I have had a number of conversations with friends about Castro and Cuba as a model for social justice. I always give credit to the regime for its health care and education systems, but am not as enthusiastic about Cuba as a model as other progressives, leftists, or revolutionaries seem to be.
- I argue that the people's power for self determination is undermined by a life long leader, but my sparring partners rationalize the need for a strong leader as the only way to fight US imperialism.
- I say that their isolation could have been used to demonstrate complete self sustainability (agriculture for example) and there would be no need to be a part of the "world market" but Cuba supporters think that is impossible for Cuba to be completely self sustaining...not sure why however...
- I argue that a true socialist country despite its history would not show the same racialized poverty (and racism in general) that permeates the rest of the world, but they say history takes time to correct.
I offer this to say, I am not a Castro supporter or hater. In theory, I believe his ideology is correct. In practice, it loses its credibility (as long as Cuba is a class and race based non-democratic society...which it is).
But I completely agree with Castro's latest analysis of Obama's challenges. With the racist white supremacist unable to accept Obama as president, he is being attacked fiercely. Instead of recognizing this and its repercussions on the future, many on the left are caught up in petty politics and also blaming Obama for not being all they want him to be. In getting caught in that trap, I see an opportunity for real democracy slipping quickly.
If action trumps criticism, progressives can have all they want with an Obama administration...but if we continue to let white nationalist fascists frame the mainstream dialogue, an opportunity is wasted for radical change. Read this analysis from Castro carefully...and if you want social justice for all people...take heed.
Along with being the west coast regional director for Hip Hop Congress, Rahman Jamaal is a multi-talented artist. He is a highly respected emcee/lyricist, the lead vocalist for tribute band Blood Sugar Sex Machine, and added lead actor to his list of achievements when he made his film debut in the hip hop drama THE BEAT.
Synopsis: On the heels of his brother's murder, aspiring rap artist Philip "Flip" Bernard (Rahman Jamaal) gets an ultimatum from his father (Gregory Alan Williams): either get a "real" job as a cop or get out of the house. Using a split-narrative technique, this inventive drama with cameo appearances from comedian Michael Colyar, rap star Coolio and R&B singer Brian McKnight follows Flip through both scenarios.
Dlabrie of Hip Hop Congress & RonDavoux Records discusses regionalism and bias in hip hop in this article posted on his MySpace page and the Hip Hop Congresswebsite.
Labrie highlights the effects regionalism has had on hip hop while underscoring the need to appreciate what all regions bring to the game. No need for beef or hate...just love and respect, as he summarizes at the end of his article: Much respect to ALL regions, WE ALL have something to offer. It’s hip hop better yet its music…………
Peace and blessings to humanity. Sometimes you have to look back to move forward.
This first essay I penned under Rise up Hip Hop Nation was published in 2002: Rise up Hip Hop Nation - Wise up: From Deconstructing Social Ills to Building Real Solutions http://www.blackelectorate.com/articles.asp?ID=617. The basic premise of the essay was summed up in this quotation: “…it is now time to move beyond deconstructing and start building.” In that essay, I gave a list of specific actions different entities in hip hop could do to build solutions in our communities. In most subsequent essays, the goal was the same: build solutions. We already know the problems…and causes. We need plans of action.
One essay I gave a specific list that all individuals could utilize to make a difference (https://eee.uci.edu/06f/20000/Rise_up_dec2006.htm). I really believe if we all did just one or two of the things on the list, we would see much of the change we want to see in our communities despite entrenched institutional power structures.
The reason I went back to this initial essay about solution building is because the more I analyze social network sites like Facebook, read numerous internet sites and blogs, and watch the propaganda of cable news, the more concerned I get with what I have heard Cornel West call the paralysis of analysis. I see a serious time and opportunity to rise up and make change slipping away because we are being distracted by chatter. Chill Rob G was right: Everybody’s a critic:
"The Power" by Chill Rob G
“I’ve got the power”. No truer words have ever been spoken or been less believed.
As I have written about in numerous essays, we do have the power, but we have not seized it. Instead, I find myself and most drawn into debates that are very critical of everything and everybody instead of threads that are solution oriented and claim personal ownership for change. To illustrate here are a few examples:
1.Criticisms across the board of President Obama. Obama is a puppet (left lean) or Obama is a socialist (right lean).
2.Unfounded criticisms of a hip hop organization and its conference– accusing it of being all talk and no action when actual evidence shows it has been heavily involved in many community efforts (EX. The weekend of the conference, the organization: organized a media response and protest to a local police brutality incident, supported a hip hop affiliates run for mayor, supported local community centers and art venues, and took part in annual African American cultural festival.)
3.Substantiated criticisms of media’s defining of reality, not reflection of it, but few solutions offered on how to challenge this.
4.Criticisms of the status quo but no revelations on how they are personally challenging the status quo.
One specific debate on Facebook concerned Obama’s NAACP speech where many progressives felt he “called the black community out” too harshly without addressing the root cause of black problems, namely systemic racism and white supremacy. In this debate, criticisms became schizophrenic because many who “call out” BET, and choices mainstream artists make because of the real effects it has on community youth perceptions, were very critical of Obama for voicing the exact same concerns.
This dialogue affirmed how ideology shapes how we receive messages. Most cued into only the part of his speech where he challenged African Americans to a higher moral standard. But when a thorough analysis of his speech is done, Obama made a number of other points, including:
1.Obama started off by explaining the NAACP charter is to eliminate prejudice in all its forms...and gave a few examples...Muslim hate, gay/lesbian discrimination, black higher unemployment and less pay.
2.He affirmed people based movements citing DuBois and the Niagara movement, freedom riders, SNCC and their acts of civil disobedience, MIA organizers and community members that stayed off busses, and organizers in Mississippi Freedom Party. .As a African American studies professor, this showed me he has some understanding of AFAM history and what REALLY brings change.
3.Obama also used code language like Lowery did at inauguration by closing with parts of the Black National anthem, which was not missed by the crowd there who gave him an ovation...but missed by those that are caught up in their idea of what Obama should be.
4.The part about personal responsibility was nothing anyone would disagree with specifically...this is the same thing we have been dealing with in hip hop...blaming corporate america (BET/Viacom)...or hold Lil Wayne accountable for having little girls on stage at the BET awards while singing “F*ck girls all over the world”...um, the truth is it is corporate america's fault, but as long as there is a Lil Wayne that will play the role, corporate america will exploit because they do NOT CARE ABOUT US...we MUST care about ourselves...it is the ONLY we will progress...they will profit from our willingness to be in the new millennium minstrel show...watch BAMBOOZLED.
5.But most importantly, Obama said government can make policy but it is THE PEOPLE that must make DEMANDS and hold government accountable.In other words, Obama (and the system many believe he represents) is NOT our problem...our problem is we have not realized that...to his credit...he does....
We need to see pass the veil...no top down approach is in the best interest of the people...ever. I teach about white supremacy, institutional racism, and structural oppression...but the message I give that I think is most important is this:
THEY DON'T CARE ABOUT US...WE NEED TO CARE ABOUT OURSELVES AND OUR COMMUNITIES...THERE IS NO OTHER SOLUTION.
Frederick Douglass said it BEST:
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
So, I write this blog to challenge the critics. We know the problems, and we know the causes. But do you know what you will do to bring the change you want to see? If you can answer that, you are a part of the solution. If you can’t, you are part of the problem and it is time to own that. “Don’t talk about it, be about it.”
As always, I'd like to begin by offering peace and respect to all that honor humanity in words and deeds. The struggles of daily life often create distractions, and I like most become a victim of life circumstances, but as long as we are living, we must keep striving for higher ground. To do that, we must first accept that history is a matter of perspective (place, space, and time), but truth is universal and transcending. Perception makes it difficult to recognize truth. One’s perspective is based on one’s experience. People cannot understand of what they have had no experience. This is understandable and in many ways hard to argue against. I can’t fault my students for not knowing material I have not taught them…but if I teach them a lesson, they are then expected to know it.
White Delusion, Black Disillusion
The history of the United States is one of multiple experiences depending on place, space and time. For white Americans, it has been a history of struggle but opportunity. They believe the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution even if their actions often contradicted the ideals. For African Americans, the same history has been a war between ideals and a very different and cruel reality. Frederick Douglass expressed this best in his speech about the different meaning of the Fourth of July celebration for whites and blacks:
In reality, what the vast majority of Americans (and all people globally) have in common is a history of hard labor. The vast majority of people worldwide work hard and have very little to show for their efforts. Despite this truth, many have been taught to believe the lie that hard work pays off – meritocracy exists. While it is easy to accept how one’s experiences shape perception, how can we explain perspectives that run counter to our experiences? How does this happen?
Perception coupled with power creates frames that the masses will accept as the truth despite the evidence in their lives to the contrary. The result of this power has been white delusion, black disillusion, and a history of mass illusion. We need to lift the veil of history to reveal the face of reality. James Baldwin said it best: “We are capable of bearing a great burden, once we discover that the burden is reality and we arrive where reality is.”
To illustrate, here are two examples of how powerful and dangerous ideology can be:
1. Whites in this country have nothing in general...but white supremacy has veiled that reality...so they allow corporate capitalists to convince them that their interests are best protected in status quo...health care for profit for example..but as long as you can convince the people to NOT believe their reality you can continue to manipulate them.
2. On the left, many look at government programs as "help" ex...social welfare programs, etc. But the motivation for these programs is NOT to benefit communities in need; it is to keep them dependent and most importantly, complacent...bad off but surviving...in many ways, any “top down government assistance” is given to avoid the REVOLUTION that would come.... from a PEOPLE with nothing to lose.
The world for a sociologist is one big science experiment. Wasting away hours on Facebook, reading through the chatter of numerous internet sites and blogs, or watching the propaganda of cable news provides a plethora of data to analyze. The conclusion I reach time and time again is that most are living an illusion, busy with daily distractions, manipulated by powerful OR ideological interest groups on all sides of debate. Most approach the world experiment through a veil of perception instead of reality.
It explains why a Latina woman from the Bronx who graduated from elite universities and became a Supreme Court nominee can be called a racist, but a system that has had 108 white men Supreme Court justices is “color blind”.
It explains why health care for profit benefits someone who can’t afford to pay for it and not the entities that profit from it, but public health care for all hurts those that will be covered (many for the first time).
It explains how a white cop who arrests a black professor for talking shit is not expected to apologize but a black president has to (for calling said cop stupid). It makes it possible for white and blacks to see the same situation completely different. Most whites believe the cop was in the right; most blacks believe that if the professor had been white, he would not have been arrested in his own home…no matter how much shit he talked.
It explains why corporate interests can decry government regulation but accept government funds for bailouts.
It is explained by rising racial violence in a supposedly “post-racial” world.
It is explained by leftists who criticize Obama for compromising to get things done in Washington, but never question the compromises they make in their own lives (jobs, habits, actions or…more correctly inaction).
It explains how if you say 9/11 and Saddam Hussein in the same sentence enough times you can create the illusion of a connection that will lead to an endless war that kills, maims, and displaces hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and kills, maims, and mentally and emotionally scars, thousands of young GIs.
It is framing. And it is THE true threat to reality and humanity. Chuck D was right…Don’t believe the hype! Take off the veil…be it your ideology, perception, or miseducation. There is a truth out there…and it is universal. We reap what we sow. No need for intentions, explanations, rationalizations, or repudiations; just actions. First plan of action: Seek the truth.