief keef or lil wayne wear locks…i get a little perturbed. when i tell a kid what i do for a living and their response is, “so?” because the heroes in their hoods are either rappers, athletes, or drug dealers, i get frustrated. society is doing a number on my people; on our people. and i’m doing all i can not to feed narrow mindedness to a generation that believes its possibilities are limited to their current circumstances, but there are some obstacles i cant avoid:
1. one of the greatest advancements in modern technology, the internet, may also be one of the greatest setbacks of an entire people. it has given a generation that is not properly prepared for bright lights, center stage with no concept of the responsibility that comes with such exposure. everything we do is now etched into cyber history forever, and young people could careless. why? because pop culture is way more alluring than a pop quiz. which leads me to my next point:
2. culture, particularly pop culture, rules. it trumps everything: parenting, religion, education, mentoring. culture dominates. and popular people influence popular culture. i’m wondering who created this culture of show and tell for my people in particular? who told us we were only good for sports and entertainment? there was a random cut out to a basketball clip in the midst of this fine nae nae’n that served no purpose at all but to say “oh please don’t forget this rapping and dancing ain’t the only thing we’re good at…we hoop too.” at least this was filmed at school??? *shrug* and finally:
3. i’m critical of my people more so than others because our options have limited our choices, and getting drafted for the fame game seems like a winner. my college mentor dr. david cooke used to tell us, “you’ve got a better chance of becoming and md/phd than you do of going to the nba.” i know that to be true first hand….but try telling these kids that. it’s not just my people though; the world promotes the same show and tell narrative. i clicked on video after video, nae nae after nae nae, and all of these videos had hundreds of thousands of views or more. i post videos of my reflections on social justice issues and cant break 200 views on any of them. now that could be because i’m nobody, but it also could be because i’m not dancing or dunking a basketball. supply and demand. the demand is just greater for the latter. my fraternity brother recently commented on another post that, “Kobe has more Twitter followers than truly influential people (e.g. he has 4.6M; by comparison, Nancy Pelosi has 469K, Ta-Nehisi Coates has about 4K, Joe Biden has 548K), and he has a platform. There’s no firewall between social and cultural icons and public debate, and cultural icons have influence.” he’s right.
so i’m thankful for the many friends i have in sports and entertainment who are simultaneously building the community up. i’m grateful for my sisters who are entertainers in their own right; and brilliant productive members of society. i’m thankful for the athletes who are positive public figures; the ones who handle their business on the court and stay out of court. i’m cool with those examples. i just hope more of these social and cultural icons realize their agency in society, an entire generation is watching. the world is watching.