Shared Culture, Shared Pain?
I’m not sure if the tumultuous and volatile nature of our development as a species is hitting a critical mass, but it seems as if the new media age has made certain events impossible to ignore. Since we have access to insane amounts of information instantly, we hold each other to increasingly high expectations when it comes to being informed. Music is old after a few months, movies are old after a few weeks, and news stories are usually old after a few hours. A newspaper always looks like someone forgot to throw away their recycling the day before.My phone was outdated by the time I took it out of the box and I’m pretty sure I’ll need another degree after I graduate. We have to stay up on things. This desire and expectation of being apprised of what’s new is only exacerbated by the amount of sharing that we do on a global level. The human race has always been good at sharing Information, but the internet has allowed us the flex in a major way. There’s a new lifehack every damn day because nobody’s creative ideas are kept to themselves (and now I peel bananas upside down like a maverick). We are all trying to do things that are new and different, which sometimes means deliberately doing things that go against the stereotypes of your ingroup.
We want to check out the Indian street food restaurant and the Vietnamese pho truck after hitting up a rave. We want to drink bubble tea and skydive in sneakers imported from Japan. Many of my peers seem to share in my desire to be well balanced and active. Everyone has their own brand, web of profiles and real life interactions that help reinforce the fact that you are, indeed, an upwardly mobile revolutionary, or enlightened queen bae boss, or black panther nerd or whatever else helps you feel like the protagonist in a biopic.
Human behavior is motivated by four basic drivers. 1) The desire to acquire refers to our desire to acquire goods and experiences that are comparable to those around us, 2) the desire to comprehend refers to our desire to make sense of the world around us, including its various cultures. It also drives us to look for experiences that are not mundane and monotonous. I’ll get to the other two drivers later, but you can see how these desires could lead to culture sharing within our species. Some of you may be less than amused with how some cultural elements have been sampled. Examples below.
I get it, we are cool and the gap between black culture and popular continues to narrow. I want cultures to be shared and sampled, it only enhances our human experience. I want music collaborations, creative producing, diverse fashion and food fusion. The only reason Elvis getting props for Rock & Roll or Miley Cyrus twerking with zaftig Black women gets on my nerves is because of the mountains of malarkey I have to deal with as an African-American. It’s hard to appreciate shared culture when you’re being disparaged by those who want to borrow your shit.
When I criticize the majority for sampling elements of our culture, I am often painted as hypocritical hater. Because, you know, Black people always have something to complain about. We are not haters, it’s just crazy the degree of unrecognized and unrelenting strife we must endure. Especially as members of the majority benefit from our culture when it’s convenient to them. Honestly, I don’t know how our ancestors did it. I wanted to do something ill-advised and cathartic after waiting with bated breath for the Troy Davis verdict. I cried like Derek Luke after the George Zimmerman trial. I’ve had so many bad experiences with police that I get involuntary micro-expressions of disgust every time I see blue lights. I have to code switch like a hacker just to get through a weekday. Sorry for the heavy-handed metaphor, but I honestly feel like I’m wearing invisible and heavy chains that only Black people and a fraction of White people can see. With all this information sharing, being ignorant of the current prevalence of racism is a deliberate choice. It might just be the unfortunate fact that many people’s short-sighted perspectives are only inflamed when presented with contrary evidence. When we got a Black president, hateful sentiments of the most ignorant members of this society were fueled more than ever. That is why the notion that President Barack Obama sparked a post-racial society is unjustified.
It’s ridiculous notions like the existence of a post-racial society that aggravate me and add to the burden of being Black in America. Being Black in America means tolerating people who constantly disrespect your intelligence. People who want us to ignore oppressive and abusive application of the law along racial lines. People who want us to ignore the fact that we have official documentation proving that the United States has conspired to kill or harm Black activists and their communities. People who want us to ignore racial discrimination in assessing credit-worthiness and job fit. People who want us to ignore racial inequality in our public education system (come on yo, that’s a handicap like shit!). After all of that, pretty much any amount of mainstream media could make you want to buy a dashiki and picket sign.
So now we wait for yet another tragedy to be dissected in the public eye as we have lost another precious life to ignorance and violence. The loss of Michael Brown by the hands of yet another short-sighted police officer taps at our emotions. The third emotional driver that influences our behavior is the drive to defend. We all want to defend ourselves, property, family and ideas from external threats. Interestingly, it also encompasses our natural desire for institutions that promote justice (go figure). You can see how this is a recipe for disaster given our current social climate. People appear to be losing their ability to assess the world in an objective manner and are becoming increasingly divided as a result. This means that “external threats” could very well refer to my Black ass. What’s more, we get institutionalized racism instead of institutions that promote justice. Basically, America was like, “Let’s not, and say we did”. That’s the type of disrespect I’m talking about. It’s incomprehensible how am I supposed to accept these ridiculous truths. Like the fact that law enforcement in Nevada let conservative Americans, armed with semiautomatic weapons and explicit threats to the police, protest against immigration. These patriotic citizens were allowed to express themselves, regardless of who may have disagreed with them and regardless of whether they disrespected police.
However, the community of Ferguson, Missouri has been met with enough military force to invade a small country. The police look ridiculous, aiming weapons of mass destruction at teenagers holding signs. How am I supposed to accept the character assassination the police department and media outlets are using to give Darren Wilson’s especially bizarre story some credence? The alleged video of Michael Brown (scraped up by the police department) shoplifting at a conveniece store is being referred to strong arm robbery. Darren Wilson’s friend called a radio station and said she heard the story that Darren Wilson would’ve told if he wasn’t be a little…. punk. She told the story and now the media is calling her an “eye witness”.
So as kids and elders wipe tear gas from their eyes, we are forced to take on more assertive actions. My generation has been stigmatized as people of little action, who think the internet is their world. The fact of the matter is that the world is the internet, and we have the power to enhance our civil liberties with it. We obsess over things and we saturate our outlets with whatever is trending. If awareness of this nation’s racial issues is a trend, then it’s only beginning. Ignorant members of the majority look more and more foolish as more people realize we haven’t been lying about the obstacles we face and excellence we can reach. The information age is working in the Black community’s favor, as it will continue to do for our entire species. We will continue to find similarities and differences between groups, and appreciate each other for both. The first time I listened to a whole N.W.A. album was in my white neighbor’s car, my mom loves George Strait, and that’s all dope. It’d be all good if this nation could honestly address the inequities that keep minorities from nourishing their emotional drivers and experiencing the freedoms of being an equal citizen of the United States. The fourth, hardwired, emotional driver that motivates our behavior is the drive to bond. Humans are one of the only species who extend their connections to larger collectives like organizations and nations. When the drive to bond is met, positive emotions like love, care and empathy show significant increases. More notably, the ability to attach to a larger collective can lead to members of that collective to care about the group as a whole (eg. members of this republic). It’s simple, if we all understand that we are all part of the same nation, and that every human life has immense value, we can save the world. That ain’t gonna happen, but at least we are bringing attention to the moderating effect that race has on the American experience. Not to mention that all of this passionate backlash has to have an impact a bigot-cop’s psyche when thinking about the use of excessive force. We are seeing progress and maturity across all demographics, which will only continue if we promote truth and embrace reality. We are all people with value, on the same terrestrial plane.