Friday, August 02, 2013

community consciousness: individual vs collective empowerment in the fin d'siecle

theroot | Although inelegantly expressed, Jay Z's position that his presence, along with that of President Obama, provides resources for the black community deserves closer examination. Insofar as Obama's watershed presence in American culture promoted a renaissance of interest in race and African-American history in politics, cable news, publishing and universities throughout the nation, Jay Z's point is well-made. Similarly, Shawn Carter's own burgeoning iconography has helped make hip-hop into a global phenomenon and inspired countless black entrepreneurs and artists to follow his example. In many respects, Michael Jordan innovated the model of the apolitical black superstar that subsequent generations in sports and entertainment have adopted. Belafonte has every right, of course, to criticize such a perspective, especially since it flies in the face of the ethos of collective and group empowerment upon which the civil rights and Black Power eras were built.

Jay Z's acknowledgement that he spent two sleepless nights in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict included an admission that America still has residues of past racial discrimination. Beyond this fleeting recognition, however, racism appears as ghosts from the nation's dark past, shadowy apparitions that are not easily recognizable and almost impossible to fight.

This narrative views racism as more of an antiquated series of individual prejudices, pernicious stereotypes and ancient wrongs committed lifetimes ago than a systematic and institutional phenomenon that persists in every facet of American life. When Jay Z points to hip-hop's multicultural audience as providing not just a balm for past racial discrimination but, in fact, a cure, he means it. The shared experiences of a multicultural hip-hop generation represent the culmination of the civil rights movement's search for transcendent racial justice. Although this ignores the most important aspect of contemporary racism -- unequal outcomes -- it's a comforting myth that has been propagated by our "postracial" moment.

Jay Z sees his own wealth and status, along with the election of Barack Obama, as examples of racism's decline. In other words, he mistakes individual achievement for collective advancement. While Jay Z's individual entrepreneurial spirit, musical genius and discipline facilitated his escape from Brooklyn, N.Y.'s Marcy Projects, he doesn't see the value in committing his time, resources and talent in political causes that might help those left behind in America's countless urban and rural ghettoes.

Belafonte's generation grew up believing that the ascendance of black faces in higher places carried less weight and meaning if the entire community could not be uplifted as well.


Constructive_Feedback said...

[quote]Jay Z's acknowledgement that he spent two sleepless nights in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict included an admission that America still has residues of past racial discrimination.[/quote]

You are killing me CNu.

A "Ninja Got Himself Kilt" behind a gas station in The ATL this past weekend.


Why aren't you looking at the VETTING MECHANISM that performs the canonization of "Negro Martyrs" rather than syndicating BS from The Root?

The Root and the Washington Post just got BOUGHT by Jeff Bezos of fame.

CNu said...

lol, because I wasn't interested in what happened to another nameless peasant in the bowels of Sherwood Forest Bro. Feed. - rather - I was very interested in the mealy-mouthed equivocation put on display in this article by the great Submariner's little brother. I find it fascinating that careerism within afrodemia has brought us to a place where cats get payed to organized 800 words that effectively say nothing.

Aside from this minor quibble, I took away from the article the fact that the Randian Objectivism of Jay-Z is in contrast with the race partisan collectivism of Belafonte. To me, that is an interesting philosophical and policy contrast warranting further examination.

Constructive_Feedback said...

afrodemia LOL