Rachael Blansett: "The Silencing of Black America"
Kanye West, in light of his new album Yeezus debuting, accepted an interview with BBC Radio 1's Zane Lowe. During the interview, he boldly commented on his creative nature, debacles with the fashion industry and his approach in his new studio album. It is obvious from his new songs i.e. New Slaves, Black Skinhead, and Blood on the Leaves - that he is publicly advocating against black racism and taking a stance against corporate power and its control over black people. He stated:
“I’ve reached a point in my life where my Truman Show boat has hit the painting. And I’ve got to a point that Michael Jackson did not break down. I have reached the glass ceiling. As a creative person, as a celebrity. When I say that, it means, I want to do product, I am a product person. Not just clothing, but water bottle design, architecture, everything, you know, that you could think about. And I’ve been at it for 10 years, and I look around, and I say, wait a second, there’s no one in this space that looks like me, and if they are, they’re quiet as f*ck. So that means, wait a second, now we’re seriously, like, in a civil rights movement.”
Shortly afterward, Jimmy Kimmel broadcasts a reenactment of West's interview, only the person acting as Kanye was a child. Now, we can suggest that this skit was all in the namesake of pure comedy, although if we look closely at how the media has been portraying Kanye's behavior over the years, can we really dismiss this as just a playful act of humor? From the interruption of Taylor Swift to the stating that 'George Bush doesn't care about black people,' Kanye has been deemed by the media as just another angry, black man continuously ranting about issues that do not exist.
Similarly, Naomi Campbell over the years has been characterized in the media as the clichéd persona of an 'angry, black woman.' In a recent interview with Channel 4 News, she commented on the racism within the fashion industry. She stated that eighty percent of models on the runway last year were white, along with nine percent Asian and only six percent black.
Furthermore, over the years, we have come to know Ms. Campbell (by the media) as irate and this interview serves us the same judgment. After several minutes, calmly and professionally, detailing her opinion of how racism plays out in the fashion industry, the interviewer proceeds to comment on her characterization in the media as being angry and irrational.
Now, throughout America's history, there has been a systemic framework in the demonizing and criminalization of black people in the media – particularly ones living in poverty. Rarely do we see black people in the media otherwise and likely if they are portrayed in the media, there voice is either dismissed, immensely skewed or made a mockery of; YouTube sensations Antoine Dodson and Sweet Brown can be used as examples. Both of them were interviewed by the media after displaying acts of heroic citizenship and thereafter, auto-tuned and humiliated by vloggers on the internet.
Kanye and Naomi are characterized particularly for being egotistical and angry. However, maybe white America is just not used to hearing black people be proud of the success they earned in a world that continually portrays black people as being poor or criminals. Though, ironically, at the same time, their success as black people is continuously used by the same white America to prove that black people are able to achieve the “American dream” or that we are living in a post-racial society. Although, these examples show that the latter is further from the truth.
From millions of dollars to below the poverty line, racism in the media shows no class divides. Their words are consistently exaggerated or trivialized in the media sector and institutionally proven that black voices do not matter in the society we currently inhabit. Even Oprah (one of the main pedestals we give for black success) commented on taking a trip to Sweden and being denied a bag because the white woman claimed “she could not afford it.”
Interestingly enough, there are six main media corporations that own most of the media outlets of today: Viacom, Comcast, Time Warner, Disney, CBS, and News Corp. The people that own these corporations are mostly particularly rich, white, men who we have seen throughout the centuries harboring most of the wealth within society. PBS and NPR are primarily minority managed, but face fear of budget cuts regularly. From this, we can determine there is a blatant connection between what media wants to project into society today and the interests of white supremacy.
A few black people making it big in the entertainment business does not a post-racial society make; even a person of color living economically secure has the fear of their voice being silenced. Muting one of the most pivotal cultures in American history is not acceptance – it's ignorance. And until we recognize this, we will continue to perpetuate racism on a systemic scale.