Kendrick Lamar and Empowerment

    Within the years 2015 and 2016 in the United States, violence against blacks as well as racial injustices reached a peak. With many unjustified police shootings (black males aged 15-34 were nine times more likely to be murdered by police than any other group) and officers (most of the time) not being held accountable, racial tensions were, and still are, very high.

    There isn’t much we can do to combat this. There were and are still many protests due to these racial injustices with only few gaining justice or causing actual change. Many artists also attempted to combat against this, by speaking their opinions on the matter and attending events like protests to voice their support. Kendrick Lamar performed at the Grammys in 2016 and 2018. These performances were used as a voicing of the need for change, and as a device for empowerment of a race that has been held down by oppression for a long while.

    The 2016 performance begins with “The Blacker The Berry” and Kendrick coming out as part of a chain gang, with his accompanying instrumentalists being locked within cells. The intensity builds as the chain gang rips off their chains, leading to the performance of  “Alright”. Both of these performances include aspects of African culture. This performance showcases some of what it means to be black in America, the black experience.

    The 2018 performance begins with “XXX.”, a song that in itself tagrets political, social, and racial injustices. The first movement of this performance includes the song “DNA.” as well. There is a short intermission by Dave Chappelle where he says, “The only thing more frightening than watching a black man be honest in America, is being an honest black man in America.” The intermissions in this performance are started with a gun shot sound effect directed at Kendrick, and Dave Chappelle continues with more short phrases to move the performance onward. The performance ends with all of the onstage performers being ‘shot down’ one by one, reflecting current issues in the U.S. Kendrick is an example of an influential black role model in America who is bringing light to issues in ways that are empowering to fellow black Americans as well as youth.


Links to the performances:

Abraham Lincoln’s Last Speech, April 11, 1865

In 1865, President Lincoln’s last speech introduced his plan of Reconstruction for the US after the Civil War. Specifically, Lincoln addressed the state of Louisiana, which was the first former Confederate state to agree to the terms of Lincoln’s Reconstruction.

Lincoln was a man focused on reforming the Union and bringing the nation back together. This is reflected in his previous 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, by freeing slaves in Southern states to persuade the Confederate states to rejoin the Union. His efforts to continue the Reconstruction of the Union is reflected in his last speech. Interestingly, rather than addressing specifics of the Reconstruction plan, Lincoln’s speech emphasized that one should simply not acknowledge the previous existence of the Confederacy. Lincoln claimed that rather than acknowledging the prior separation, his plan for Reconstruction would run more smoothly without considering if states were in or out of the Union. This idea is highlighted in his statement, “Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad”(par. 4). Lincoln believed that to fully restore relations between the states it was simply easier to not acknowledge that they were ever separated.

Shortly after his Reconstruction speech, Lincoln was assassinated and was unable to watch his Reconstruction plans unfold, however, his successor, Andrew Johnson, attempted to carry on Lincoln’s Reconstruction plans.  Johnson worked toward continuing the plans for Reconstruction, but under his presidency the creation of ‘black codes’ and black violence and “fear mongering” was extreme in Southern states. Lincoln may have wished that the states would not acknowledge the divide of Confederacy and Union, but the separation was distinct and visible during the Reconstruction era.

Analysis of “Account for the Pillaging of African American Freedom”

In 1865 Abraham Lincoln gave a speech introducing the idea of Reconstruction, after the Civil War. The purpose of Lincoln’s Reconstruction was to smoothly reintegrate former Confederate states back into the Union, creating a formed and “re-united” United States. After Lincoln’s assassination, President Andrew Johnson took over the Reconstruction plan. Under Johnson’s presidency, violence toward free black Americans was prevalent. In this article, Kidada E. Williams addresses the lack of acknowledgement of the violence toward free black individuals that occurred in the Reconstruction era and, as a result, persists today.

Although former slaves were legally free in 1865, they still faced the same acts of violence, experienced in the age of slavery, during the Reconstruction era. During Reconstruction, White Southern conservatives feared that Republicans gaining power in the government would provide blacks with some power and voice in the government. In order to prevent equality between black and whites, conservative white individuals made an effort to establish fear within minority communities. During this era, the Ku Klux Klan, along with other white supremacy groups, played a large roll in establishing fear by killing and terrifying black communities. Psychological and physical trauma persisted through the infamous ‘black codes’, which were Southern state laws restricting basic civil rights from black individuals. During this time period, the Federal government did little to nothing to prevent the violence or civil rights atrocities against black Americans.

Lincoln’s intent for Reconstruction was to bring the Nation back together. Although states may have pledged their loyalty to the Nation and abolished slavery, Southern states continued to restrict black individuals from basic human rights. In present times, there is a lack of acknowledgement for the violence that occurred during this time period. The Reconstruction era was not a peaceful transition from slavery to freedom. Arguably, violence during the Reconstruction led to the violence that persists today. Recognizing and acknowledging the violence that occurred during the Reconstruction era is important to fully understand America’s past.

Chicago welcomes its first gay black female mayor!

History is constantly being made, especially with the  breakthroughs that have been made with diversity in our politicians. One such example is the newly elected elected mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot. Amazingly, Lori won in a landslide over her opponent for the mayoral election, Toni Preckwinkle. This victory was nothing less than absolutely one-sided, as voters showed their acceptance of Lori with the final poll difference being around fifty percent. The reason why this is significant is because as people become more accepting of others backgrounds, there are eventual breakthroughs like new representation of underrepresented peoples in places of power.

As Lori Lightfoot begins as the mayor of Chicago, could this be a sign that other such elections will follow in Chicago’s footsteps? The potential of this seems to be growing, as being a beacon of hope for the LGBT community, women’s rights, and the African American community is quite rare. On top of that, only two of the of the fifty-five mayors were of African American descent. Now, as  Lori steps up to deal with the corruption and gun violence that plagues Chicago, others in smaller cities or cities of higher diversity might have a better chance getting representation, or better yet, their demands filled. Regardless, as a result of Lori being elected as mayor, this brings an opportunity for people of different backgrounds to attempt to gain a seat in public office in order to gain representation and protection of the communities that they represent.

Black & Positively Golden

if someone were to ask me, “hey, did you hear about big corporation that wants to host this event uplifting the black community through scholarships and education on entrepreneurship?” I would never guessed McDonald’s was behind it.  Yes, the burger joint that’s been serving America greasy food wants to give back to the communities that they have been serving. Now obviously, there is no doubt that this is a good thing that the McDonald’s corporation is doing. Anyone willing to help those who are struggling by providing scholarships for colleges is good in my book. However, I do get a bit of an uneasy feeling whenever large, faceless corporations try to appeal to our kindness. I think a bit of skepticism is a bit healthy considering how i’m not even sure how much “real meat” is in their food. What I will say is that even if they’re doing this nice event for the black community with the only motivation being that the company wants to better their image, I say let them. In the end, even if their motivations are flawed, doing good things is still just that. Good.

NAACP and Airbnb sit down to discuss ways to end user bias.

In recent years, the online lodging arrangement company Airbnb has been hit with a number of lawsuits involving certain customers being denied service from home owners for being black. To prevent something like this happening in the future, both the NAACP and Airnbnb have teamed up to come up with a plan to combat the situation and then act out said plan. One idea that hasn’t been out in motion yet is to set rules protecting anyone from being denied Airbnb service based on how their name sounds, or the color of their skin. Another thought of solution was to encourage members of the black community to open their homes for Airbnb service to open up more opportunities.

Broader Implications of Understanding Brown as A Cold War Case

At the heart of America’s understanding of its own history is an assumed story of progress. This story of progress is often the lens through which Americans (and American historians) have viewed current and past events. The history of the Civil Rights Movement is no different. It was, and has long been, understood as an inevitable outcome of society, a confirmation of Whig history in the twentieth-century.

However, Dudziak’s work undermines this understanding by arguing that the ‘grand narrative’ of the Civil Rights Movement was actually a well crafted propaganda campaign the United States used to further international interests during the Cold War. Brown, far from being an inevitable outcome, was a purposeful ruling that allowed the United States to portray meaningful change without it actually happening. The nation HAD NOT progressed but Brown allowed Americans to declare progress none-the-less. What does this mean?

It means that The New York Times can release a podcast yesterday titled Why Did New York’s Most Selective Pubic High School Admit only 7 Black Students? ( yet people will still argue that America does not have inequality in education. If people assume Brown was an inevitable outcome of progress then they can assume that the nation no longer has issues of racism or inequality in education, effectively shielding themselves from important arguments over issues that persist today. Re-framing Brown as a Cold War case helps to undermine this assumed progress and create room for a broader discussion regarding the reality of the issues that still exist today.

On “The FBI and their claims of ‘Black Identity Extremism.'”

I recently read an article regarding an investigation involving the FBI and the black lives matter movement. Specifically, two members of the New Black Panther Party, a peaceful and non-violent organization, were accused of plotting to plant bombs and kill the Ferguson police chief and the county prosecutor. The event took place six months into Trumps’ administration. A court case took place and the defense claimed to not have plotted any such thing. Also, the evidence towards the defense seemed to be “fiction” and “irresponsible.” I won’t get into the rest of the details of the article but would like to discuss the implications of the whole event. The problem here seems to be that the ability for (peaceful) protesting is beginning to be challenged. As we discussed in class, there were different views back in the civil rights era as to how to deal with discrimination and racism. (I think) It is now commonly believed that peaceful protesting is a viable solution. However, if claims are made against these protesters, then how can there be the freedom to stand up for injustices? Even if the case against the two men turned out to be true, it is a deviation from the actual movement and can’t automatically be associated with it. “Black identity extremism” shouldn’t describe what organizations such as the NBBP and Black Lives Matter movement. Also, law enforcement can’t be the first ones to take action, of course, unless there is good evidence. This didn’t seem to be the case, and cases like these can either silence people more or create more violence. I can’t say anything about the innocence of this case, but I believe that assuming violence with peaceful movements does create problems.

Voice Command and the Institutional Racism at Work in Big Tech

This weekend I had the opportunity to engage with a graduate student at the University of Michigan studying Information Sciences. This student’s work focused upon an area that relates to this class in unique ways. As a professional he worked in the field of robotics and A.I., trying to equip African Americans with access to new technologies. Specifically he was working with differently abled individuals who needed voice command to help them do basic tasks such as write or move.

What he found was a systematic bias in voice operated machines that could not understand the accents of some of the African American communities he was working within. This issue led him to return to school and study the systematic biases that exist in technology. He is conducting research to reveal the racial bias at work in big tech.

This is not an issue we have directly tackled in class but it relates to the broader themes of institutional racism we have discussed. Morality and ethics are important, but issues such as this one raise broader concerns regarding institutionalized racism and its pervasiveness today. What does it say about society today that some groups cannot use technologies because of their race/ethnicity?

For those interested, check back in with the post a bit later. I am going to post a link to his work once he provides me with one.