The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Kyle Larry

R Kelly and a Reckoning with Men

In the age of #MeToo, we as a society are starting to reevaluate how we view rape by holding accountable the people who have committed or who continue to commit the criminal act. One person in particular that has recently been exposed is R&b singer R-Kelly and his numerous accusations of rape and pedophilia. Although R-Kelly has contributed immensely to the R&b genre and the music industry, in general, for over twenty years (known as the unofficial “king of R&b”), he has ruined the lives of numerous under-aged girls using his star power as a scapegoat. After releasing smash hits like “Bump N Grind” and “I Believe I Can Fly”, R-Kelly was at the peak of his career, and many families saw this. Many families believed that R-Kelly could help their children reach the fame that he was able to achieve. However, they were gravely mistaken. Although R-Kelly promised that he would produce people’s daughters and make them famous, they only thing he did was rob those children of their innocence. The television network Lifetime recently delved deep into the dark, twisted story of R-Kelly’s life in a six-part documentary series. It highlighted how R-Kelly both verbally and physically abused the under-aged women by starving them, attacking them, raping them, etc. The documentary series was made to give a voice to a group of women who were promised fame and fortune, but ended up getting years worth of abuse and people telling them that they’re lying or that their story doesn’t matter. Now you would think that this documentary series would change the public opinion on rape culture. But this documentary series did the exact opposite. There are still so many people who support R-Kelly. So, I guess the question is “why?” “Why do people still stand by a man who has destroyed the lives of dozens of women, and how can people blame the victims for a situation like this?” It is because so many of us grew up in a household that preached the rhetoric “boys will be boys,” which allows boys to make mistakes and be forgiven, despite the effects it has on others. Boys are taught that in order to know right, they must experience wrong, while, in comparison, girls are taught that they must be perfect at all cost. Boys grow up believing that if they make a mistake then it will be fine because people will forgive them and accept that they will learn eventually, while girls must learn to walk on eggshells at an early age in their lives. This idea evolves when these boys become men and they are allowed to, theoretically, do whatever they want because it’s a “learning experience.” Meanwhile, women are taught that their purpose is to support the man if he’s wrong because he has a lot of pressure on him. By teaching women that they are nothing more than a support system for men and teaching men that their job is to make mistakes in order to get better, we as a society allow men to not think about how their actions affect others. This was seen through R-Kelly and how he used under-age girls for his own personal pleasure. He saw nothing wrong because he thought he deserved those girls and society made it acceptable for him to go after anything he felt he deserved. People are defending him because they were taught that men should be able to seek out anything that they want. If we want people to see the error in their ways, we as a society have to teach men that their actions have consequences. If we as a society stopped excusing men’s irrational behaviors and actions, then they would respect other people’s lives more and think twice about their actions. If people realized that a woman’s life is just as important as a man’s life then more people could see how R-Kelly dehumanized these young ladies and took away their lives.

Your Black Isn’t My Black

Although the U.S. is recognized as a melting pot country, the Black community, specifically, is associated with a narrative that everyone who identifies as Black shares the same culture. In the context of the U.S., we tend to look at Blackness as a single story instead of multiple stories with each one having a unique perspective. Due to this illusion that all Black people are the same, we use the terms “Black people” and “African-Americans” interchangeably. But “Black people” is a broad term used to acknowledge all people with a dark skin pigmentation and ancestry that comes from Africa, while “African-American” is only supposed to refer to people with a dark skin pigmentation who have lived in the U.S. for generations.

One of the major problems with associating all Black People with the term “African-American” is that it erases the experiences that Black people from other regions of the world have. When it comes to Afro-Latinx and Afro-Caribbean people, they were colonized by different European peoples than African-Americans, which played a pivotal role in the development of their language and culture. When it comes to people from countries in Africa, they are still more connected to their original culture and language, unlike African-Americans. Due to slavery, African-Americans lost all ties to their original culture and language, but sprouted a new culture in the process. Consequently, with that culture comes systematic oppression that Black people from other regions cannot fully understand, which is not to take away their Blackness, but instead to highlight the difference. For example, when it comes to the word “nigga,” African-Americans were dehumanized with this word, so naturally they would hold some hostility towards it. People from African countries, on the other hand, did not face this type of hatred and therefore are not as affected by the word.

Again, this is not to take away the experience of Black people from other regions in the world, considering they also faced colonization and imperialism, but it is rather to show that Blackness comes with a multitude of experiences. Please also note that the reason I said “people from countries in Africa” instead of “Africans” is because we tend to group them all together as if Africa is a country. Hardly. Africa is composed of dozens of countries with hundreds of different languages and cultures. And since the purpose of this article is to represent the different forms of Blackness, it would be wrong to introduce a continent with such diversity as homogenous.

Some might argue that it doesn’t matter because we are all Black and we all experience oppression, but it does matter when we oppress each other. Too often do we see African-Americans try and determine if a person is “Black enough” because they are mixed race or Afro-Latinx, or if they are coming from other countries and “stealing our jobs,” as many African-Americans accuse people from African countries of doing. We have to show where we differ because only then we can acknowledge the unique oppressions that Black people from other regions face, which recently includes immigration policies as the Trump administration has more than doubled the deportation of people from African countries last year alone. We could also talk about how Black people from other regions may come to the U.S. for a better education, asylum seeking, etc., but are not only pushed down by white people but also African-Americans. We have put our oppression on a pedestal and refuse to see any other form of oppression as our equal. If we were truly all the same, then we would give every Black experience a platform and not just the African-American rhetoric that is constantly shown throughout media.

In order to understand each other, we need representation from Black people from other regions of the world through politics, media, music, etc. We need to understand, respect, and accept that every experience is valid and there shouldn’t be one that reigns supreme over the others. Blackness encompasses many stories, and it’s our job to recognize each story and make sure it is appreciated.


The Power of Religion in American Government

Even though American politics has separated the state from the church, it would be naive to think that religion isn’t still embedded in American politics. Considering the overwhelming number of people that simultaneously identify with a political party and a religious practice, as well as the issues being discussed in the political sphere that stem from religious beliefs, it is difficult to avoid a debate about the role religion plays in society.

However, I don’t think the problem is religion itself; I think the problem is which religions have been traditionally misconstrued to attack disenfranchised groups, and that those are the religions getting publicity.

Well, we should first review which religions are predominantly associated with which political party, and how important these religions are to these groups. The Pew Research Center surveyed Republicans and Democrats and showed that seventy percent of Mormons and fifty-six percent of Evangelical Protestants are Republican (the two largest percentages of Republicans in any religion). Meanwhile, eighty percent of Historically Black Protestants and sixty-nine percent of Buddhists are represented by Democrats (the two largest percentages of Democrats). The Pew Research Center also did a survey that determined how important religion was to each political party, and showed that sixty-one percent of Republicans believe religion is important and only forty-seven percent of Democrats believe in the same thing.

Now, the problem lies in the Republican Party because Evangelical Protestants are notorious for oppressing people due to differences in race, gender, sexuality, etc. Often times, they have used the Bible to justify their hatred of people who fall outside of their category as normal. Religion offers people a way to put their trust on an all-powerful, all-knowing Being that no one has concrete evidence on. People can believe in this Being so much so that they can be persuaded into believing that this Being wants them to discriminate against other people for not being “normal.” Many people who are stuck in this brainwashed mentality are Evangelical Protestants, or Republicans. Republicans incarcerate black people at a massive rate, take away women’s right to choose, neglect young people’s right to be educated about contraceptive and safe sex, and blame survivors of rape for being violated. Why? Because their interpretation of religion alludes to the idea that this is right. Even though they are oppressing people and making their lives more difficult than it already should be, they truly believe what they think is right because their faith is so strong. Republicans, essentially, are being manipulated to carry out an agenda that is set on empowering the people who preach this hateful language. The Republican Party is built on this lie that religion makes everything they stand for legitimate, when in actuality, religion is a cover up for Republicans to move forward with their hateful agenda. As the elections come up, I implore everyone to truly dissect political parties’ views on certain issues and why they have these views. Because for the Republicans, it seems to be the case that they have tried hold onto self-righteous views only to hide their evil intentions.


All Walks of Life Are More Important than What Meets the Eye

The Guardian reports that President Trump stated ” I believe in clean air. I believe in crystal- clear, beautiful… I believe in just having good cleanliness in all. Now, with that being said, if somebody said go back into the Paris accord, it would have to be a completely different deal because we had a horrible deal.”

Even though he claims that he stands for clean air, he constantly takes away money from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the organization that brings awareness to environmental issues in the United States. The President of the United States, like many others, has neglected the importance of the environment and how to efficiently take care of it. It seems as though people do not care if the environment, the main source for humans’ water, food, shelter, and other essential resources, is maintained. People rather focus on their individualistic issues, such as race and gender, which is very important, however, due to this one-track mind, people have forgotten about universal issues, such as the hazardous waste that goes into the environment.

This problem becomes very apparent when Trump, doesn’t acknowledge the rapid visibility of climate change and the negative impact it has on the environment and people in general. Trump, consequently, is merely a reflection of the country he serves. Americans, altogether, have developed a very anthropogenic mindset due to the lack of conversation about the environment and how to properly maintain it. Conversely, people have gained this mentality that the environment is there to serve them when, in fact, humans and other living organisms are supposed to work in conjunction with each other. This mentality is specific to Americans.

According to the article, “Use It and Lose: The Outside Effect of U.S. Consumption on the Environment,” America accounts for “thirty percent of the world’s waste, but only five percent of the world’s population.” Additionally, according to “Americans Produce A Shocking Amount of Garbage: Find out Where Your State Ranks- What You Can Do About It” by Reynard Loki, the average American produces about “4.4. pounds of trash every single day, significantly more than the global average of 2.6 pounds.”

These statistics illustrate how the U.S. is only concerned about the people that reside in the U.S., and not people from other countries or the environment itself. This level of selfishness has caused Americans to be blinded to how waste causes landfills that replace the homes of living organisms. This could eventually lead to the extinction of these creatures, as well as an increase in greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The relevance of this is that the extinction of multiple animal species means less food to eat, and a rapid increase in greenhouse gases can lead to a rise in sea levels causing adverse changes in weather patterns.

In order to prevent these unnatural changes, the U.S. must become more biocentric, and acknowledge how their enormous amount of waste can hurt the world. One way to do this is by reducing, reusing, and recycling, which can decrease the amount of waste produced and help manage a healthier society. The U.S. can start this process early, in elementary school classrooms.

In most public schools, especially in urban areas, there aren’t any recycling bins, so students who have recyclable waste are left with no choice but to throw their items in the trash. I, personally, became desensitized to being wasteful because my school didn’t receive adequate funding for a recycling program, so teachers did not teach students about it and there weren’t any recycling bins provided. It was so bad that one teacher made their own recycle bin that people actually used.

The purpose of a recycling program should be to teach and give students the opportunity to recycle because students are more likely to do so if it is offered. However, if more recycling bins were placed in public schools and teachers were able to focus their curriculum on recycling, students could be more inclined to do it.

By teaching the younger generation about the importance of recycling, the U.S. will be building a foundation for society toward success because it encourages people to fix the mistakes their ancestors have made, as well as to not repeat the same mistakes.


Are You a Racist? – Part Two

In my previous article, “Are You a Racist?” I explored the definition of racism. I highlighted the difference between prejudice and racism, with prejudice being strictly hatred, while racism is both hatred and having systematic power. Furthermore, I parsed the popular debate of whether people of color can be racist towards white people and vice versa. After much analysis, I concluded that people of color cannot be racist towards white people, but white people, on the other hand, can be racist towards people of color.

This, of course, raised even more questions, including: “can people of color be racists towards each other?”

Now, at first glance, people can make the following assumptions that when it comes to racism between two different ethnic groups: 1) in regards to people of color, everyone is marginalized; therefore, everyone is on the same level when seeking out opportunities. So, if a person of color were to receive a prestigious position and blatantly discriminated against another person of color, then that person would be considered racist, because they are aware of the power structure meant to subjugate both of them as people of color. 2) People, especially in the Black community, could make the argument that some people of color are white passing. In being white passing, individuals can easily gain systematic power and oppress people of color with darker skin. For the sake of this article, I will be focusing specifically on the first argument with a lens pertaining to the relationship between two cultures.

Both of these arguments have merit and add layers of complexity to the question: “can people of color be racist towards each other?” However, there is something that both of the arguments fail to acknowledge: the master’s complex. You see, when it comes to this question, it is not a matter of whether people of color can be racist towards each other, but rather, why they show hatred towards one another. This is where the master’s complex comes into play.

Now, let’s explore a hypothetical situation with a Mexican man. If the man, who lives in a predominantly Latin community and has rarely, interacted with Black people, and sees a Black man in his neighborhood, then he will have some suspicion, especially because his only reference to Black people is from the information he receives through media. The media often portrays communities inhabited predominantly by people of color in a negative light. So, the Mexican man would assume that the Black man is dangerous, even though he is innocently walking through the community. This problematic mindset tends to lead to actions, such as saying the N-word to assert dominance.

This hatred that the Mexican man has stems from the slave-to-master complex which posits that the Mexican man is flooded by white people’s perspective on Black culture and, eventually, assumes that he is better than Black people. When people attempt to justify others’ subordination, while not even acknowledging their own, they listen to the master, similar to how slaves listened to the master when they told them of their fellow slaves’ escapes. This means that the Mexican man is basically a pawn of the white man, and has no power over what he is saying. He only listens to the white man because that’s the information that is available to him. This leads to the crux of my argument: people of color from two different ethnic groups cannot be racist towards each other.

Even if the Mexican man held a position over the Black person, or outwardly discriminated against him, he is not racist. The Mexican man’s power and hatred isn’t a result of that person, but a result of the person who he had to become in order to succeed. His assimilation to white culture and adherence to the white man’s perspective is a way to survive, like how slaves had to survive by selling out their friends and becoming the master’s favorite. A person cannot be racist if they dislike a group based off information made to brainwash them, and create separation between marginalized groups. Ultimately, people of color from different backgrounds cannot be racist towards each other. If anything, their hatred is a result of their ideas being white-washed.


Are You a Racist?

“Race doesn’t really exist for you because it has never been a barrier. Blacks folks don’t have that choice.” In Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah, she illustrates how white privilege is like a shield for white people when it comes to oppression, because their white skin grants them opportunities that other races can never have, due to negative stereotypes. Essentially, white privilege is a veil of ignorance that white people inherently wear, as laws and systematic oppression do not have an impact on their lives. Furthermore, they don’t have to acknowledge the underlying hatred and subordination in these laws.

Meanwhile, people of color always have to be vigilant, because laws and systematic oppression were created to build a hierarchical system that puts white people at the top and people of color at the bottom.

Now, I’m pretty sure you’re wondering: how does white privilege relate to an article about who can be racist? But it’s simple! White privilege addresses a problem about an idea of racism-which is power. White privilege is a form of power because, fundamentally, it represents how skin pigmentation decides the amount of opportunities you can receive. Additionally, this power caters to a certain demographic while simultaneously marginalizing anyone who falls outside the category of white. Racism stands as both hatred and power.

In order to be racist, one would have to exert power over another individual, and the language that person uses would have to affect the other person on a systematic level. With that being said, it seems like only white people can be in power.

So, now the question that I know is beckoning inside people’s mind is: why can’t people of color be racist? Well let’s take a white person and a black person for example. Imagine a white person saying a racial slur to a black person. This would be problematic, wouldn’t it?

A white person saying a racial slur to a black person is unequivocally wrong because he/she/they inherently have more power and privilege than the black person. The slur is based on hatred and stems from a sense of hatred. However, if it was vice-versa, one could argue that although the slur was said out of hatred for white people, black people simply do not have enough power to affect that white person systematically. Even if the black person was a teacher and the white person was a student, and the teacher made racist remarks against the white student, it wouldn’t be racist. The teacher could go so far as failing the student, but ultimately that student will still have his privilege to rely on and secure a job. Black people, as well as many other people of color, lack the power aspect needed to be considered racist.

The “Sociology of Racism” by Matthew Clair and Jeffrey Denis would also agree that white people are the only people capable of being racist. His article talks about how racism stemmed from the subordination systems white people put in place to gain power. In one section it lists “colonial violence towards indigenous people,” slavery, and Jim Crows laws as results of racism because white people used their power to make other racial groups inferior.

Another thing to note about racism is that it cannot be individual. It is always systematic, because racists’ remarks and actions can always be tied back to some part of history or some grand scheme. For example, a person saying the n-word relates back to slavery.

Racial slurs that people of color spew about white people are disrespectful, but it could never be on par with the racial slurs white people spew, because they hold more weight. That’s why it’s important to make these distinctions; because it shows how, even though some people have hateful mindsets, they could never have the social or systematic power to act on it. Therefore, white people can be racist, people of color can be prejudiced when talking about white people, and people of color can be racially discriminatory to one another.


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